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Added Value: What Does Your Chapter Offer?
By David Leiting, EAA Lifetime 579157, Chapter Outreach Specialist
April 2018 - EAA chapters are always on the search for new members who will infuse the chapter with a growing crop of volunteers, will help fill the seats at monthly programs, and will be the future leaders of the chapter. However, retaining current members is just as important as finding new ones. The average retention rate for chapters is roughly 80 percent.
Retaining and attracting new members to your chapter is a simple value proposition. Rather than viewing the annual dues collected by the chapter as just a stream of income, view these dues as an individual’s investment into your chapter. Each member who pays his or her dues expects to get a return on the investment. Why should a new member join your chapter? What do they get out of an annual membership?
There are many opportunities for chapters to create chapter benefits that give existing members a return on their investment and give new members a reason to join. The three legs supporting the EAA stool — representing aviation, education, and social pillars — can give your chapter ideas for how to add value to each individual’s membership.
Here are a number of ideas that create added value and give members a return on their investment. Many of these ideas may fit into two or even all three of these categories.
- Fly-Outs: Take advantage of nearby fly-ins and airport diners, by scheduling a chapter fly-out. It gives members a great excuse to pull their airplanes out and take a short flight together. Participating in a chapter fly-out also provides an opportunity to take members flying who may not own their own aircraft or are not active pilots. Filling empty seats with nonpilot members is a fantastic way to keep your members, especially the newer and younger ones, engaged.
- Pancake Breakfast Fly-Ins: If you’re looking for a way to raise some money for your chapter while enjoying a morning at the airport look no further than the pancake breakfast! Members have the opportunity to share in the camaraderie of organizing a chapter event together, and it provides a great opportunity to invite the general public to the airport to learn about EAA. If your chapter is looking to take your pancake breakfast to the next level, try incorporating a Young Eagles rally to the festivities.
As an alternative to the pancake breakfast, chapters can also explore hosting a burger burn, brat fry, pig roast, or French toast breakfast or corn roast fly-in.
- VMC and/or IMC Club: EAA chapters now have the opportunity to focus their programming on pilot proficiency through the VMC or IMC Club. The purpose of the VMC or IMC Club is to promote proficiency and safety through organized hangar flying. These programs bring together pilots within the chapter who are willing to share information, provide recognition, foster communications, promote safety, and build proficiency.
- Aircraft Building Seminars: EAA technical counselors are one of the greatest assets available to an aircraft builder. Have your local technical counselor give a presentation on different building disciplines (wood, sheet metal, composites) or a homebuilding hint. You can also have a chapter member give a presentation about his or her build or restoration project.
- Diverse Programming: Having a good mix of programming including homebuilding, flight proficiency, aviation history, unique types of flying, etc. will help ensure that no matter what a member’s interest are, the chapter offers a program for him or her.
- Meals at Your General Gatherings/Monthly Meetings: In today’s world, enjoying a meal has become as much a social gathering event as it is a nutritional necessity. People love gathering to enjoy dinner or breakfast with one another, especially when it involves talking about airplanes. In addition, when you have meals at your monthly programs, members are not required to go out of their way to eat before or after the event. This is especially beneficial to members who have a long commute or who are taking care of a family.
- Keep the Business at the Board Meeting: The one surefire way to drag down the social vibe at a chapter event is to focus on the chapter’s business. Very few members care about the details of purchasing the next gas grill or how many pancake breakfast flyers to order. Discussions like this should take place at the chapter board meeting, not the general member gatherings.
- Have an Airport Cookout: One of the most enjoyable and relaxing activities to take part in is spending a summer evening at the airport. There is no better way to enjoy time with fellow aviation enthusiasts than to break out the grill and cooler full of beverages, all while enjoying the sights and sounds of your local airport!
These activities and ideas are just a small sample of how your chapter can create added value and help improve the experience for your current members and attract the interest of new members. One of the most effective ways to gain new members is through word-of-mouth recommendations from your current members. In addition, prospects are much more likely to join your chapter when they feel a sense of aviation, education, and social interaction occurring at your activities.
What does your chapter do to create added value for the membership?