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Chapter Recognition - 10 Part Series to Improve Your Chapter

March 2019 - In 2019 EAA will be rolling out the Chapter Recognition Program. This program is designed to help chapters improve the experience for their local members, and to recognize our many outstanding chapters. Chapter recognition will be based on 10 criteria and how many of those criteria a chapter meets.

The 10 criteria are as follows

Each month, EAA will highlight one of the criteria and show your chapter how to take advantage of a potential new opportunity.

1.         Current chapter leaders who have attended chapter leadership training.

2.         The chapter membership is growing or holding steady.

3.         The chapter offers an EAA IMC or VMC Club.

4.         The chapter participates in the Young Eagles or Flying Start program.

5.         The chapter has an EAA-approved flight advisor or technical counselor.

6.         The chapter partakes in the annual EAA Chapter Survey.

7.         Chapter leaders regularly read EAA’s ChapterGram.

8.         The chapter has used a ChapterBlast or ordered promotional materials.

9.         The chapter hosts at least two public events per year.

10.       The chapter owns or leases a facility.

March's Criteria —Chapter Membership

One of the best indicators of chapter health is the number of members who pay their annual dues and take part in chapter activities. Having a solid membership base year over year indicates that your chapter is providing value to the local aviation community. Declining membership, on the other hand, is an indicator of waning interest. If chapters begin to notice any sort of decline, even a small one, corrective action should be taken. The average retention rate for EAA members is 80 percent. This means, just to stay even, the organization must grow by 20 percent each year. The same equation can be used for local chapters.

Example of chapter membership decline over time if no new members join the chapter.

Even if a chapter started with 100 members it would quickly find itself in a bind if it was to only retain 80 percent and fail to attract new members. Fewer dues would be flowing into the treasury, and fewer volunteers would be available to support the chapter. Not only does this hurt the bank account, but it also increases the volunteer load for each member, which could inhibit the chapter opportunity to host activities and fundraisers. This will lead to volunteer exhaustion, lack of activities for members, and only amplify the membership issue.

How Can Chapters Retain and Recruit Members?

As was discussed in the April 2018 article “Added Value: What Does Your Chapter Offer?” retaining and attracting new members to your chapter is a simple value proposition. Members invest in a chapter with their money, their time, or both. Earning somebody’s $20 annual dues is a great first step, but earning their time is even better. Dues will help offset chapter costs, such as the annual insurance fee or hangar utility bill, but their time is worth even more. Whether it be flying Young Eagles, presenting at a monthly gathering, or volunteering at the pancake breakfast, having members who invest their time into a chapter is critical.

So how can a chapter provide a value worth investing in? The key is to focus on the EAA three-legged stool. The three legs of the EAA stool represent aviation, education, and social.

EAA Stool
The three legs of the EAA stool represent aviation, education, and social.

To satisfy the aviation category, chapters should consider what activities pique an individual’s interest while spending time around airplanes, not just talking about them. Activities such as chapter fly-outs, pancake breakfasts, fly-ins, Young Eagles rallies, and poker runs are great examples of aviation-specific activities.

When it comes to checking the education box, chapters should not overlook the fact that EAA’s diverse membership has many areas of interest. This means that many different forms of education can be beneficial. Whether it is a VMC Club, a welding seminar, taking a field trip to an aviation business, hosting an interesting speaker, or learning about aviation history, chapters should explore all facets of aviation education.

The third and often overlooked leg of the stool is the social component. Although aviation can tend to be a solitary pursuit, pilots and enthusiasts often long to spend time with like-minded folks, especially considering the small size of the aviation world. Enjoying a meal at chapter gatherings, having airport cookouts, taking a chapter trip to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, or volunteering as a chapter are just a number of activities that will ensure chapters do not miss the second “A” in EAA, association with like-minded people.

As important as these activities are, it is important for chapters to remember to foster a welcoming environment. Greet all guests as they arrive at your events, learn about their aviation interests, collect their contact info, give them a nametag, and introduce them to other chapter members. This will help them feel immediately a part of the “in group” and encourage them to return for future gatherings.

What is your chapter doing to add value for your members? Does the EAA three-legged stool represent your chapter’s activities?

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