Turning the Page at the Royal Canadian Legion through Social Media

Russ Horner    May 30, 2016

“Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”*

I can’t help but relate this famous Winston Churchill quote to the current use of social media and other strategies at the Royal Canadian Legion and how the opportunities are just a page away.

For over 90 years, the RCL has provided veterans and their families representation, advocacy and financial support, worked to ensure Canadians never forget to honour and remember our Veterans and through volunteer efforts, worked to raise millions of dollars each year for the communities where the branches serve. But in the last ten years, membership has fallen by 25%, that’s 100,000 members, affecting not only the amount available for programs but also the very survival of the RCL branches. This is not good news for some branches. However, I do not think this is a such a bad position to be in and in fact, I think this is a very exciting time for the Legion and its branches with tremendous opportunity for growth.

In order to turn things around, now is the time to turn the page.  The Legion and its branches must move from the introductory pages of development and onto a new chapter, to attract a new clientele, to rethink branch offerings and most importantly to continue to enhance communications through modern social media. Among other strategies, an effective social media plan is key and The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command agrees.

Leah O’Neill, Marketing Coordinator from The RCL Dominion Command suggests social media engagement is certainly working in the Legions’ favour. “In the past six months, our Facebook followers increased from 3000 to over 11,500. We have also seen a bump in membership** which may or may not be attributed to our ramped up social media activity.” In terms of introducing social media engagement to branch executives and long standing branch volunteers and employees who are new to social media, Leah says, “That’s a tough one but taking baby steps will be key. Introducing internal staff to Facebook would be a great way to start because just clicking the ‘Like’ button shows support and engagement. In August this year, we are also changing the look of the Legion web site to make it much more user friendly.”

Through social media, the RCL branches also have a great opportunity to get their messages out, to tell the Legion story, to promote RCL local and national programs and events. Julian West, President of the RCL branch in Richmond Hill, Ontario says it is “absolutely” important that our executive embrace social media.  ”It was only a few years ago we started with Facebook,” Julian said, “and many of the members and volunteer staff do not have computers so it is a challenge. But it is imperative that we reach out to a new generation.” The Richmond Hill branch is also working to encourage volunteer staff to use social media by hosting social media learning sessions. Those with little or no social media knowledge can learn how to interact online and to ensure that messaging is consistent, accurate and timely.

Lessons for Others

It will take a lot of work to turn the page from old and new but I feel this is a very exciting time for the Legion and the 1400 RCL branches across Canada. It is not “the beginning of the end” for the Legion but simply “the end of the beginning” and through the help of a well executed social media strategy, the start of a new chapter of veteran support, remembrance, purpose, membership growth and community engagement begins.

Organization: Royal Canadian Legion
Industry: Non Profit
Name of Organization Contact: Leah O'Neill, Marketing Coordinator

Authored by: Russ Horner

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(Nov 10, 2015 3:12 PM PT). The Early Edition, CBC News “Royal Canadian Legion branches offering Ping-Pong, open mics to attract new members”. Retrieved from www.cbcnews.com May 30, 2016.

Who We Are. Retrieved May 30, 2016 from the Royal Canadian Legion website, http://www.legion.ca/who-we-are


(September 13, 2013) “The Future of The Royal Canadian Legion”. – Shaw TV Victoria. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4qvQpzuLTg, May 30, 2016

(November 2013) City TV, Breakfast Television,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtXATuxXsG4, The Canadian Legion. Retrieved from Youtube May 30, 2016

* Sir Winston Churchill delivered these famous words in a November 1942 speech at London’s Mansion House, just after the British routed Rommel’s forces at Alamein, driving German troops out of Egypt. The battle marked a turning point in the war, leading Churchill to write in his memoirs, “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.”)

** A person does not need to be a Veteran to become a member, nor does a person need to be a member to visit a Legion branch.