Despite fighting wars on two fronts, veteran’s groups are battling declines in membership. Groups are losing veterans of wars from decades ago and making efforts to attract veterans from more recent conflicts.
These efforts are often rooted in social media.
American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars serve as two primary organizations that have aided veterans. To reach out to younger veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these groups turned to the Web. Setting up Facebook pages and creating events keeps veterans informed on what’s happening in their community. As always, social media generates a sense of community, allowing vets to connect with other service members.
Veteran’s organizations’ goals focus on relieving the stresses of returning from duty. However, if these organizations cannot keep and add members then it becomes difficult for them to prove their worth to veterans. Through social media, the groups have a chance of bolstering membership by reaching a young audience.
At the same time, sharing information about available benefits and community events is difficult since so many young military families already have children, jobs and mortgages. Getting the attention of the young veterans is more of a challenge than it once was. But unfortunately the VA estimated that in 2008 World War II veterans were dying at a rate of 1,000 per day. In recent years, some organizations found that Vietnam veterans are not turning out either.
Although the Internet reduces the face-to-face time veterans would have if they met at a town hall, it’s getting younger vets into long-standing organizations, such as the Legion and VFW. Both organizations set up Facebook pages and groups with more users taking interest in the pages. About 18,000 people follow the Legion’s page and more than 82,000 keep up with the VFW page. Meanwhile the page for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has more than 201,000 followers. None of these organizations forgot about Twitter either.
There’s no shortage of veterans, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to catch their attention as the demographic becomes younger and more mobile. With help from the Internet, veteran’s organizations plan to appeal to younger veterans to increase membership.
Photo thanks to camknows under creative common license on Flickr.