Making the Millennial Connection: Three Must-Dos for VSOs

As the Department of Defense scales back the number of active duty forces to the smallest sized military since World War II, thousands of military personnel will transition to veteran status. Each service handles the civilian transition differently and every service member’s experience is unique. One thing remains consistent across services: these men and women will undoubtedly look to both local and national veteran service organizations (VSOs) to help them navigate the challenges of post-military life.

The Millennial generation, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, may need the most support once they leave the military. A survey by American University found that approximately eight out of 10 young military veterans (ages 18-29) said transitioning from the military to civilian life has been difficult. They noted that their greatest challenges revolved around fitting in with civilians professionally and socially. Thankfully, the number of VSOs available to help Millennial veterans has grown exponentially compared to their parents’ generation.

With so many options available, VSOs must strategically position their offerings and deliver their services with an eye toward easy access and ongoing audience engagement. How can today’s VSOs offer greater value to their target audiences? Here are three quick-start ideas for refreshing your outreach efforts:

  • Focus on the “so what” factor. When planning upcoming outreach activities, think about the factors that distinguish your organization from the rest of the crowd. Map out your VSO’s three strongest attributes and develop outreach programs that play to those strengths. Do you excel at helping veterans prepare for civilian careers? Do you want to focus on connecting veterans to mental health services? The three most compelling elements of your VSO will help you make the greatest impact with the men and women you are trying to reach. Remember that no VSO can deliver every type of service to every type of veteran.
  • Talk directly to your audience. More than likely, your audience is geographically dispersed and hyper-connected online. Webinars provide a low-cost, evergreen solution to providing targeted information. Rather than spending time and money on printing and distributing hard-copy materials or hosting costly live events, you can enhance your VSO’s credibility and talk directly to your veteran audience. Select a topic that is of critical importance to your stakeholders, like how to file a VA claim or access VA health care. Keep the webinars short and engaging by focusing on three key actions that veterans can take to move forward. Make worksheets and presentations available for download after the session. Take advantage of free Web meeting tools, like or Google Hangout, to host your webinar and make it easier for more veterans to participate.
  • Double your audience, resources and reach. All VSOs have one core mission: to help veterans. Consider partnering with another local VSO to co-host periodic veteran and service member networking groups. Veterans create bonds over their shared military experiences and may be looking to make connections to others who understand what they’ve been through. By partnering with another VSO, you can double your audience, resources and outreach―creating a safe environment for veterans to meet one another and access your services. Leverage experts from each VSO to provide in-person guidance on a specific topic of interest (e.g. job hunting, managing veteran benefits, financial planning).

Once you begin implementing these tactics as part of your VSO strategy, you should begin to see results and identify opportunities to build on your success. Remember to maintain an open dialogue with your veterans―they can offer valuable feedback and ideas for keeping your VSO moving forward.


1. Half the Battle Project. American University School of Communication.

2. Washington Post: “Pentagon blueprint would cut Army size as military adjusts to leaner budgets,” by Ernesto Londoño. Published February 24, 2014.

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