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MOAA’s Year in Review: Legislative Gains and Big Moves

MOAA’s Year in Review: Legislative Gains and Big Moves
Our MOAA members stormed Capitol Hill this spring to fight for repeal of the widows tax and support a 3.1 percent pay raise for the troops. (MOAA photo)

By MOAA Staff

 

The past year was a pivotal one for the Military Officers Association of America. We’ve strengthened our position and continue to lead, among the military and veterans’ organizations nationwide. We bring a credible voice and volume to Capitol Hill to look out for all uniformed servicemembers, veterans, their families and surviving spouses.

 

In 2019, as we wrap up this 90th year for MOAA, major moves – physically and virtually – are being made to ensure the organization remains successful for years to come. Here’s a look at where we are headed.

 

 

Advocacy

We will continue to look out for those serving in uniform, at home and in harm’s way, as well as their families. For those in transition, and those who have already left uniformed service, we must ensure their contributions and sacrifices are honored – and that their service-earned benefits are preserved.

 

We see encouraging signs in the 116th Congress. The 2020 NDAA contains a number of key provisions we stormed on last April: the military pay raise at 3.1%, as called for based on the Employment Cost Index, and stability in TRICARE fees. It also includes a pause on the Defense Department’s cuts of 18,000 military medical billets. We engaged Congress to direct DoD to assess impacts before full implementation of the cuts. Also, thanks to MOAA’s research and advocacy, military housing issues remain at the forefront of lawmakers’ minds, as well as Defense Department leaders. We must not take our eyes off these threats and others that marginalize quality of life for those who volunteer to serve this nation.

 

Finally, after fighting for decades the NDAA also includes full repeal of the widows tax. The issue, which we also stormed on in April, garnered unprecedented bipartisan support this year.  

 

We saw our surviving spouses advocate and tell their stories on social media and in mainstream media. One example we kept leveraging was WUSA9’s series on the injustice of the SBP-DIC offset. In this case, surviving spouse Capt. Kathy Thorp, USN (Ret) has bravely shared her story and inspired others to join our cause. You see, it’s members like you who make a difference, whether you write a letter, send an email, post to Twitter or storm the hill with us in the spring and this last summer at home. We’d like everyone to be engaged, but also know that just being on the team increases the volume to our voice on the Hill.

 

Membership

On the membership front, we remain committed to strengthening our membership base and delivering a strong portfolio of member benefits that attracts new members and keeps current members engaged.

 

Today, membership stands strong, at 350,000 members with a committed life membership base,  strong renewal rates among premium members, and rapid expansion of basic membership — our introductory, online option.

 

Increasing awareness of MOAA has been a top priority, and we’ve seen successes in 2019. Our “Officer2Officer” campaign, featuring the stories of remarkable MOAA members, has generated more than 450,000 video views. And we’ve augmented the campaign with a new television commercial that premiered during the Army-Navy game in select markets with large military communities. This 30-second spot is energizing officers to learn more about our organization and join.

 

 

We’re also trying new and innovative ways to get the MOAA brand into our communities. This year, for the first time ever, MOAA partnered with The Washington Redskins and their Military Salutes program—granting us valuable opportunities to engage with the team’s military fanbase in fun and relevant ways.

 

Our “Fighting Words” campaign, which focuses on potentially devastating changes to your earned military benefits, urges officers to support MOAA’s advocacy by upgrading their membership. As new issues arise, we shift our messaging to remain timely and relevant.

 

Offering a strong portfolio of member benefits keeps our renewal rates strong. Earlier this year, members had the chance to take a remarkable journey on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in a MOAA Signature Cruise in Europe. With the success of this adventure, MOAA is planning more of these signature events for members. We just completed a cruise to Alaska and Germany is on tap for 2020’s Oktoberfest. MOAA councils and chapters are also getting in on the action, with more destinations planned this January throughout the Caribbean. 

 

Engagement

We continue to make advancements in engaging our membership and enabling digital media to offer the credible content members and prospective members will find valuable.

 

Your Military Officer magazine continues to produce valuable and intriguing content you simply will not find anywhere else. From in-depth interviews like our sit-down with officer-turned NFL pro, Alejandro Villanueva, to important guides, expanded coverage of chapter activities, and revealing reports on how your health care and benefits could be at risk. You see the diversity of service to country through stories on all the uniformed services reflected in this publication, nationally recognized as a best in class for content and design for nonprofit associations.

 

We see the biggest change in advancing our digital communications. MOAA.org is getting its needed overhaul, with a new user-friendly look that incorporates state-of-the-art technology. The goal for this redesign is to enhance the member experience with content and eventually offer an Amazon- and Netflix-like experience, delivering content based on viewer preferences and behaviors. Our website will know what content they visit most and make sure they don’t miss new offerings on that topic. For non-members, we’ll be able to better market to them directly.

 

You see new efforts here as the team branches out into more video, editorial cartoons and support of member columns, such as board member and retired Navy Rear Adm. Tom Jurkowsky’s repeated op-eds in media outlets regarding the widows tax and medical billet reductions.

 

Overall, we expect to make the digital experience with MOAA content to be another leading reason for members to renew and engage more often with MOAA.

 

Our Member Service Center connected with more than 12,000 members this year, including more than 6,500 member engagements via text chat. Our Transition Center team also assisted more than 33,000 members and prospective members with career planning strategies, financial education, and benefits questions, in addition to hosting our annual Networking and Hiring Event. At this marquee fall event, we hosted nearly 400 currently serving, veterans, and military spouses, as well as 97 employers looking to hire top talent in a strong economy. This unique event is made possible, in part, by the MOAA Foundation.

 

Our Transition Center was also selected as the lead facilitator for the Army’s and Navy’s general and flag officer transition courses – an important branding and revenue generation opportunity for our association in front of important constituencies.

 

Development

MOAA’s charities fuel our work supporting the military and veteran community.

 

The MOAA Scholarship Fund has enjoyed another successful year and will distribute more than $8 million to more than 1,300 students in 2019. Moreover, continued growth in donations and in the MOAA Scholarship Fund’s investment portfolio enabled us to expand the grant program this year from about $1.1 million to $1.6 million. This marks the first increase in the grant program since 2002.

 

The MOAA Foundation continued its pioneering work supporting the military spouse community through its partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Hiring Our Heroes” program and a major grant from USAA. Additionally, the foundation’s Community Outreach grant program expanded again this year and awarded grants totaling more than $79,000 to 22 MOAA state councils and local chapters. These funds underwrite a range of impactful projects focused on improving quality of life in the military and veteran community. As an added indicator of success, individual donations from MOAA members to the foundation, a critical benchmark for future growth, total nearly $119,000 thus far in 2019, up 83 percent from this time last year. 

 

Finally, if just 1-in-7 MOAA members or 1-in-5 MOAA life members donated just $50 to each charity at this time each year, the charities each would receive $1.6 million annually, adding to the $119,000 in individual giving thus far in 2019. This would be enough to fund all programs and remain self-sustaining indefinitely.

 

Chapters

It was another exemplary year for our Council and Chapter system, with 158 of our councils and chapters earning Levels of Excellence Awards for outstanding chapter management and 163 of our councils and chapters being recognized for exceptional member communications effectiveness.  

 

We also saw the growth of another virtual chapter, the Surviving Spouses of MOAA, to raise awareness of the significant role spouses and surviving spouses play in our association, whether it’s in the growth of our chapter system, support of our legislative advocacy priorities, or filling critical volunteer leadership roles.  

 

Moreover, MOAA’s nationwide network of councils and chapters annually contribute nearly half a million dollars to local scholarship programs – making a significant impact on the education of the next generation of military officers.  

 

As has been our custom in recent years, the October issue of Military Officer highlighted the impact and engagement of our near 400 local chapters and 34 state councils and their support of our advocacy agenda, their contribution to membership growth, and their impact in their local communities.

 

Organizational Capacity

 Cementing the organization’s ability to thrive and have an impact on Capitol Hill for years to come is the completion of a major renovation of our 55-year-old headquarters building in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. The revamped headquarters offers MOAA team members an efficient, collaborative, and modern work environment.

 

This renewed facility hosts our most valuable asset, our headquarters’ team. Our team combines a valuable mixture of seasoned employees with deep institutional knowledge and well-forged relationships, and the fresh perspective of new employees hired with critical competencies for a digital future. This blend enables us to accelerate our member engagement, advocacy effectiveness and provide the most value to our membership. Our strong MOAA team allows us to improve our products and test new approaches in the most effective way possible. During the transition and life in temporary quarters, they didn’t miss a beat.

 

MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), explains investing in capital improvements is vital. Combining the improvements made in our IT architecture, social media presence, content management, talent acquisition and retention, membership benefits and acquisition strategies, website redesign, council and chapter support, cloud migration, and internal processes, we are securing the future of the association.

 

Furthermore, our financial outlook remains strong, despite the uncertainties inherent in the financial markets. We must remain vigilant, but will not overreact to eventual corrections.

 

MOAA remains the essential advocate to preserve pay and benefits for the military and veteran community, and our recent investments in people and platforms ensure we will remain relevant for another 90 years. 

 

We have more to do, our effectiveness is unrivaled, and we are equipped to do it.

 

This is MOAA at work building a bright new future so we can never stop serving.

 

On behalf of our board of directors, the MOAA headquarters team, and our volunteer leaders in the field, thank you for your loyalty and support.

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