Part 1 – Is there a Future for the Legions – Current Situation

ByDoug Matatall

Part 1 – Is there a Future for the Legions – Current Situation

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?

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