Speaking Notes, Dominion President Tom Eagles
Speaking Notes, Dominion President Tom Eagles
On the Occasion of the Dominion Executive Council Meeting at Legion House 21 February 2015
Comrades this is the fourth time most of us are meeting face to face to discuss our strategic plan for the future of The Royal Canadian Legion since I became your president and I am pleased with the changes we have already adopted and very excited by some of the initiatives that we will be discussing here today.
You will recall in June of 2014, at our dominion convention in Edmonton, AB, I had announced my six-point action plan with a particular emphasis on finance and membership. So let me begin with finances since we just held a meeting with the Focus on the Future Committee where the Legion Deficit Reduction Plan was discussed at length. Today, we will carry-on these conversations particularly as they relate to committees and programs.
Proposed changes to Legion committees and their respective programs, however, were not as easy to adopt as the changes to Dominion Staff. This should not come as a surprise since Legion programs account for almost 75% of the Legion’s entire operating budget.
Comrades, the Budget Committee made it clear that The Royal Canadian Legion cannot sustain an annual deficit financing. We need to get our financial house in order – as requested by our delegates from Dominion Convention. It is my intention to have a balanced budget no later than 2016. But this cannot happen unless we make the difficult decisions regarding committees and their programs. In order to help us deal with this issue we adopted a two tiered approach: (1) Committees and (2) programs.
With respect to Committees, we have made changes the following changes effective Fall 2014:
- Reduced the number of Dominion Staff that participate in events;
- Membership and Outreach Committees have been merged together;
- Reduced the number of Committee meetings to one per year;
- We are making more use of teleconferences instead of face to face meetings. This has resulted in improved communications in both content and frequency.
- With only a few exceptions, only elected officers are eligible to be on Committees;
- We are also looking at alternate sources of financing which includes possibilities for sponsorships and the establishment of a Remembrance Foundation. This will help to offset the dependence upon membership per capita
So now we have the third and perhaps greatest challenge on how best we may achieve a balanced budget by 2016 – programs.
You will see from the agenda you have been provided that we will have some time allotted to discuss some of the major changes proposed to some Legion programs.
It is critical that we reach consensus here today on the future of these programs if we are to achieve a balanced budget for 2016.
I trust that our discussions will always keep in mind my criteria regarding Legion programs:
- Dominion Programs must be cost effective;
- Dominion Programs must be national in scope;
- Dominion programs must promote the broader interests of the Legion;
- Branch or provincial or national Programs must have an impact on membership. If there is no correlation then the program needs to be reviewed;
- Programs have a direct correlation to membership. So if you run a Bingo you will recruit people of a “certain” age, the same thing about “darts”, and “line dancing” etcetera. The point I am making is that we need to be cognizant that the age group that participate in our programs equals the age group we will be recruiting our members. If we are targeting a specific age group then we need to develop programs for this specific age group. In this case, programs designed for a younger public and potential member; and
- Membership will follow programs. By extension an active branch with the right programs will usually mean the membership issue will solve itself.
3. MEMBERSHIP (RECRUITMENT & RETENTION)
As I am sure you will understand, trying to achieve a balanced budget when a principal source of income is a per capita tax on an ever decreasing membership is very difficult. A critical mass of Legion Members remains the lifeblood of The Royal Canadian Legion.
In order for the Legion to keep operating with the infrastructure and command structure it currently has our membership needs to be around 400,000.
Comrades, I know 400,000 sounds like a lot of members but there was a time when we had at least 400,000 or more members. Remember that in 1984 we had a total of 602,000 members so the task is not impossible.
Our communications ability has improved 10 fold over the past few years. We have also sent out news releases extolling the great work that is being conducted at all levels of the Legion and what we are doing with our programs like the “Leave the Streets Behind” initiative. People are listening, people are becoming aware and people are paying attention with interest to the Legion.
But we still require your support. We still require leadership from you, from our provincial commands, our districts, our zones and most importantly from our Branch Presidents.
It must be made clear that we all have a vested interest in achieving a critical mass of Legion members if we are to remain relevant in our communities.
We need to look at doing things differently from the past because we know the current practices are leading to a steady decline in membership. Many of you will know that I have been very favorable to an initiative from the Membership and Outreach Committee to allow for a Ladies Auxiliary presence at DEC.
Our best estimates are that there are more than 75,000 members of the Ladies Auxiliary and I believe they should be a part of the discussions on what the future of the Legion should look like.
Comrades, the face of Canada’s Veterans is changing and so too must we. Today, there are three Veterans for every Veteran that survived the war in Korea or World War II combined.
These younger former combatants have a different profile and different priorities. Seen from this perspective, we have a tremendous responsibility during our conventions to change and adapt as well. This is no longer business as usual.
Again, thank you for coming, and welcome to our first DEC meeting in the New Year. Let’s make history by taking the first steps in achieving a balanced budget for 2016 and trying to achieve a critical mass of Legion Members.