Troy asked that this be posted on VFWWebCOM and I’m sure additional constructive comments pro or con from anyone would be welcome.
This is the results sent him by the VFWWebCOM members who spent over 9 hours of meetings on teamspeak working on a document he had sent. Please note we did neglect to remove and replace the word Association with ePosts in all the places that it appears in the document. None of the participants liked the use of the word “association” or “associated” posts. Nor was the use of the word Virtual liked. Also note that the word Virtual is being used by the American Legion for their attempt at an on-line post. We thought ePost was a better choice.
Suggestions from the VFWWebCOM forums were not reviewed or added to the document. Website/ePost working group at National have already reviewed what has been posted.
Project: Association (At-Large) Post
VFW National Mission
VFW National Membership Mission, Vision, and Related Objectives
VFW National Membership Hypotheses (Assumptions) for Program Development
Concept of Association (At-Large) Post
Benefits of Association Posts
Membership Status (Member-at-Large and Associated Post membership)
Three Suggestions for Chartering Association Posts
Procedures for “Meeting”: forums, discussion, voting, posting voting results
Milestones for Measuring Success (Short and Intermediate Range Objectives)
Desired Outcome for Association Posts (Long Range Objectives)
Risks and Mitigations for Considerations for Association Posts
VFW National Mission: “The purpose of this corporation shall be fraternal, patriotic, historical, charitable, and educational; to preserve and strengthen comradeship among its members; to assist worthy comrades; to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead, and to assist their widows and orphans; to maintain true allegiance to the Government of the United States of America, and fidelity to its Constitution and laws; to foster true patriotism; to maintain and extend the institutions of American freedom, and to preserve and defend the United States for all her enemies, whomsoever.”
VFW National Membership Mission: Develop and maintain a membership base that is actively involved in all levels of the organization.
VFW National Membership Vision: Create a stable core of current and past conflict veterans that ensures the organization is a welcoming environment for veterans, service members, and families at the community and national levels through 2035.
VFW National Membership Goals (relevant to this program):-Develop themes for national recruitment and retention through planning, testing, analysis and implementation
-Recruit and maintain 17% of eligible veterans into the ranks of the VFW
-Produce recruiting materials that appeal to current conflict veterans without alienating potential members of past conflicts
-Develop recruitment materials targeting niche constituencies and seek to enfranchise them into the VFW (e.g., female veterans, OIF-OEF veterans, etc.)
-Develop new strategies to exploit developing avenues of communications
Hypotheses for Program Development (to be tested through program’s evaluation):
1. Many current and potential members would like to be a part of the VFW but do not wish to participate in local VFW Post activities.
2. Current and potential members would join a VFW based on shared interest, history, or activity but do not want to be limited in their activity by geographic location.
3. Not a broad enough base. Unlikely that we would get enough people from one unit to fill all the chairs and have members to spare. Recommend that membership be based by state or some other geographical territory.
4. Associated VFW Posts would have little to no financial requirements for their members and costs to VFW National would be absorbed by membership fees. Probable expenses may be conferencing software, web site expenses, and server expenses.
5. Associated VFW Posts will be a lucrative market for cross-branded VFW/Association Post merchandise, such as VFW/2nd Infantry Division shirts, VFW/489th Fighter Wing specialized membership cards, etc. There would also be an increased market for currently available items.
6. ePosts would not be in conflict with current National By-laws and Manual of Procedure. As with “Brick and Mortar” or “Paper Posts” well defined by-laws would have to be created.
Concept of Association (At-Large) Post:
An Association Post is simply an at-large post based at the local or national level. It does not replace the concept of at-large membership, but provides that membership an opportunity to belong to a post without a geographic boundary to its membership. To rethink the concept of VFW Posts are more like social organizations. In designing a concept for an ePost, VFW National Membership seeks to establish minimum process requirements that ensure fairness, accountability, and rough parity with existing VFW Posts without preventing Association Posts the ability adapt to members and technology at their disposal. Several possible variations of Association Posts will be discussed.
Benefits of Association Posts
Member Creativity. If members have the opportunity and interest, they will make the concept work. The creativity of VFW members to adapt outstrips VFW National’s ability to keep up with member perceptions and abilities. We want to establish left and right limits but give the membership maximum freedom to organize themselves within those limits.
Recruiting. Members recruited from installations could take their memberships wherever they may travel while in the military and are more likely to stay an active member when duty stations change. Recruiting can be done online via a specific website.
Retention. Because activity will primarily be conducted online or through emailed correspondence, a member need not become inactive simply because they have changed jobs, locations, etc. There is also greater latitude for members to tailor their VFW activity based on their schedules. For those that want to be active in their community, they can attempt to connect to fellow Association Post members in their area. For those who choose to be”less active” they can still be a part of discussions and voting as their schedules allow.
This also provides a better way alternative than simply joining department-at-large for members who wish to leave their local posts.
Who Would Be Interested. There are three potential groups that may be interested in this concept.
1) VFW members on active duty in the military.
2) VFW members who are currently students or expecting to make a major geographic move within the next few years.
3) VFW members seeking less geographic, less traditional participation in the organization.
4) Physically handicapped persons
5) People who do not want to be around the smoking, drinking, and gambling found in some traditional posts.
According to the Carpe Diem report dated 10 June 2007, 42% of non-member veterans surveyed said they would be interested in an “at-large” membership in a veterans’ organization. (Carpe Diem, p. 9). Likewise 33% of current members responded that they would be interested in some version of an at-large membership (Carpe Diem, p. 18).
Keeping Up With The Times. While it may take several years or even a decade for the concept of Association Posts to take off, their flexibility means that members can take them in directions we do not currently envision. It also allows them to adapt to changing technology (e.g., the post conducts business over secure phone texting). This also positions the VFW ahead of other veteran organizations: traditional organizations like the American Legion and DAV do not have truly at-large posts; groups like Military Officers Association of America are nationally-based and only have a few local chapters which are, in effect, geographically-based; groups like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are email groups and do not require a true commitment of time or resources (money) from members.
Standard Pricing. If Association Posts are part of the National member-at-large program, everyone pays the same price for membership regardless of where they join. If Association Posts are chartered at the local level, department-at-large prices will apply. Currently, VFW National faces a significant challenge in marketing because we cannot tell members how much they will pay for a one year membership until we find out where they live and there is no way to ensure that VFW departments won’t change their prices again.
If an at-large member belonged to an Association Post they would not be considered members-at-large (department-at-large) but a member of an Association Post for affiliation, hat numbering, membership cards, etc.
Members cannot join an Association Post in the traditional way (i.e., an application directly to the VFW Post). They can only join as at-large members and transfer into an at-large post. This does not actually cause an issue, because current at-large online applications are processed within one business day.
Two processes can be established to facilitate a quick transfer into an Association Post: 1) Association Post leadership sends in an email with a member’s number to National Membership and requests a transfer; 2) once their application is approved, the emailed acceptance will include a place where they can reply and insert the Association Post they would like to join. VFW National will forward this request to the appropriate Association Post.
(In the future, it may even be possible to create a generator for Association Posts to link to. If someone uses their Association Post to link to an application, the application would be processed through VFW National’s server with a promotion code on it telling the computer to put them into the Association Post.)
This can work for mailed-in applications as well, although the process may take up to three weeks. To expedite, Association Posts can send in at-large applications with the Association Post listed.
Review of Application Process:
• Join as members-at-large
• Assoc. Post leadership sends in a request to transfer in an at-large member
• or VFW National forwards a request to Assoc. Post leadership and transfers if Assoc. Post leadership approves.
Two Suggestions for Chartering Association Posts:
These variations of Associated Posts are not meant to be chartered concurrently but present alternative ways to approach at-large posts.
Association Chartered at Department Level (Department based payout). Like a current VFW Post, they belong to a department. Unlike a VFW Post, their price is fixed at the department-at-large rate. Payout for renewals goes to the department where the post was chartered. There is no payout to the post. Posts would be 13000-series posts (e.g., VFW Post 13025, Morgan Stanley Memorial Association Post).
Association Chartered at National Level. All membership fees go back to VFW National for admin costs and VFW National charges a uniform member-at-large price. Posts would be 14000-series posts (e.g., VFW Post 14025, Rock of the Marne Association Post).
Procedures for “Meetings”:
Minimum standards would be established to ensure accountability and openness without limiting the channels of communication available to ePosts. Secure web conferencing software utilizing Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and having the ability to have some kind of icon indication of each member present would be needed. A well defined list of words would have to be created and distributed to ensure all members understand new terminology associated with online meetings. Membership criteria would have to spell out minimum computer requirement and members would have to agree to meet these requirements before being allowed to join and ePost.
Meetings: ePosts would determine how they want to conduct discussions. The term “meeting” refers to a process. Any Internet site that is used must be secured to restrict viewing and participation to “members only” to ensure that all ePost members are allowed to participate.
Quorum: The expectation is that more people would be able to participate in discussions and voting because of the versatility the Internet and e-mail correspondence allows. A quorum of 5 members is required for an actual vote.
Special Meeting Notification: In accordance with current by-laws.
Milestones for Measuring Success:
As with all programs, evaluation standards must be established to determine the viability of the ePost concept. Evaluation will not only check the viability of the program but will allow VFW National to gather lessons learned. The examples provided assume that this program may take a while to build momentum.
Short Term (Year 1): ePost by-laws are in place. VFW National should be prepared to assist in the formation of the first few ePosts. Within first year, at least one viable ePost has been formed and is in working order. VFW National will audit ePost to ensure that it is in compliance with regulations. Members will be sent a survey from VFW National asking questions built to test hypotheses.
Intermediate (Year 3): Within three years, at least five viable ePosts are in operation and in working order. Surveys will be conducted of a % to be determined of the ePost membership.
Intermediate (Year 5): Surveys will again be conducted.
Desired Outcomes for ePosts (Long Term):
• ePosts no longer require VFW National assistance to maintain operations.
• If chartered nationally, a working relationship between VFW National and ePosts exists for recruiting programs.
• ePosts membership has been surveyed and results assessed to confirm or deny assumptions that led to program development.
Risks and Mitigation:
• Cost to develop program from VFW National could exceed revenue. To mitigate this risk, ePosts will be developed to have no overhead costs.
• Screening/Authentication/Verification. VFW National already has a process in place to screen the application of members.
Currently Department of Defense allows for employees to participate in programs through the Internet with name, social security number, and email address used for verification. VFW could use member number in place of social security number. VFW’s members-only site (emem.vfw.org) already is set up to verify that a person is a member when logging on.
• Political objections by members, departments, and chair officers. To mitigate the risk that this program will be rejected out-of-hand, an information/education campaign within the organization should be initiated upon approval of the program. This would include face-to-face meetings with chair officer and department leadership to explain the program. This would be followed by an internal campaign to inform and educate using VFW Magazine, Checkpoint, vmail, and VFW online forums.
• Association Post fundraising could spread to the Internet and violate the by-laws. To mitigate this risk, Internet fundraising will be strictly prohibited. A locally-chartered ePost would face the same restrictions as any other local VFW Post in terms of fundraising boundaries. Nationally-chartered ePosts would not need to do fundraising.
• Building websites for ePosts could cost money and require technical expertise to maintain. To mitigate this risk, VFW National can assist the first ePosts by pushing them to use already-available sites and forum where access can be both open and restricted, such as the members-only area of vfw.org (emem.vfw.org), VFWWebCOM, Myspace, Facebook, etc. There is no start-up cost for using these sites and they are designed so that people without web design backgrounds can build their own sites. (See the current VFW Post profiles on Myspace for an idea of how this might work.)
• VFW National is not resourced to assist in the building of VFW Posts and will not have available personnel to assist. If we are to commit to this, we have to commit resources. That could include the following: 1) identify go-to personnel in National Membership to assist with the building process; 2) identify VFW HQ staff as part of a task force to deal with ePosts issues as they come up; 3) establish an understanding that VFW National will assist the first few ePosts if they require assistance, but that in the future, those wanting to build ePosts can network professionally through forums and share knowledge.
• Emblem and Supply may not be able to keep up with the demand for specialized merchandise. To mitigate this risk, templates for shirts, hats, life membership cards, trinkets, etc. could be placed online or in the catalogue. VFW members could then simply specify their post and choose from the assortment of stock images and logos. ePosts with specialized logos could forward that image for inclusion.