Facing the Challenges Ahead
By J. MICHAEL McGRATH, National President
It is with great pride and pleasure
that I begin my term as National
President of the Navy League of
the United States.
It was fantastic to see such a
large turnout at our national convention in Palm Desert, Calif., and
I extend my thanks and congratulations to our host, the Palm Springs
Council. More than 500 people
attended, including a record number of council presidents.
What I witnessed was a vibrant
organization not content to rest on
its successes, but eager to face the
challenges that lie ahead. On the
minds of nearly everyone was the
largest of those challenges — increasing membership.
And that is my No. 1 priority.
The other four areas on which I want to concentrate
going forward are youth programs, finance, public
affairs and legislative affairs.
We must continue to court younger people. My
home council of Mayport, Fla., has managed to bring
the average age of its members from 69 down into the
high 50s, using dinners with compelling guest speakers as well as a “Join Up” event once a month aimed at
younger folks and Community Affiliates. This was a
new push for us in the last year, and it has really gained
Regarding youth programs, the U.S. Naval Sea
Cadet Corps is our No. 1 program, but I think we’re
missing a great opportunity. We have about 630 Junior
Reserve Officer Training Corps units in the country,
and many councils could take on just one small school
with little effort, yet make such a difference for those
students. Every council in the Navy League ought to
be doing something with a youth program.
My main concern regarding financial matters is
within the councils. It is hard for councils to conduct
business with just the stipend received from the Navy
League as their share of dues.
We must provide programs that educate the councils on how to get in to the financial stream and how
best to involve Community Affiliates, who often clamor for the chance to have their name up on the podium
of a local event. I am a firm believer that if you don’t have Community Affiliates, you’re not really
Councils also must be aware of
the rules for raising money to help
fund events such as commission-ings. The tax laws in Virginia, for
example, are quite different from
those in Florida. We have been
doing a good job at educating our
councils, especially this year
because the IRS made big changes,
but we have to be aware of those
laws at all times.
Public recognition of our brand
is not as strong as I want it to be. It
has more recognition today than five years ago, but we
still need to push. The average American doesn’t know
what the Navy League is, or incorrectly believes it is an
organization for those who have retired from the Navy.
We are always going to have to fight that, so branding
is key at the local level as well as nationally. This feeds
directly into our membership goals.
Legislative affairs is a bread-and-butter program,
and I am very happy to see that our grassroots initiative is starting to take hold.
When you select that person to be your regional
vice president or your council vice president for legislative affairs, be very careful that this person is not
intimidated and that they understand the purpose of
the program. We’re in the process of defining the second phase of the grassroots program and plan to roll
that out soon.
Education and outreach will be the key to our
growth and influence as an organization. To that end, I
look forward to going out to the councils, meeting our
members and working with the area and regional officers to achieve our respective goals in membership,
youth programs, finance, public and legislative affairs.