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This Is My Chapter — A Challenge to Your Leaders
When was the last time the board members of your chapter analyzed the overall health and state of your chapter? Has there been a moment that allowed you to reflect on your successes, while also pondering how else your chapter can continue to improve?
The 10 talking points mentioned in this article are all proven byproducts of high-performing chapters. They tend indicate chapter activity, chapter outreach and marketing to the local public, and a chapter that is making a positive impact on the local aviation community.
Here is my challenge to you and your chapter leadership. At your next board meeting, answer the following questions, and discuss how these topics may affect your chapter. Throughout the meeting, discuss how your chapter can not only celebrate its successes but also take advantage of new opportunities.
- Have any of the current chapter leaders attended a chapter leadership training session?
EAA’s chapter leadership training sessions are the No. 1 way to help you improve your chapter. Chapter leaders consistently come out of the sessions with new ideas, approaches, and friendship with peer leaders. If you have leaders who have not yet attended a training sessions, visit EAA.org/ChapterTraining to learn more and register for an upcoming session.
EAA offers two different training options for chapter leaders. The two-day Chapter Leadership Academy is hosted in Oshkosh, while the one-day Chapter Leadership Boot Camps are hosted all around the country.
- In the past 12 months, has your chapter membership been growing, staying steady, or shrinking?
At EAA, we like to say “If you ain’t growing, you’re dying.” It is important to stay focused on membership retention and growth. One of the best ways to keep your chapter growing is to create value to the members. This value comes from three areas: aviation, education, and socializing.
If your chapter has been growing, why do you think that is? Vice versa, if your chapter has been losing members, discuss a solution to help add more value to recruit and retain members.
Read the ChapterGram article “Added Value: What Does Your Chapter Offer?” and learn how your chapter can add more value for your members.
- Does your chapter offer a variety of programing, including IMC Club, VMC Club, or Flying Start programs?
Although the cornerstone of EAA is supporting those who build and fly their own aircraft, it is equally important to support every type of aviation interest.
Having a VMC and/or IMC Club is a great way to encourage pilot proficiency and safety among your members, no matter what type of aircraft they fly. These organized hangar-flying scenarios are completely free to all EAA chapters; however, you must appoint a VMC and IMC Club coordinator to adopt these programs.
Learn more about the VMC Club here →
Learn more about the IMC Club here →
In addition to supporting your active flyers and builders, your chapter may also consider how you can help new individuals become engaged with aviation.
EAA’s Flying Start program offers chapters the opportunity to reach out to the local community and engage with people who are interested in the world of flight. Through Flying Start, chapter members can break down the perceived barriers that prevent people from participating in general aviation.
Participants will walk away from a Flying Start event with an “I can do this” attitude, and a clear understanding of how flying can fit into their lives, and what they can do with this hobby.
The hosting chapter will formally present an EAA-prepared PowerPoint presentation and video, as well as share personal experiences on how aviation fits into its members’ lifestyles. Participants will also be able to take a free introductory flight through EAA’s Eagle Flights program.
From promoting the open house event, providing presentation materials, and an Eagle Flight to cap off the day, EAA will help your chapter execute the perfect Flying Start event.
Learn more about EAA’s Flying Start Program here →
- Does your chapter engage with the Young Eagle program?
Flying Young Eagles is one of the best ways to engage your local community in aviation. In addition, it gives all of your members a great excuse to get together and volunteer for a good cause.
Since 1992, EAA chapters have been hosting Young Eagles rallies to give youths a fun and enjoyable day at the airport. These events have gone on to inspire thousands of kids to pursue aviation in some capacity.
The Young Eagles program not only allows your chapter members to share their passion for aviation with young people, but also helps grow support for your local airport from the community.
If your chapter is looking to host its first Young Eagles rally, check out our Young Eagles Rally Planner.
- Does you chapter have an EAA approved flight advisor or technical counselor on hand to assist members who are building and flying their own aircraft?
Homebuilding is the cornerstone of EAA, and it is equally important to chapters. In fact, more than 30 percent of chapter members said they joined an EAA chapter to expand their homebuilding skills and knowledge.
Flight advisors are a great asset to those members who are approaching Phase 1 flight testing of their homebuilt or transitioning to a new type of airplane. Flight advisors are also great candidates to give presentations on flying new airplanes and/or test flying homebuilt aircraft.
Technical counselors provide an extra layer of safety to those building their own airplane. Technical counselors are very experienced builders who volunteer their time to help members through the build process every step of the way! Technical counselors can also be great presenters on aircraft building or even demo specific building techniques.
Consider how a flight advisor and/or technical counselor may bring a new level of engagement to your chapter.
- Do your chapter members engage in EAA’s annual chapter member survey?
In 2017, EAA began sending out surveys to all chapters so they could distribute this survey to their members. This survey helps give EAA a direct look into how the chapter member experience can be improved.
More importantly, the results of this survey are shared back to the chapter. The chapter can then use these results to gauge the satisfaction level of its members. Using these results, the chapter can improve the overall member experience.
Keep an eye out for the 2019 chapter member survey, which will be shared via direct email and ChapterGram. Be sure to share this survey with your members so you can learn how to better serve your members.
Beginning in 2019, this will be an annual survey provided to chapters.
- Do your chapter leaders regularly read EAA’s e-newsletter, ChapterGram?
Staying in touch with EAA headquarters through monthly chapter publications is critical to chapter success. EAA is constantly announcing new resources and opportunities for chapters, and the first place to learn about these new opportunities is in these publications.
In addition to announcements of new offerings, ChapterGram is a great place to read about chapter success stories and best practices. These write-ups can offer a great deal of motivation for chapters to take new approaches to chapter activities.
Click here to access archives or subscribe to ChapterGram.
- Has your chapter used a ChapterBlast email promotion or ordered promotional materials?
Chapters have a great opportunity to reach out to local EAA members via a ChapterBlast email. A ChapterBlast is a promotional email sent by EAA on behalf of your chapter, to invite regional EAA members to your chapter event. The email will be sent to all EAA members within roughly 75 miles of the chapter event.
A ChapterBlast is the perfect way to invite EAA members to your meet-and-greet, fly-in, open house, or pancake breakfast. These invites are intended to educate non-chapter members about the opportunities that exist at your local chapter. Not only will these emails help promote your events, but also they’ll recruit new members to your chapter.
Each chapter is limited to three ChapterBlasts per year, and requests must be submitted no later than 30 days prior to the event.
Discuss which events your chapter feels are most appropriate to promote and that you can also use to recruit new EAA members from the local area.
To request a ChapterBlast, please fill out the request form.
- Has your chapter sent a youth to EAA’s Air Academy?
Chapters have the opportunity to earn Young Eagles credits when their pilots fly at least 10 Young Eagles in a year. One of the best ways to use these credits is to send a youth to the EAA Air Academy. The EAA Air Academy is a series of weeklong camps designed to introduce young people ages 12-18 to the aviation world.
Campers engage in a variety of hands-on activities while staying at the EAA Air Academy Lodge in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Experienced aviation instructors help them delve into flight through studies, hands-on demonstrations, flight simulation, and other exciting activities.
Sending a local youth to the Air Academy also provides the opportunity for the youth to become more engaged at the chapter level. Educate them on how they can enjoy the same experiences at your chapter, and invite them to take part in your chapter programs.
Visit EAA.org/AirAcademy to learn more about the program, and how your chapter can reserve a slot for a deserving youth.
- Does your chapter have its own facility to host presentations, meetings, or build sessions?
Having space to host presentations, meetings, build sessions, potluck dinners, etc. is a fantastic asset. These locations create a sense of chapter pride and open the members up to many new opportunities.
To get on track to acquiring your own chapter home, discuss what options exist. Will the chapter rent, build, or buy its facility? How will the chapter finance this acquisition, and what is the overall goal of having your own facility? Answering these questions will help you determine the type, size, and location of your future home.
No matter if you end up with a clubhouse, chapter hangar, or workshop, EAA can help provide insurance!
Of course, there are many baby steps that must be taken to achieve a number of the above goals, but that is what chapter growth is all about — steady progress. Your chapter will not incorporate all of the above ideas in one year, but you can get on track to adopt one idea at a time. To help your chapter in the planning process, you can access the “5 Year Chapter Flight Plan” to track your progress. The link to the flight plan can be found here.
As always, the EAA chapter office is on hand to answer any questions you may have, as well as help you brainstorm ideas for your local chapter. You can reach the chapter office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 920-426-5912.
At your next board meeting, reflect on your chapter, celebrate your success, but decide the next challenge you will go after to take your chapter to the next level.