In Part 1, we discussed the challenges facing Legions today. This blog discusses a recommended approach to building a resilient future – Next Generation Community Legion. Hopefully with the help of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, we will be able to make the Mt. Brydges Legion a “pilot” for all Legions to follow in 2021 and beyond.
There will come a time in 2021 when the pandemic will be behind us and we will be looking for a place to go once again to socialize with friends and family, enjoy live entertainment, to laugh, dance, sing, dine, and connect with the local community. Local bands and musicians will also be seeking a venue to entertain people and recover from the pandemic. And people themselves will be seeking new ways to “support local”.
And as we all know, there is a network of Legions out there, in every community anxious to welcome everyone of all ages to their facilities, their community and local businesses.
This presents a glorious opportunity for Legions to now try to reach and engage with a younger audience to help drive a promising future for themselves and their community – a new life post COVID 19.
However, the Legions will need to change their traditional model to align with the new world realities. They need to be innovative to create a Legion that will last well into the 21st century. Through collaboration with the market and partnerships with local business/community, they need to repurpose themselves to become a Community Gateway / Community Social Club…a new business model for a new life. The idea of a Community Gateway Legion will ensure the value of Lest we Forget is indeed carried on for future generations but in a totally new way.
Creating this change will obviously require ongoing collaboration and partnerships with the new markets, the younger demographics, as well. The Legions will need let go of the traditional approach and become youth-centric, let the younger generation drive the development of a new model.
Fortunately, research indicates that the millennial generation embrace change. They want to make a difference. Their greatest need today is for a sense of community. They seek a place of familiarity, a place to share, to feel connected and to feel a sense of belonging. They want to be part of something meaningful, a worthy cause, a millennial experience.
The Community Gateway Legion, focusing on millennial trend for community-based tourism, will drive a “near me” movement to pull people from nearby urban communities out to explore, discover and experience everything that small communities and Legions have to offer.
But how does the Legion get started with this transformation?
During the downtime forced on Legions by COVID 19 restrictions is the time to start looking for volunteers from the millennials or local businesses who would like to prime the creation of the next generation Legion: a Legion Ambassador program of on-line volunteer network.
Also critical is building the digital platform to drive the digital transformation and modernization program necessary for integration into the digital economy. This includes;
With the transformation and modernization in place, the Legions will be able to leverage the power of digital media marketing to connect with the younger audience and get them involved to collaborate on the development of and support a new Legion, a new model, a new future and a new life and grow a new generation of members – Legion Ambassadors and of course, growth in traffic.
The new model will align with today’s digital reality, drive discovery of community content (SEO) and motivate people to get out to explore, discover and experience everything rural communities and local Legions have to offer. A model that will stay current with the New Normal yet ensure the tradition of “lest we forget” is carried on for future generations, but in a new and meaningful way.
The answer is yes! But to have a future, we need to create a new model, a next generation Legion. Part 1 of this blog will talk about the current situation with Legions. Part 11 will discuss a new “proposed” approach to growing membership, participation and revenues.
For almost 100 years the nonprofit Legions have been providing wonderful support to their community, helping seniors, charities, youth development programs, community projects, children’ sports programs, school projects, health care, hospitals, community events, veterans, people in need and carrying on the message of Lest We Forget.
Over the past decade, many legions have been struggling just to survive. The local markets they serve have been getting smaller, their customers aging, membership has been in decline and attracting younger patrons has not been successful. Urbanization has shrunk rural population to less than 15% of the market and unfortunately, rural communities and the Legions are inextricably linked in their decline.
The perception today of the Legion brand by the younger generation, especially the millennials, is that the Legion is just for old people, veterans, and members. They feel that the Legions are dated, no longer relevant and offer a product that has no appeal to younger audiences. And in most cases, they are right.
And now the impact of COVID 19. The restrictions of the pandemic such as social distancing, isolation, stay home, wear a mask, small gatherings, lock downs and virtual meetings have been tough on all of us and financially disastrous for many small local businesses, the Legions, and rural communities.
Making matters worse is the rapid pace of change in the market. We are now in an era where consumer behavior is shifting away from bricks & mortar. The global pandemic has dramatically increased the speed of digital transformation as throngs of consumers are going digital for the first time to do things like online banking, grocery shopping, drive thru services, and on-line fund raising. Consumer expectations for speed of service, security and safety, and on-line customer experience is exploding.
Customers and expectations have drastically shifted in this brave new digital world at a speed that we have all talked about, but no one saw coming. Most non-profits were forced to move from predominantly in-person service delivery models to digital models overnight. This shift necessitated increased urgency to adopt innovative models, new skills, and new ways of working.
This has proven to be an exceedingly difficult time for the Legions.
The time is now to chart a new course to recover from the pandemic and help build a resilient and sustainable future. The Legions now need to find new ways of growing membership and fundraising so that they can continue to help their community and ensure future generations will continue to support Lest We Forget.
Post COVID 19 recovery and future growth for the Legions will only be possible by reaching and engaging a much younger audience. And the only way to be discovered by younger audiences is through integrated digital media marketing and providing consumers a digital experience aligned with their expectations.
The big question now is: how can the Legion endear itself to the new audience such as the millennials, that it needs to keep its doors open, and thrive in a post-pandemic world? Can the Legions adopt and implement a digital transformation to align with the new world realities? Can the Legions play a more prominent role in supporting their local community in new ways for economic development?