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Why Do We Join?

The other day I got a call from a not-so-happy person who had just watched the most recent “Chapter Views” video and they were taking great exception with the part of the video that addresses the requirement that all Chapter Members also be EAA Members. Our conversation did not start out very well and I am sorry to say that regardless of how many times I attempted to point out why it is important to be an EAA Member if you belong to a Chapter, I was only making things worse. Although our conversation ended with no real resolution, that is I doubt very highly that I was able to clearly make the points that I was trying to make, there was a bright spot, at least for me, that came out of this long ear burning experience.

Someplace along the line during our conversation I got to thinking about why we join different organizations. Recently, I joined an international recreational organization because I wanted to learn more about a new activity I would like to get involved with. At the same time I remembered that I also volunteered to serve on the board of directors for the local soccer club where my son plays goalie because I liked the people that were in charge and I felt I might be able to help the club in it’s ongoing struggle to meet it’s financial needs. Two different organizations, one local and one international, and several different reasons to join. Is that much different than joining your local EAA Chapter and joining EAA? The answer is yes and no.

The international organization I joined is all about soccer, but very little that I can think of relates directly to the benefits I hope to receive by serving on the board of the local club. Yet, at the same time, there are some common strings that aren’t always so apparent.

The international organization provides materials and services that I suspect I will need to know about or use if I become an assistant coach or take on the role of setting up a tournament. The local club on the other hand will provide me with resources and knowledge from the others that have been involved in soccer longer than I have been. The local club is also a fun bunch of people that often get together socially, which is something else I am looking forward to doing. I have no expectations that I will do fun things with any of the leaders of the international organization.

So two different reason, but are there common strings between the local and the international membership? Yes, but I have to admit they weren’t really that apparent when I paid my dues to join. Is there a difference between joining EAA and your local EAA Chapter? No, not really. Think for a second, what are the benefits or reasons you joined your local Chapter and what were the things you expected when you joined EAA, or maybe you are one of those people that joined one without joining the other?

Approximately 35% of the total EAA Membership belong to local Chapters, which equates to about 50,000 EAA Members. At the same time, we also know, although it is not supposed to be the case, that there are some people that join the local EAA Chapter without joining EAA. The exact numbers are unknown, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s say that maybe the number is 10,000 people. That’s possible; after all if you don’t see the connection in benefits and you’re only asked to pay dues to the local Chapter, it’s easy to not join EAA. However, there are common strings that tie together your EAA Membership and Chapter Membership and there are also financial ramifications between the two.

The common strings may not be obvious on the surface, but they do exist, i.e. Young Eagles, Flying Start, Technical Counselors, Flight Advisors, Chapter Insurance Plan, Handbooks and Reference Papers, Leadership Workshops, Ground School Program, Chapter Views, Chapter eGram, Chapter Hangar, Chapter Advisory Council, New Member Bonus Plan, Drug Exemption for Charitable Flights, Aircraft Judging Standards, Grassroots Fund, and a bunch more. You may not think about these right away, but they are mutual efforts between EAA and the local EAA Chapter. There are financial ramifications as well. Imagine if your local EAA Chapter had 50 Members and at the same time your Chapter Newsletter went out to 200 people, at a monthly cost of say $1 per person. If the 50 Members that paid dues to the Chapter at $20 per person that would add up to $1,000, yet your monthly publishing and mailing costs add up to $2,400 on an annual basis. Is that fair? No. And, most likely that would not happen, but if you take 10,000 people that belong to the local EAA Chapter without belonging to EAA, that adds up to $400,000 in dues that are not being collected. These 10,000 people are utilizing programs and services for which they are not financially contributing to support. This weakens the organization and puts undo pressure on EAA Members to provide the funds to cover overall costs for the non-members.

Let’s face it, we don’t always think about the connection between EAA and the local EAA Chapter when we join either the international or local group. But there are connections in programs and services as well as financial. First we must do a better job of making sure everyone sees the connections, and at the same time we must make sure everyone carries their fair share of the financial responsibility. That’s the way it must work.

Take a look at your Chapter Membership Roster. Ask everyone in your Chapter if their EAA Membership is current. Realize some people don’t see the apparent connections and financial responsibilities. Then ask them to join, …… NO, for the sake of their future in recreational aviation, whether you are building, restoring, flying, or maybe never plan to, tell them they must join because that is the way we will be sure we will have an international EAA that will be there for all the EAA Members, both inside and outside of local EAA Chapters today and tomorrow!

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