Every week I receive a membership showing the number of renewals and where we are, in membership, compared to last year.
It is a dismal report, to say the least, and is not something I look forward to receiving.
Soon to follow is the Emails and reminders stating that all I need to do to reach 100% is this specific duty or visit posts, or just follow these simple guidelines.
There is nothing on how to handle Posts with 15 members or less that live in a small community and no one is moving to this community any longer. The community may have lost its school, hospital, or even its post office. The Post is in disarray and not being managed well or in financial trouble due to mismanagement of funds. Yet the quota is set by Office Personnel in a remote office that doesn’t have a clue (because they haven’t lived in small communities) of the condition of Posts in small, dwindling towns.
I am not necessarily complaining as much as I am frustrated as to how to turn this declining membership around.
Add on top of everything, most Posts have elderly members who are not able to participate in parades or honor guards. And honor guards, while needed, don’t draw the younger Veterans into the Organization.
Everyone has much needed requirements that are going unmet including National, Department, Districts, and Posts or Units.
The main question needed is, “How do we bring new members into this organization?”
To say what we are currently doing is not working would be wrong. A lot of our recruiting methods are solid and working. However, it is easy to see that our current methods are not holding recruitment to a satisfactory level.
So, the next logical question is, “What do we need to do to make the Veteran Organizations attractive to the younger vets?”
Before we can answer that question we must look at a hard fact that is sure to ruffle feathers and upset a lot of members.
The hard fact is, by nature, the Veteran Organizations have built their membership on a progressing foundation of aging Veterans. Of course this was inevitable.
But now, we are asking those Veterans to recruit and build the same organization with the same tools and promotions of the past. Our younger Veterans are not inclined to join an organization that insists on using antiquated methods, won’t and have no desire to become computer oriented.
It is going to take a complete re-tooling of the Veteran Organization and even then if it is done by senior Veterans and the younger Veterans are left out, it too will fail.
What is desperately needed is a new re-tooling, approach, and Public Awareness that would appeal to the new Veteran coming up.
Some of my suggestions are:
1. Look at the possibility of specific Veteran Organizations working together instead of competing against each other. In my opinion, it makes no sense, to have an American Legion and a VFW Post in a town of 1500 people trying to operate and maintain two separate Posts.
2. Start bringing and combining the Auxiliaries, Sons, and Riders into the Veteran Organization. This may lead to the watering down of the Veterans Posts but it may be a necessary step to prevent extinction.
3. Our biggest obstacle, in my opinion, is that we have built walls separating Veterans into (1)old vets who hold all the assets (2)to new Veterans that are not welcomed because they are not like us. Friends, the New Veterans will never be like us and that is why we are losing membership. The New Veterans have no incentive to become part of the Veteran Organizations. Why should they?
4. Another suggestion is for the Veteran Organizations to form a National Committee and start working together as to how we can start appealing to the New and Younger Veterans. We have got to start working together and form and mold ourselves into a New Veteran Organization or face the fact that in a few short years, each of our Organizations will become irrelevant and cease to exist. I know we are chartered by Congress but if something is not done and some new ideas brought in, we are going out of business.
5. Last suggestion would be a Smart Phone app that encompasses the Veteran Organization from initial sign up to an including Post activity in their area where the younger Veteran could interact and support the organization without going to traditional meetings.
So what will it be? Write angry letters and tell me how wrong I am or roll up your sleeves and bring some new ideas into the mix.
The choice belongs to all of us. As the old saying goes, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” Hemingway
Let’s put our differences aside, and tear down our walls, and get moving in a new direction that will further and grow our Veteran Organizations.