As we are all very aware, membership is at the forefront of considerable discussion within many Legion Branches largely because our overall membership numbers continue to decline. In this article, we’re going to talk about membership renewal and the need to embrace the ideas of new members.
Membership Renewals – Go after the low hanging fruit!
A large portion of the decline in membership can be explained through attrition (e.g. members passing on) but one of the best places we can look at to address our membership challenges is keeping the members we have. We must address non-renewals if we are to remain Canada’s largest Veterans-based organization. Going after members who have not renewed is the lowest hanging fruit available to us and should be really easy for any branch to tackle.
RETENTION IS EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY!
Branches, zones, districts and commands must do everything within their power to keep their members. We need to look at our branch membership and see who hasn’t renewed and make every effort to reach out to them. It is nice to say to the public that the Legion brought in over 20,000 new members last year but the actual reality was that membership was down because we have a problem keeping the members that we have. On average the RCL loses around 25,000-30,000 members through non renewals and that, Comrades, is a crying shame.
In our branches we have had direct contact with these members thanks to them joining in the first place. We have their contact information and can easily give them a call and get them to renew. If they don’t want to renew their membership, equally important then is asking them why not. Their insights into our branch may help us address areas other members have concerns with and in the end will make our branch a better place to be. When members do not renew with us we must ask ourselves, “What can we do to make our branch better?”
There are dozens of reasons why members do not renew, we have seen the surveys and we can honestly state that in many cases, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to membership. The job of membership development is not the sole responsibility of the membership chair; it is the responsibility of every member of the branch. Our membership chairs provide leadership and direction to help a branch grow. Touching base with members who don’t renew is such an easy place to start for any membership chair.
Here are some great tips from branches that have successful renewal campaigns:
- Put a renewal team of four or five people in place. Many hands make light work.
- Get on the phone as soon as you know who hasn’t renewed and ask them to renew or find out why they won’t.
- Put up a “Most Wanted” list of the names of those who haven’t renewed with instructions for all other members to contact the people they know on the list to renew.
- Hold a Member Renewal event at the branch offering something of value to members who come in and renew – free snacks, entertainment, meet and greet with a local celebrity, family fun activity day – and make sure you contact all those who haven’t renewed and tell them about this special event being put on just for them.
There are a lot of really good membership chairmen out there plugging away and doing a great job bringing in new members and fighting to keep the ones we have. It’s a tough job, but with help, it can be made easier.
Embracing new members and their ideas
We must change our ways or we will continue to lose our members. Our branches are just like any type of business, and if we see a losing trend we know we have to change something to turn our fortunes around. We are seeing a small, but growing trend of younger Veterans, their families and other young people in general, taking interest in the Legion. They are bringing new ideas to our ranks and it is important for us to recognize what these members mean to the future of the Legion. We spoke about this in the article that went out in September “A Time for Change”- and it truly is a time for change across the Legion.
Comrades, as a Veteran’s organization built by Veterans for Veterans we must do everything in our power to bring in these younger Veterans, their families, and supporters. Make them feel welcome into our ranks as the Legion was built by their forefathers to be their home after a career in the military. Whether, they be Veterans or family members, or those who proudly support our Veteran community, younger members joining the Legion today have different expectations, but it’s nothing we can’t accommodate. They don’t ask for much, maybe WIFI, a computer in the branch that’s connected so they can keep in touch with their colleagues across the country, games and sports that may be different than what has typically happened at the branch, or a reading/games room to get away from things. The point is that we need to be open to ideas and not so quick to saying no when our members bring suggestions forward.
Comrades any new member will have so much to offer to your branches. If they are Veterans, they’ll bring leadership skills, an understanding of protocol, management and above all else the understanding of what the modern day Veteran needs in the role of advocacy to VAC.
Comrades, membership does matter, and it is the responsibility of everyone at the branch. There are many things we have done in the past that still work well, but there are many more things today we need to be doing to improve the Legion and make it relevant to an entirely new audience.
Come out of the past so The Royal Canadian Legion can be there for our Veterans in the future.
Membership Matters – Spring/Summer 20156