National Membership Organizations Are Doomed to Fail Unless They Change Now!

At virtually every organization, whether it be a nationally based service oriented group such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Lions, or even a worldwide religious group there is a common problem that exists: that being increasing and maintaining their membership. This failure to maintain or increase membership not only results in loss of influence at the political level, but also reduces funding for key projects that an organization has supported. Further erosion of membership allows competitive organizations to take root and fill the role that was once was held by the "more traditional" organization.

Examples of the growth of new organizations replacing the more traditional are easy to recognize. Consider that in the first half of the 20th Century few churches rivaled the more traditional Christian based organizations such as those presented by the Catholic and Protestant faiths. Now, there has been an increasing rise in the number of non-denominational or mega-churches that have eroded the traditional church. Veteran service organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars were once the mainstay of the veteran community. Over time however, these veteran service organizations began to lose influence and membership with current members getting older and failing to recruit younger members. In many cases, whether a church or service organization, the failure to recognize changes in technology and needs of the younger member have led to their reduction in membership numbers.

The main reason, however, for loss of membership has been the failure of the National Organization to remember its core purpose for being: that is to serve the community in which they have a presence. National headquarters became top heavy and began increasing dues, not to support the local chapter, but rather to sustain the "home office". What once were considered to be volunteer positions soon became salaried with increasing payrolls year after year. Increased travel and entertainment budgets soon grew to staggering numbers showing little result for the local unit. As such, a rift between national, state, districts, and local chapters has grown over the past few years and in many cases, has gone beyond a point of easy repair.

Recognizing that the national headquarters cared little about the local level, those at that level began to break off and form local organizations to meet the needs of the community, rather than that of a national organization. A simple example is that of veteran homelessness. The Veterans Administration, which has committed some $250 million to eradicate homelessness within the next 4-5 years. An admirable goal to be sure, but for those on the local level, it is known it will never be reached. While national groups heralded this funding incentive, they did nothing to provide impetus for their local chapters who dealt directly with the problem to get involved. As a result, the government will squander millions on developing web sites and brochures on homelessness, but fail to reach those truly in need, while those on the local level will deal directly with the problem. Wouldn't the chance for success be greater if the VA had decided to work through local groups rather than establish a national program?

Another area where national organizations fail to recognize the need of younger members is that in the field of technology. Are Facebook and Twitter just links to show the national organization is "hip" or are they used to serve the needs of the members? Is WiFi in a local chapter or church an inconvenience or a tool to keep new members? These technologies and social media platforms are what younger members use. The failure of national office to recognize that only further separates them from potential new members.


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