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ChapterGram: July 2013

Rearranging Chairs on the Titanic or Taking Action?


Trevor JanzBy Trevor Janz, EAA 656941
EAA Manager of Chapters and Eagle Flights



"I am 67 years old and I am the youngest member of my chapter," said a chapter president to me the other day. It is a fact that our chapters are growing older. Chapters that are not growing are slowly dying. Are you addressing the issue, or simply spending time arranging the chairs on the Titanic as it slowly sinks?

Take at look at our 900-plus EAA chapters. Many are thriving and growing. What's their secret? What are they doing that you could do to keep your membership and chapter vibrant and engaged? Some ideas are easier than you think.

First, ask yourself why you joined your chapter. This is an excellent starting point to get the thoughts and ideas flowing on growing a chapter. Most have joined after being invited to a meeting or chapter event. Invite at least one person to your next event. Would you join your chapter now?

Here are some ideas/tools to help grow your chapter:

  • Monthly Chapter Video Magazine. Hundreds of chapters are using the new Chapter Video Magazine to promote attendance at their chapter meetings. You can only see it at a chapter meeting.
  • Eagle Flights for adults. Find adults that truly want to start or complete flight training for their pilot certificate. Take them up for an Eagle Flight. Ask them to attend a chapter meeting. Let not only the Eagle Flight pilot be a mentor, but the entire chapter. Eagle Flights will help grow your chapter.
  • Speak at community organizations. Ask to speak at the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club International, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Jaycees, and others. Share what general aviation, EAA, and especially your chapter are all about.
  • Advertise. When you plan a public event like an open house or fly-in, print posters and distribute several weeks in advance. Ask EAA headquarters to provide the mailing addresses of members in your area that are not part of your chapter. (At this time, we are not allowed to send out member e-mails.) Print postcard invitations for your next meeting/event. Encourage your local media to cover your event - both before and after.
  • Adopt A Highway. If your state allows, participate in Adopt A Highway or a similar program. These usually provide permanent signage with your EAA chapter number on the roadway, telling the public that your chapter helps keep a stretch of highway clean. Chapters that have participated tell us people have come to meetings to learn more about the group after seeing these signs.
  • Wear EAA and aviation clothing. One chapter president told us he would strike up conversations with others when waiting in line at the grocery store. He would have his chapter business card with contact info and directions to the clubhouse handy. He said that in two years he gained over 20 members simply by wearing aviation clothing.

My next-door neighbor is passionate about World War II warbirds, so one day I suggested that he look into joining EAA and its Warbirds of America division. "I can't join; I'm not a pilot," was his response.

Whoa! Whoever said you have to be a pilot to join EAA? You just need to have a love for aviation. I told him EAA provides many opportunities to be around airplanes, to volunteer at events, chapter activities, and various restoration projects. It's all about being a part of a community filled with like-minded aviation enthusiasts. Some of the most passionate people in aviation happen to be non-flying warbird lovers.

We all need to do a better job inviting anyone with a love for anything aviation-related to our chapter meetings. Eventually, they may just catch the bug and start building and flying.

The chapter office sent out a survey to chapter members a few months ago; the survey asked the chapter member to use one word to describe why he is an EAA chapter member. The number one word that described why was camaraderie. That truly is what it is all about; as our founder, Paul Poberezny, has said countless times, "The planes bring us together, but the people keep bringing us back."

When you are passionate about EAA and aviation, you will be like a magnet and attract more people to your chapter community. Ask that friend, neighbor, co-worker - or that person you meet in the checkout line that notices your EAA hat - to your next meeting or event. EAA is in the business of changing lives!

(This topic was covered in one of our Chapter Chat Webinars. Chapter Chats are topic-based, but any questions are welcome - as are chapter-related success stories. Check out our upcoming webinars.)

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