Can you provide an example of a non-profit, membership organization or professional association who tried to reshape their offerings or member experience but failed to find success due to the lack of updating their messaging or branding in correspondence?
Hello! Thanks for your question on a case study of an organization that failed due to lack of branding in correspondence or lack of updating their messaging. The short answer is that an example of such organization is the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Below, you will find my research and an explanation of the methodology.
I started by a general search of organizations that have failed to be successful after reshaping their member experience and offerings. I then narrowed down the search to non-profit membership organizations. Afterwards, I looked at the reasons for their failure even after the attempts by the organizations to succeed. I then listed the company and explained why it fits the criteria of a non-profit membership organization that failed even after reshaping its member experience and offerings.
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
VFW has tried to win the membership of the Millennial veterans but seems to be failing at the attempt all the time. Inasmuch as it has been an organization that welcomes veterans, it has failed to win the millennial veterans because it has not redefined what it stands for. It only has 15% of the Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. One of the ways it hoped to attract more membership is by changing its charter to be more inclusive of the role of women in the military. It changed the word "men" to "veterans" and "widows" with "surviving spouses" throughout the charter. This was meant to recognize the fact that women also have a role in the military and remove the word "men" that seemed to discriminate against women.
Despite the change, it has still failed to attract the millennials, who are more inclined towards gender equality in the present world. One of the reasons for the failure is lack of relevance. The VFW is seen as unwelcoming and not in touch with the requirements of post-September 11 veterans. The millennials are interested in veteran groups that engage in social activities due to their desire to engage with the world in more meaningful ways. They want groups that can also allow nonmilitary members to be part of different social activities. VFW either poorly communicates or lacks the aspects of activism and social responsibility. VFW also has a bloated hierarchy. Its hierarchy is more top-down and out of touch with the younger and new generation of veterans, who are more interested in peer collaboration and feedback. They have already been in the military and are not interested in having another overbearing figure of authority in their independent lives.
VFW also has an outdated recruiting practice that sends letters and official-looking envelopes that do not have a return address. These are outdated recruitment methods in the world where people are more connected through technology. It makes the recruits feel like they are still living in the world without technology. It also has an unwelcoming attitude that keeps away the younger veterans. Since only veterans are allowed to join, VFW creates a divide between the military and civilian worlds. The new veterans want to stay active most of the time and serve along civilian first responders to maintain their military skills. They want to learn how to deal with stress in more productive ways.
VFW also finds it difficult to attract new members due to the difficulty in explaining the services it provides. It does not clearly explain the services it offers such as helping veterans to access disability benefits, legislative advocacy, grants, and scholarships. People want to be associated with organizations they understand and that have a clear indication of their activities. The lack of clarity makes the new veterans not to see the need of joining VFW since they do not anticipate to get any significant benefit from the organization.
There have been significant effects of the inability of VFW to register more new members. Over 2,000 VFW and American Legion posts have closed in the country yet they were deeply integrated into the lives of people in those communities. The high number of closure portrays the dire need for VFW to find a better way of engaging with the new veterans to attract more members. The posts that are not closed yet are struggling financially. VFW Post 3301 in Carrollton area is struggling financially and owes $52,239 on the mortgage.
If VFW wants to stay relevant and increase its membership, it should make some changes in its mode of communication with the new veterans. The 21st-century associations should favor varied membership options and have more individualized engagement opportunities. It should also find better ways to recruit, engage, and retain the members.
In conclusion, Veterans of Foreign Wars failed to increase its membership even after changing its charter to appear as more inclusive of all genders and recognize the role of women in the military. It is not appealing to the post-September 11 veterans due to different things such as lack of proper communication of its goals and an unwelcoming attitude towards the new veterans. It should have varied membership options and engage better with the new veterans to understand their concerns to increase its membership.
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