All-American Leadership Program Metrics and Membership

According to the VFW September 2016 Fact Sheet, there are 6,651 VFW posts worldwide.

Of that number, the All-American Leadership program is open to the top 35 posts in membership in 10 Divisions arranged by number of members. Division 10 with 50 members maximum may not be eligible because 50 members on June 30 is a Department minimum for All-State Status, leaving 35 posts in nine divisions (35×9=315 slots).

At the 2016 convention, 22 Departments, 71 Districts, and 270 Posts recieved the award (YouTube video of presentation; award PDF list).

What does this mean for a post striving for All-American status?

6651/315= 4.7% of posts worldwide are potentially able to receive this designation.
6651/270= 4.05% of posts worldwide actually achieved this honor.

43 spots were left. Why?


VFW membership has been eroding since a high set in 1991. Demographics and nearly 70 years without a major conflict (such as WWI or WWII), have reduced the number of eligible members for the nation’s oldest major veterans group. In other words, peace is good unless you are trying to recruit combat veterans to your organization.

What does this mean?
Recruiting and retention play an oversized role in distinguishing the top tier of VFW posts. While there are a number of program and paperwork criteria, increasing membership is the paramount consideration.

So what does that mean for membership?
A post is not eligible for All-State status unless they meet or exceed 100% membership.

How do posts achieve 100% or better membership numbers?
The right way is to market the post while maintaining robust retention and recruiting initiatives. Communication and offering veterans social and charitable opportunities and real value are key aspects of these facets. This is work.

Unfortunately, many posts rely on lifetime memberships to stabilize their metrics and only have a small number of annual subscriptions to worry about, stifling membership drives that seek to grow a post. Some posts pad their membership numbers by using “ghost” memberships. This can mean members pass around a hat to subsidize memberships of comrades who have not renewed their membership subscription [comrades in financial/medical/social need actually qualify for membership relief and should instead be supported!]

Other posts might report deceased members after the fiscal year ends, or never report deceased members. Some posts systematically recycle lists of former members and pay their dues every three years, when these members can be counted as “new.”  There are a number of membership shenanigans that degrade the mission of bringing veterans together, which includes marketing “the post while maintaining robust retention and recruiting initiatives.”

What does this mean in members for a small post?
Based on three face-to-face interviews with VFW state leadership, to be safely in the top 35 of posts nationally in a division, a post must achieve 150% in membership for the fiscal year. Using Oct. 22 Memstats from, here are the VFW New Haven numbers:

StatePostDstLifeNewReinstContTotalPrior YearPercentDivRSCityStateN/R LMPrior AnnualRetention
712150220305284463.63%10NEW HAVENCT02722.22%

Translated, we had 44 members on June 30, 2016 and currently have 28 paid through the current fiscal year (June 30, 2017). Our actual “members in good standing” is much higher, but until the annual member renews past June 30, 2017 they are “unpaid” for the fiscal year. Confusing but it all comes into better focus in May when the percentages right-size from 10 months of renewals. At some point, lifetime memberships will stabilize our percentage as they become a larger share of our base total.

Bottom line to achieve the safe 150% in membership: 16 existing members need to extend their memberships past July 1, 2017 and the post needs 22 new or expired members to join.

1. All American Post plaque for the Post home
2. Acknowledgement in VFW Magazine
3. All American diamond pin for Post Commander and Post Quartermaster
4. Special All American pins will be sent to each post based on 10% of the post membership on June 30, 2013. Additional pins can be purchased if more are needed.
5. All American cap for the Commander
6. All American Post Streamer

Words and phrases: exceptional, accomplishment, leadership, membership, programs
Marketing: de-emphasize All-American but make it part of the marketing mix giving the message focus and immediacy…part of a six-month, All-American Post Initiative where the post is driving to be in the top five percent of all VFW posts in the world…in the oldest combat veterans organization in America.
– events; SVS involvement; outreach; visits to campus;

As the largest and oldest war veterans service organization, we have a long and proven history of providing vital assistance and support to America’s service members, veterans and their families. From fighting for veterans benefits on Capitol Hill, to financial grants, transition support and educational scholarships, we’re there to ensure current and former service members receive the benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

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