American Legion volunteers, Department of California representatives and national staff members recently worked together in a revitalization effort at Hollywood Post 43.
Inside the historic post, Legionnaires clutched lists containing names of members who are a part of the administrative holding post, known as Post 1000 in California. The mission: Persuade them to transfer into a local post.
In the revitalization process, volunteers from posts across the district reached out to members of The American Legion.
“What we’re doing is calling these people to see if they’d like to join a local post,” Department of California Membership Chairman Mike Hooper explained. “If they would, then we go ahead and transfer them in and that way they have a place to go, a place to enjoy, and camaraderie with each other.”
The Department of California aims to use this process in every district. “We’ve done about 15 districts already and we have some more lined up,” said Hooper. “We’re trying to revitalize the whole state of California.”
David Gibson said learning how to perform the transfers was not difficult. “Cold calls are awkward at first, but once you get into it it’s easy because you’re talking about The American Legion and what it means to belong,” said Gibson, the second vice commander in the 24th District. “It’s not much of a sale. It sells itself.”
The effort is part of a five-year strategic plan leading up to The American Legion’s centennial celebration. The national membership team developed a process for growth, revitalization and sustained membership. The goal is to increase membership before the 100th anniversary in 2019.
“We don’t have a relevance problem, we have an image problem,” said Fernando Rivero, first vice commander of Post 43. Working toward improving that image has been a crucial part of increasing the membership at Post 43, which is expected to build its membership to more than 1,000 by the 2019 centennial.
National Vice Commander Paul Espinoza, of New Mexico, took part in this process for California’s 24th District. “Revitalizations are so important from the post to district and department all the way to the national level for our organization,” Espinoza said. “Every new and renewal membership we pick up means a lot for our American Legion. It helps not only our programs but our numbers when our national commander gives his testimony at Washington, D.C., on March 1. Every year we go back to D.C. to fight for our veterans and our organization’s rights.”
Revitalization is an example of how to increase engagement among members. “Just when I thought I was learning about my post, I found out there is a lot more at the district, state, and national levels,” said Mathew Skomo, a member of Post 43, who made calls during the district revitalization.
At the local level it’s important to know what methods of communication will be most effective – postcards, cold calls, digital and even texting.
“This is a good example of this new generation communicating in a different way,” said Harry Wood, Team South Membership Chairman. “I would have never thought to send a text message, but it was effective for this younger group.”
Local involvement is an important part of what The American Legion does. “We have a lot of good programs through The American Legion,” said Hooper. “Once they see this, and once they go to the local post and see some of the programs we have such as Boys State, the Oratorical Contest, children and youth programs, once they see all that we do for veterans they see the benefits of belonging to a local post.”
To learn more about membership recruiting, visit www.legion.org/membership or contact your regional membership liaison.