Imagine walking into your first American Legion Auxiliary unit meeting as an eager community resident, ready to find out how you can help veterans, military, and their families. ALA members begin to file in, but no one says “hello” to the new face in the room.
At the start of the meeting, you are asked to introduce yourself, and a member immediately asks if you are eligible to join the ALA. You know you’re not, but you are excited to contribute to the unit as a volunteer and help financially. But none of that matters because the unit members lose interest after they learn you aren’t eligible. No one talks to you, and they carry on with business.
After the meeting, you still haven’t given up hope, and try to get on a phone/email list for upcoming events, reiterating your desire to volunteer and contribute dollars. But still, no response from current members.
Sadly, this scene has played out at many units across the country, and the ALA has lost out on several promising volunteers, simply because the focus has been on eligibility. Is your unit guilty of doing this when someone new comes through the door? Do you want to be part of the solution and not the problem when it comes to losing potential volunteers and donors?
Here are a few ideas on how you can respond positively to benefit everyone interested in your ALA unit:
“I want to volunteer, but I’m not eligible for membership.”
Some of you are cringing when you read that last part about eligibility and are still concerned about that. Does the ALA need eligible members to join units? Absolutely. Should we ignore ineligible people? No — greet them with the same enthusiasm that you would if they were a member.
How members can respond: “We understand you are ineligible for ALA membership, but we are excited you want to volunteer with our unit! There are many ways you can volunteer to help our veterans, military, and their families. Is there a particular program you are interested in or an upcoming event? We would love to have you help out as much as you are able!”
“I’d like to donate to your unit, but I’m not eligible for membership.”
For some who want to make a difference with the ALA but aren’t eligible and don’t have time to volunteer because of busy schedules, contributing financially is their way of helping. Whether they have $20 to donate to your unit’s next event or want to donate a set amount every month, it is good to have donors. They will help the mission continue by backing projects and events with much needed dollars.
How members can respond: “We appreciate you giving your financial resources to the unit. It will help further our mission and make a difference in the lives of our veterans, military, and their families. Is there a particular program or event you would like this money to go toward?”
Members, volunteers, and donors matter
ALA members will continue to be vital for this organization now and in the future. We need eligible members to join and continue our 100-plus years of serving our mission. But we also need to understand that there are community members throughout the country who have seen and heard what we do and want to be part of it — they just aren’t eligible for the membership part — but they want to actively contribute their time and treasure. Don’t discount this group of people!
They can and do make a difference in a variety of ways for our veterans, military, and their families. There are volunteers and donors who spend more time and more money contributing to our cause than inactive members. They matter and it’s important to make them feel welcome and part of our organization. Together, members, volunteers, and donors can have a positive influence on those we serve.
Do you have more ideas on ways to welcome volunteers and donors? Email us at ALAMagazine@ALAforVeterans.org.