Part 11 – Building Next Generation Community Legion

ByDoug Matatall

Part 11 – Building Next Generation Community Legion

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;

  1. digital media marketing (with modern website) to provide meaningful content offering a digital experience the market seeks,
  2. social media marketing of content to connect and be discovered by the market in a fashion that drives SEO,
  3. digital modernization of the Legion with ecommerce, online fund raising, online services to ensure a satisfactory digital experience for consumers,
  4. Digital displays / technology utilizing digital screens to meet the needs of a younger generation for a more relevant Legion; screens for entertainment (sports), education (history/culture), inform, advertise, promote, market community content (digital bulletin board) and so much more.

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.

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