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Below are some ideas to help you and stories to let you know that you're not alone.
When to know it is time and the steps to complete the process.
REVITALIZATION is about identifying new and existing members with new ideas that breathe life into Units that are declining in membership and mission outreach. It is more than just organizing new Units and trying to help Units keep their charters. Revitalization is also about providing mentors for struggling Units, providing training for new members, and finding leaders to replace long-time chairmen and officers. More importantly, revitalization is about finding, exploring and trying new ways for all members to become more engaged in meaningful opportunities for mission outreach. While revitalization is not focused primarily on solving Unit disharmony and personality conflicts within the Units, conflict resolution training can help members learn to solve many of the problems that damage the Auxiliary's reputation, discourage members and distract from our mission and purpose.
Posted On: Tuesday, 31 July 2018 (From National Website)
It was happening right in front of Margaret “Margie” Erskine’s eyes: American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Unit 230 in Spring Lake, N.C. — the unit to which she belonged — was experiencing substantial membership inactivity.
Erskine grew concerned about what that meant for the future of Unit 230, and for fulfilling the ALA’s mission of honoring and helping veterans, servicemembers, and their families, and promoting patriotism and mentoring youth.
She didn’t want to see Unit 230 fall by the wayside, so she did something about the situation —with the help of her husband, American Legion member Mark Erskine. The Erskines visited the inactive ALA members and asked each of them to return to the unit. At that time, Mark was commander of Post 230. He and Margie were, and still are, equally committed to having a strong Legion Family at the post.
“We went door-to-door whenever we could; not every day though. We told them we were about to lose our unit. And if they wanted to keep the unit and keep helping our veterans, we needed people to come to the [unit] meetings and get it going again,” Margie Erskine said. “We managed to get 10 members to come back. That took about nine months.
“Even though I look different, and I say things differently than the people here [in North Carolina], they still listened to me,” noted Margie, an Alaskan Inupiaq Native (also referred to as Inuk). There are different native tribes in Alaska. Margie belongs to the tribe of Inupiat, also known as the Inuit tribe.
Margie has lived in Spring Lake, N.C., for eight years. She said she has always felt welcomed and appreciated by her fellow Auxiliary members and among the Legion Family at Post 230, as they worked together to help others in the community. She wasn’t about to let Unit 230 become completely inactive without trying to revitalize it. And she didn’t stop at face-to-face home visits.
American Legion Auxiliary member Margaret Erskine, of Unit 230 in Spring Lake, N.C., doing ALA membership recruitment at a “Hiring Our Heroes” event held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Photo credit: Cinecut Creative for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
“I made phone calls, put out newsletters, and sent out emails. I started writing letters to members since I was starting to feel like the Lone Ranger,” she joked. “What encouraged me to keep on with all of this was keeping in contact with the department and getting the department’s newsletters. Also helpful was keeping in touch with, and getting encouragement from, the [department-level] committee chairmen and reading their newsletters. I stopped feeling so all alone.”
At the same time, Margie attempted to recruit members. Stocked with ALA pamphlets and other informational items, she would set up booths at various community events and talk to everyone she could about the American Legion Auxiliary: who we are, what we do, and why we matter. She had some success with recruitment.
All of this happened about three years ago.
Unit 230 has been back on its feet for a while now and has many noteworthy achievements. With much pride, Margie (now president of Unit 230) shared the news about the unit following the Annual Convention of the Department of North Carolina this summer:
“American Legion Auxiliary Unit 230’s membership continues to reach its goal. For the 2017-2018 fiscal year, we received a certificate of appreciation of 115.5 percent membership goal, including a membership certificate for ‘completing its membership quota equal to or exceeding the previous year.’ We received a certificate of participation for updating our unit constitution and bylaws.
“Also, we received a certificate of participation in appreciation of and recognition for Active Participation in Outstanding Legislative Program. One of our members received a citation for Meritorious Service for her hours of helping veterans and soldiers with PTSD, case-management and aftermath,” Margie also said.
The ALA — the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization — has close to 8,000 units throughout the United States, in some U.S. territories, and in a handful of other countries. Units are ALA’s local entities where members join the Auxiliary to promote patriotism in their communities, mentor youth, and do mission-based outreach work that serves veterans, servicemembers, and their families.
The time and effort put forth by ALA members in outreach service continues to have a massive impact on those whom we serve. However, widespread inactivity among ALA members can diminish that impact.
Take a cue from ALA member Margie Erskine: Find ways to gain and maintain members. Perhaps you, too, can bring inactive members back into the fold.
Find out why your fellow members have become inactive and see if those issues can be resolved. If so, address the issues and then let the inactive members know they’re welcomed to return to your unit if they still want to serve and honor veterans, servicemembers, and their families. Sometimes, it takes face-to-face visits, phone calls, newsletters, and emails. Communication within your unit can work wonders.
Keep members engaged in mission-based activities and outreach.
Also, find ways to recruit more members — making sure that women eligible for membership understand, and feel, that they are welcomed in the American Legion Auxiliary.
Posted On: Sunday, 09 September 2018 (From National Website)
After more than 20 years as an American Legion Auxiliary member, Lucille Wolfe, of Unit 143 in Cherokee, N.C., said she started to feel that she wasn’t close to anyone in her post home. For that, and other personal reasons, her participation in the unit slowly but steadily decreased to nearly zero.
Then, Wolfe got something special in the mail: a birthday card containing a sincere, heartfelt message from her fellow unit members. Wolfe said she started to reconsider her place at her post home. Maybe those close relationships she had there remained. She was reminded of her passion for honoring and helping veterans, servicemembers, and their families; and how her personal values are closely aligned with the ALA and its mission of service and promoting patriotism.
This birthday card became the catalyst for Wolfe’s mindset change and her eventual return to the unit as a member who participates in activities as often as she can, in any way she can, as she once did.
“It just touched me that they thought enough of me to send me a birthday card, especially since my birthday is on Christmas Eve — when people’s minds are elsewhere. It also got me thinking about my passion for helping veterans because it came from Unit 143. Knowing that they cared made me come back to our unit and post home. Now, we’re as close as families are,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe was one of numerous Unit 143 members who, each with her own reasons, allowed her ALA participation level to plummet. Sending birthday and anniversary cards with sincere messages to members who became inactive and who still lived in the community was the idea of Patsy Ledford of Unit 143. She wanted them to know that their fellow members still cared about them, and that the unit would get more active in helping veterans.
It was just one of several ways the unit attempted to appeal to non-participating members, as they tried to recruit new members. All of this happened a few years ago.
Today, Unit 143 has about 43 members, with a core group of about 15 women who participate all or most of the time. Among the 43 are some of the previous members who returned and are actively participating again.
Ledford worked along with several of her fellow ALA members who wanted to revitalize their unit. An outsider looking in might wonder how Ledford — one of the few Caucasian Americans belonging to this predominantly Cherokee Native American unit — was able to help pull the unit together despite having a different cultural background than most of the members.
But Ledford and other Unit 143 members say they value the differences among their group while rallying around their common cause of fulfilling the ALA mission. These women know that each has something to offer.
No matter their race, religion, nationalities, or other differences among them, ALA members stand united in their desire to support The American Legion; assist and pay tribute to veterans, military personnel, and their families; mentor youth; and encourage good citizenship and patriotism.
They also know that working as a team is part of what makes their team work, Ledford explained: “These are the most awesome bunch of ladies I have ever had the privilege of working with! I said ‘working with’ — not ‘working around’ or ‘working without.’ We jelled as a group.”
Unit 143 member Carol Long, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, agrees with Ledford.
“Working together as we do for the same cause creates a bond that I don’t think anything can break. We’re not perfect. We do have our issues at times. But we talk about it. We need to show our unity. The focus is doing things for our veterans, and doing the best we can for them,” Long said.
Ledford serves as president of Unit 143. Long is vice president.
Remember: There is no one-size-fits-all-units solution to low participation among members because each woman may have different reasons for pulling away. Find strategies that may work for your unit; customize them accordingly and implement them continuously to create and maintain an inviting and welcoming atmosphere. Attaining, maintaining, and regaining members usually takes ongoing efforts to achieve.
Below are some strategies that may help you revitalize your American Legion Auxiliary unit:
1) Ask unit members to wear ALA branded clothing while doing mission-based activities.
Inquiries about the branded clothing are opportunities to discuss the American Legion Auxiliary: who we are, what we do, and why we matter. If the inquiring individuals seem interested, the unit members will ask questions to help determine their eligibility and then invite them to join, or to come learn more about the unit and then decide whether to join.
2) Set up information booths at popular community events. Make sure you have plenty of ALA and Legion Family material on hand, plus applications and information about membership eligibility requirements. If you have no literature available for distribution, refer prospective members to www.ALAforVeterans.org.
1) Invite and welcome all members in your unit to share suggestions and opinions for ways to fulfill the ALA’s century-old mission of serving veterans, the military, and their families. Keep members engaged in ALA mission-based activities and outreach programs.
2) Encourage a teamwork environment.
3) Determine, as a unit, how to address conflict or differences of opinion among members so when those issues arise, a plan for dealing with them will be in place already.
1) Consider a personalized approach to let those members who have become inactive know that you want them working with the unit to fulfill ALA’s overall mission. Whether it’s a phone call, a face-to-face visit, or a birthday card, be sincere in what you say to each of those members — and personalize every note when possible.
So your unit is having even more trouble? We're sorry.
After you have explored every angle for revitalization, here are the instructions to help you understand what is involved with turning in your charter. Remember to be finalized, these steps must be followed and we must vote on the closing of the unit at either the Mid- Winter Convention or Department Convention.