Guest blog post by Sharon Conatser, National Finance Committee Chair; and Marybeth Revoir, National Treasurer
Belief in the American Legion Auxiliary’s mission is at the heart of why people belong to our organization. We have influenced the lives of veterans, military, and their families for over a century.
In 2017, the trend of diminishing members causing a financial burden to the organization was identified,
and a dues increase was proposed to supplement our declining revenue. An insufficient dues increase was approved, and now, as predicted, the organization is facing mounting deficits that necessitate immediate action.
The national Finance Committee, along with National Headquarters staff, conduct a thorough review of all expenditures each year. For 2022, cuts in spending under 12 of the expense activities were proposed. Overall, the expense budget for 2022 was less than the expense budget for 2021, even though activities, travel, and programs were returning to levels closer to pre- pandemic times. Every year, tough decisions are required by the national Finance Committee as it deals with growing deficits and an ever-changing landscape.
A dues increase to $18 national dues per senior member is being proposed for ratification at the National Convention in Milwaukee this August. As a reminder, membership dues are made up of three portions — national, department (state), and unit. Incremental increases of $1 in fiscal year 2026, FY28, and FY30 are included in the proposal. This sustainable dues structure will ensure financial stability through decade’s end.
The national portion of dues are currently $12 per senior member; however, our annual cost per member in 2020 was $13.51, and $14.67 in 2021. This shows costs are higher than our annual dues. In all actuality, the divide between cost per member and member dues is greater as operations in the last two years were reduced due to the pandemic crisis.
Relying on reserves to fund operations is fiscally irresponsible. Not-for-profit organizations are held to a high standard that demands peak performance in mission delivery. Without fulfilling this expectation, the organization risks becoming irrelevant to current societal needs. Investment income from interest and dividends is being utilized to support our current operations. The reserve funds should not be used to cover operating costs. External auditors have repeatedly cautioned against this, as it is an irresponsible business practice, but more, it depletes the lifeline needed to ensure the ALA’s future for decades to come.
History has shown that veteran needs peak several decades after their war service, and we must be strong and viable to meet those needs. Excellence in mission delivery and relevance in an increasingly competitive marketplace are dependent on the ability to continually improve ALA national programs. In doing this, established programs become tailored to fulfilling the increasing challenges facing our military, veterans, and their families.
The ALA is the conduit between those in need and the resources available. The national organization not only provides direct services but also acts as a go-between working to connect those in need with all resources available, even when those resources are provided by another institution like the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It is this function, this ability to serve as a connector between the military/veteran community and the marketplace of resources, which allows us to remain relevant for future generations.
The national organization is responsible for the development and funding of multiple mission-related events and activities which require development, staffing, and funding:
In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.