The American Legion National Executive Committee passed Resolution 64 during the 2012 Fall Meetings, charging the Legion’s Internal Affairs Commission and Membership & Post Activities Committee to establish a five-year strategic plan to help the organization reach a record in total membership by 2019, the Legion’s centennial. That five-year strategic plan for sustained membership growth was laid out today during Spring Meetings by Denise Rohan, chairman of the Legion’s National Membership & Post Activities Committee.

“We want to encourage all members, all members all the way down to the post level, to be a part of this plan,” Rohan said. “It needs to be a grass-roots effort. We have to tell The American Legion story to our nation’s military and emphasize to them that they are veterans, even though they are still wearing the uniform. They are eligible to be members of The American Legion.”

Each Legion department will be expected to draft a comprehensive plan for membership growth that can be utilized at all Legion levels and submit it to the membership committee prior to June 14. Then, during the National Membership Workshop, from Aug. 2-4, each newly elected department commander will discuss how his or her respective department is going to implement the five-year membership plan. The 2013-2014 elected national commander and national vice commanders will receive an update during the 2013 Fall Meetings on how each department is succeeding on its path to membership growth.

Each department will adhere to the following five strategies and tactics when developing a membership plan:

1. Brand awareness

• Create and promote a tagline that best describes the Legion.

• Develop a comprehensive marketing plan to increase clarity of brand awareness of the Legion as the premiere veterans service organization.

• Encourage new corporate partnerships with veteran friendly organizations that have the same values as the Legion, all in an effort to increase the benefits of being a member.

2. Communication

• Develop a media relations team within each department.

• Communicate the Legion’s story to the nation’s military components, with emphasis on eligibility.

• Collect all members’ email addresses to disseminate information on any calls to action.

• Increase public service announcements in local media channels.

• Increase presence in social media.

3. Training, education and leadership development

• Develop membership training teams and long-term plans for membership growth.

• Encourage growth of the Leadership Education and Development program, The American Legion Extension Institute and department Legion colleges.

4. Post creation, development and revitalization

• Conduct post evaluations to identify areas that may need post revitalization, consolidation or new post development.

• Improve community awareness of posts by being active in the community.

• Welcome all members and guests.

• Use the proper membership tools at all levels to achieve growth, like “Why You Should Belong” and “How We Help” brochures, Post Officer Guide and Public Relations Toolkit.

5. Membership recruiting and retention

• Establish membership teams at all levels; retention must be the first priority.

• Develop and implement a strategy for transferring members from the department headquarters’ post into traditional posts.

• Evaluate current reward and incentive programs at all levels and make recommendations for change if necessary.

• Develop a working relationship with military senior leaders to offer an opportunity to join the Legion to all eligible members of the active military, National Guard and reserve. “Don’t just walk in the door and start recruiting,” Rohan said. “Walk in the doors and find out how we can help them and once they see what we are doing, they will want to join.”

• Make all new members feel welcome.

• Offer participants in the Legion programs, and their families, the opportunity to support such programs through membership in The American Legion family, if eligible.

Overall, “we need to improve our community awareness,” Rohan said. “We need our community to know that we are not just a bar — that we are about service to our veterans, their families and our communities. We need to be seen as service first, and we must always be aware of our image.

“We need to continue to work with our Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion (members) to welcome them into our complete American Legion Family. And with their help, we will welcome our veterans and their families into this great organization.”