When recruiting new members into The American Legion, remember that most veterans (2/3) join in the hope of finding comradeship, a little fun and good social activities. Upon joining the Legion, veterans often find in their post a feeling of "comradrie", "esprit de corps" or "Semper Fidelis" much like they once knew on active duty.
Belonging to The American Legion is an extension of a veteran's volunteer service in our all volunteer military. Through our Four Pillars of Service, Legionnaires continue to give ourselves in service to our veterans, their families and our community. Service to others is a righteous and healthy thing for veterans to do.
Our efforts to recruit new members are just the first step in developing the most valuable of Legionnaires, the Active Member. How new members are welcomed and integrated into the post environment when they join, sets the stage for members becoming our most valuable Active Members. When welcomed well and given a good orientation, a member is more likely to join the ranks of Active Members. The more a post ignores new members, the less likely new members are to become Active Members.
Introduction to Membership Recruitment video - Just Ask!
Access The American Legion's "Just Ask!" series of membership recruiting videos: CLICK HERE
The simplest and best membership recruitment plan is to Just Ask every Legionnaire in your post to Just Ask another veteran to join. Talk about the importance of membership at post meetings, encourage members to recruit new members and share recent success stories. The time and energy post leaders give to growing post membership will soon translate into success.
This may seem like a silly question to some. To others, asking someone to join their post can be stressful, because they have little experience in "selling" others on the idea of joining anything. For those who are uncomfortable with the idea of asking someone to join, here are a few different ways to ask a veteran to join their post.
The question you ask can be as simple as,
It is a simple question that just requires a "yes" or "no" to answer. When asked there is a fear a "no" will be the answer and that is OK. Hearing "no" is just part of the process, keep asking and "yes" will be soon be the answer.
Or, you could use an alternate close, one where you give them two options, and they just select one or the other.
Then there is that salesman favorite, the assumptive close. In this type you make the assumption that the person is going to join and start the application process. You pull out an application form, grab a pen and start asking questions to complete the application.
The important thing to remember is ask. Ask often and ask with the question(s) in the way you feel comfortable asking.
If you do get a "No" when you ask a veteran to join your post, always be pleasant, respectful and thank the veteran for their time. Whether the veterans says, yes or no - give them a "Leave Behind a Card", to help them remember who you are, when and where your post meets. It is a little thing, but it can produce good results.
Always have a supply of applications available at the post and recruiting events. Give every Legionnaire a supply of applications to put in their wallet, car, briefcase, etc. Have a supply of membership applications in plain view at your post so members can pick them up as needed, without having a post officer dig them out of the office.
We have two good choices for membership applications and we should discuss both.
The first one is the most common membership application from The American Legion that normally come in pads, it looks like this:
To help make the recruiting process flow smoothly, prepare the applications you are going to use in advance. Fill out your name as the recruiter, your post number, your post membership dues. The application does not have a place to record the date of birth (DOB) but it is a very good thing to have on file. Some posts have "Date of Birth" stamp made to make it easier to remember. On the stub portion, again fill in what you can in advance and sign the card.
Filling our your membership application, as much as you can, in advance is a "Best Practice" that seasoned Legion recruiters do. It just makes the whole process of recruiting easier for you and your new member.
Easy is good.
Tuck a membership application into your Legion Uniform Cap and it becomes a Membership Cap!
The American Legion Family Applications brochure is a newer application option produced by the American Legion Auxiliary that contains application for The American Legion, Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the Legion. It is very useful at community recruiting display tables and in the post. The brochure also contains an interest survey for Auxiliary members. A similar survey for Legion and Sons members would also be good to have.
When a new veteran decides to join your post this application reminds us all to ask about a spouse, daughter or son who may be interest in joining the Legion Family as a member of the Auxiliary or Sons of the Legion.
When some posts have had difficulty getting copies of this brochure they have just made copies of the page containing the three applications.
Membership growth for a local Legion post can come from a number of areas, including the transfer of members from Post 1000 into your local post. Post 1000 is an administrative post in the Department of California where members are placed when they sign up to join The American Legion online.
The transfer of members from Post 1000 into a local legion post is an important part of any post membership plan. However, it is not an adequate plan by itself. A quality membership plan would include the right People, with the Passion to grow the Legiona and the ability to Plan for success.
There are currently over 10,000 members of Post 1000 in California. Those who live near your post are ideal candidates just waiting for your post to reach out and invite them to become members of your post. The Membership Team Training Guide provides much good information on growing local post membership. How your post reaches out to local Post 1000 members is up to your post leadership. Here are 3 basic methods to consider.
1) Transfer Phone Calls:
One of the methods often used, this included post revitalization events conducted by National staff, is to make phone calls to to Post 1000 members. This can be done by a telethon type event where Legionnaires come together in one location to make phone calls. Phone calls to Post 1000 members could also be done by Legionnaires from their home. When and where Legionnaires make the phone calls inviting Post 1000 member to join their post is up to the local post. Here is a copy of the phone script used by those participating in making phone calls. The script give a good foundation for the very personal communication that helps convince Post 1000 members to tranfer into a local post.
Transfer Phone Script
2) Transfer Letters:
Another method that has been widely used recently in many posts is letters sent to Post 1000 members inviting them to transfer to a local post. The letter writing campaign developed by Janet Wilson, National Executive Committeeman. Paul Brown, Post 66 in 2014 took the letter writting. The Transfer Letter method played a big role in District 16 finishing #1 in membership in 2015. It is a method that takes time and manpower to do effectively but produces very good results of up to 30-35% tranfer rate of Post 1000 members into local posts.
Here are samples of the transfer letters being used. Update and modify them as your post requires.
Post 1000 Active Recruit Letter Post 1000 Expired Rectruit Letter Other Post Recruit Letter Other Post Expired Recruit Letter
3) Transfer E-Mails
As more and more veterans become comfortable using email to communicate, the importance of email as a method to get Post 1000 members to transfer into a local post will grow. Currently is seems around 30% to 40% of Post 1000 members have included an email addrss in their data. This percentage will grow over time. The Transfer E-Mails method was used by District 22 to help them finish #2 in membership in 2016. Therefore the time may have come for including email in our methods to get Post 1000 members to tranfer into a local post.
Post 1000 Transfer E-Mail
Each of these methods are proven winners, each will provide a certain level of success. Posts should consider using several or all the methods to get the maximum number of Post 1000 members to transfer in their post.
Ideas on how to get the names on your post roster to become active members in your post is discussed on the Active Members web page.
Information on Post 1000 members living near your post can be downloaded from myLegion.org. If your post is unfamiliar with the features of myLegion.org there is a training program to help you better understand the basic features of myLegion.org.
The Direct Membership Solicitation (DMS) program is a membership recruitment tool of The American Legion that has been in effect since 1982. Eligible veterans are offered an introductory rate of $25. This is the primary way Post 1000 membership grows as those who take advantage of the DMS program are placed in Post 1000. The renewal rate is the same as the headquarters post (Post 1000) rate in the department where they live. The individual must certify their eligibility on the application they return to national by indicating the dates they served on active duty, their character of discharge, their branch of service and their birth date. While occasionally someone has joined who was not eligible, this has not been a problem. Over 1.6 million members have joined through the DMS program and less than 500 were found to be ineligible when they went to a local post to transfer their membership from a headquarters post.
The DMS program is a highly effective membership tool to augment the traditional recruiting efforts done by the over 13,000 posts in order to reach many of the eligible veterans who are not yet members of The American Legion.
The verification of eligibility should take place within 30 days of receiving an application for membership.
Here is a sample of a form to keep track of how eligibility verification has taken place form for your post. When completed, attached this form to the new member’s application and store as evidence of eligibility verification. This form should satisfy the IRS in the event they do audit of your post and want to verify your members are in fact war time veterans.
A recruiting display table/booth at a community event is a great time to recruit members for your whole Legion family. It is also a special time to let your community is alive and serving our veterans, their families and the local community.
Having a team of Legion Family members staffing a local recruitment booth as part of a recruitment drive can be a very effective membership tool for your post. There is an added benefit when members of the Legion Family come together working at a booth, they get to know each other better. As we get to know members of the Legion Family it is easier to support them and their activities.
A local community recruiting table does a number of very good things for your post and your post family of units:
Exposure! When your Legion Family is seen at your community recruiting table it gives your post exposure to all the good people of your community. It tells your community that The American Legion is a alive, active and an important source of support for veterans in your community.
A locally produced brochure or handout that covers what you want prospective new members to know about your post is very useful when recruiting new members. This can be a simple one page handout or a tri-fold brochure. Ensure that the brochure is well designed and has a pleasant and professional look as this will represent your post to the public. In the brochure you produce for you post you can include:
The Ventura County Council recently produced a tri-fold brochure that will give you an idea of what a locally produced post brochure might look like. A similar brochure can be produced fairly easily with current desk top publishing software. The brochures are not real expensive to print and costs can be kept down if members of the post do the folding of the brochure.
Prepare a letter over the signature of the department commander, addressed to the installation’s commander, stating who, what, when, where, and why. Be precise. Consider asking permission for the department service officer to address service members that have decided to separate concerning their VA benefits. Another option might be to request permission to set up an information booth in the vicinity of the commissary or base exchange. Whatever action you pursue, do not simply state your purpose as member recruiting. Offer The American Legion as a benefit and resource to military personnel.
Establish district recruiting teams that are knowledgeable about American Legion programs and project a favorable image of the organization. Personal appearance is important, since they are selling the Legion in a military environment; first impressions are often lasting impressions. You may have members in your department who are either active military or work on the installation. These Legionnaires can provide insight or act as a liaison to support your efforts. Seek their assistance in this endeavor. They may be able to expedite the process or at least open a door or two.
Plan a presentation. Ensure you have the resources and manpower necessary to make it a success. Assign your team specific duties to perform, matching needs with skills. Plan to have an information table there, with brochures and other literature. Have a sign-up roster for those who may desire additional information, collecting names, phone numbers and email addresses for a follow-up.
Conduct the event. Wear American Legion attire with cap. Act professional at all times, and be prepared to address questions during and after the presentation. Let your audience how they can contact you and the American Legion posts in their area. Depending on your audience, you might want to extend an invitation for them to visit a local post (an open house of sorts).
Military recruiting command (recruiters) partnerships are an overlooked membership possibility. Military recruiters are stationed in more than 1,500 communities nationwide. Usually far from home, they need a support network for themselves and their families. Recruiters are also the first point of contact for new soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen. All are potential members of The American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion – not only the recruiter and his or her family, but recruits and their families, too.
The majority of Americans volunteering for military service are sons and daughters of a veteran. Their parents understand well the importance of a support network and the values of The American Legion. A partnership with a military recruiting command gives Legionnaires an opportunity to make a lasting positive impression on a young service-member. That new recruit will hopefully recommend the Legion to others in basic training, especially when care packages and well wishes roll in from a post. This is not a onetime contact, but a project that can last as long as there are recruiters and new recruits.
Recruiting among the National Guard and Reserves: Another market full of potential members is the National Guard and reserve forces. Both are full of eligible veterans who may be interested in becoming members of The American Legion, but have not done so because they have not been asked, they’re unaware of what we do and have done on behalf of all veterans, or they simply don’t think they’re eligible. Many of these veterans have chosen to affiliate with reserve components due to the downsizing of the active military, and as a result, the membership potential is great.
Write a letter to the state adjutant general asking permission to approach subordinate units. Include the department commander’s signature to get the appropriate attention and response.
Identify locations of units/armories in your area that you wish to approach. In the years following 9/11, many National Guard and reserve units were activated and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and many are still tapped for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Again, establish recruiting teams that are knowledgeable about American Legion programs and project a favorable image of the organization. They must understand that they will be selling our organization in a military environment and that first impressions set the stage for future opportunities. Legionnaires who belong to these units are usually beneficial to your efforts. Solicit their assistance when forming your recruiting teams. The focus should be service first and membership second.
Make initial contact in one of two ways. First, send a letter to the commander of a specific unit asking for a date and time when you and your team could provide an overview of The American Legion. At this point you are simply trying to get your foot in the door. Your letter should mention just a few of the Legion’s programs and how they could benefit the citizen soldiers or reservists of the unit. Examples include service officers willing to discuss VA benefits, the National Emergency Fund, Temporary Financial Assistance, the Family Support Network, Troop Support Services (TS2), Heroes to Hometowns, Operation Comfort Warriors and other programs. Next, visit the unit in person. Each unit has at least one person who works in the unit on a full-time basis. Prepare in advance a letter addressed to the unit commander, outlining the information above. Take the opportunity to sell yourself and the Legion during this visit. Full-time personnel have direct communication with the commander and can help you make an appointment.
Your presentation to the commander should be no more than 30 minutes. Ensure your team knows the material and is prepared to answer questions. You must persuade the commander that a presentation would be of great benefit to unit members.
Be prompt for the appointment and cut straight to the purpose of your visit. Highlight the benefits of presenting information about The American Legion to the unit. Ask for a date and time. Remember, you are trying to get your foot in the door, so do not say that you wish to recruit new members.
Have brochures and other literature to leave with the commander (available from department headquarters). Commanders are often looking for speakers to present information to their unit, but keep in mind that unit leaders make a training schedule several months in advance; it may not permit you an opportunity immediately. Be patient. The purpose is to get a date and time.
Plan the event. Ensure you have the resources and manpower necessary to make it a success. Assign your team specific duties to perform, matching needs with skills. Plan to have an information table there, with brochures and other literature. Have a sign-up roster for those who may desire additional information, collecting names, phone numbers and email addresses for a follow-up.
Conduct the event. Wear American Legion attire with cap. This will identify you as being from The American Legion, and we want to be remembered. Be professional at all times. Again, be prepared for questions addressed by members of the unit. Tell your audience how they may contact you and where they can find local American Legion posts. Finally, extend an invitation for them to visit a local post at a per-determined date and time.
Evaluate the event immediately after it ends to discuss what went well and what needs improvement. Looking for the lessons helps us strengthen our skills and strive to be more effective next time.
Veterans of the National Guard and reserves must meet the same eligibility requirements as full-time federal active veterans. To be eligible, they must have served at least one day on federal active duty during any of the delimiting periods set forth in Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution of The American Legion, and have an honorable discharge or currently be serving in the Guard, reserve or on federal active duty.
The key to determining if a Guardsman or reservist has been on or currently serving on federal active duty is the “authority line” on his or her activation orders. In both cases, Title 10, Subsection 672 or 12301 are orders from the Secretary of Defense and are federal orders.
The authority a governor uses to activate the National Guard as an individual or unit is Title 32 orders, i.e. weekend drills and annual training. These are not federal orders. The reserves have similar reserve orders, which are Title 10, Subsection 270. This authority code gives the reserve component the authority to activate the reserves for weekend drills and annual training.
Use Military Law Chapter 39 when determining eligibility for National Guardsmen and reservists.
Since January 28, 2008, more than 1.4 million National Guard and Reserve Service members and their families have benefited from the deployment cycle information, resources, programs, services, and referrals offered by the Yellow Ribbon
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP) is a legislatively mandated program that provides a wide range of services, information, referrals, and proactive outreach to Service members and their Families. The intent of the program is to prepare Service members and their Families for deployment, sustain their Families during deployment, and reintegrate Service members and Families, communities and employers upon re-deployment.