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:
- National Convention and related events
- ALA Girls Nation: a premier program supporting young, intelligent women to grow to become active professionals
- National Veterans Creative Arts Festival: brings hope to our veterans while growing awareness of the ALA
- National Junior member meetings
- Department leadership training seminars
- Volunteer participation in national events
How does the national organization benefit us individually?
- Governance support for units, counties, divisions, and departments
- Compliance review and support with IRS statutes, rules, and regulations, along with state regulations and legal interests
- Publishes and distributes the informational Auxiliary magazine
- Member benefit programs with discounts and services used by individuals every day
- Qualifies members to seek emergency grant assistance for a temporary monetary crisis or natural disaster
- Provides membership applications, brochures, membership cards, and renewal notices at no cost
- PDF versions of guides and booklets are available for free on the national website
- Developed and provides access to a variety of free virtual training options via the ALA Academy; 48 ALA Academy Live sessions have been offered
Our membership dues are our annual investment in sustaining the ALA. The national organization serves every member, not just by providing the corporate structure of our existence, but also by protecting our reputation and making sure resources are available to support our members and their units coast to coast and across the seas. For less than 5 cents per day each year, we can all ensure the American Legion Auxiliary mission continues to serve those who need us most.