Simple 'Coffee & Donuts' Event Boosts Chapter's Visibility, Membership
By Jim “Smitty” Smith
President, EAA Chapter 1246 (McKinney, Texas)
June 28, 2011 – Back in February of 2011, we decided to experiment with a monthly event where we would invite chapter members and the general public to our local airport to enjoy free coffee and doughnuts. We selected the first Saturday of each month and picked a hangar to hold the event in from 9 a.m. to noon, where we would put on coffee and purchase several dozen doughnuts from a local donut shop.
The first get-together in February 2011 did not look promising. It was very cold, with a light mist in the air, but we decided to go for it. To our surprise, we had more than 40 people show up! Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves. Everyone told flying stories (some of which were true) and got to know each other even better than before. Even though the get-together started at 9 a.m., folks stayed around and visited past 1 p.m.!
Since that time, our “First Saturday Free Coffee & Donuts” has grown. Last month, we had 60-70 people come out for the event. It was a little difficult to count everyone since they were coming and going, visiting other hangars, looking at airplanes, and talking with other hangar and aircraft owners. It was like a public school open house, with the coffee and doughnut hangar being the central hub of the event. Needless to say, no one was bored.
Now for the interesting part. We noticed that we always have a large number of first-time visitors for each Saturday event, full of questions about the chapter and aviation. These newcomers almost always bring their families and friends when they come to the event. It’s fun to watch the excitement on the kids’ faces when they see all the airplanes. At our regular monthly evening chapter meetings, we typically have a few first-timers, but not as many as the “Coffee & Donuts” get-togethers. It’s also rare that someone will bring their family to a night chapter meeting.
Our speculation is that most families are looking for fun things to do on weekends. What better way to entertain your family (especially the kids) than with a visit to your local airport to see airplanes up close? Spouses, although not necessarily interested in aviation, seem to be happy and pleased to attend since it is a “family” outing.
As an effort to grow our membership and support EAA, we encourage our newcomers to fill out a simple visitor’s card with their name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. They are then added our roster as a visitor and start receiving e-mails about our events and meetings. What’s the outcome? They come back! Our membership now boasts 252 members and growing!
Blue skies and tailwinds!