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Vibrant Chapter Member Gatherings

By Serena Brouillette, EAA Lifetime 1011028

June 2022In this article series, we will be looking at the best practices we see the most successful chapters consistently engaging in.

What do your monthly chapter gatherings look like? Are they enjoyable for you as well as for your members? Are they aviation-centric? Are there opportunities to learn something new? To socialize with fellow members? Remember that if you’re not having a good time, your members probably aren’t either. Have your gatherings become dull and boring or slipped into the rut of the same old thing every month? What can you do to keep them interesting and valuable to your members? Here are a few tips and ideas.

  1. The basics. Does the chapter meeting day and time work well for the majority of your members? Don’t continue meeting at the time every month just because that’s what you’ve always done. Be willing to change if needed. However, once you’ve determined a day and time that works well, stick with it. Consistency in day, time, and location helps a lot both for your current members as well as when recruiting new members since it’s easier to remember that the chapter meeting always takes place on the third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. than to remember a string of dates. How about your meeting format? Here is an example of one that works well:
    • 6:00 – Doors open/social time
    • 6:30 – Food served
      • Chapter provides the main food item. Members are asked to bring a dish to pass. A $5 donation is encouraged for those who do not bring a dish.
    • 7:00 – Program begins
      • Welcome guests and new members
      • Ask for building project/pilot milestone updates
      • Review upcoming events
      • Guest Speaker
    • 8:30 – Wrap up – Thank speaker (make sure you give them a round of applause)

  2. Members are welcome to stick around and chat afterward but be respectful of their time by keeping the program portion to an hour and a half.

  3. Separate your monthly member gatherings from your board meetings. Very few of your members are interested in sitting through a discussion about whether to spend money on a new grill or a printer. They attend because they love aviation and want to learn something that will be of value to them. There certainly needs to be a time and place for the business aspects of the chapter to be taken care of. You are running a small business after all, but the chapter board is in place for precisely this reason. They should be the ones to handle the business of the chapter so the general membership can enjoy aviation fellowship at the gathering. It is recommended to have the board meetings and membership gatherings on separate days so there is no time crunch with one running up against the other. Any member who would like to is welcome to attend the board meetings but there is no obligation to.

  4. Vary your monthly programming. You want to speak to as many different interests as are represented by your membership, whether it’s aircraft building, flight training, aviation history, proficiency, etc. when considering speakers and topics. Not sure where to find speakers? Check out the EAA Speakers Bureau! In addition, don’t overlook the wealth of knowledge and experience you have right within your own chapter.

Every chapter gathering should emulate Paul Poberezny’s three-legged stool model, the legs representing aviation, social, and education. All three are important parts of a chapter gathering. Strive to make sure they are all there for each gathering. Find out when works best for your members to meet and plan programming around their interests. Keep the business of the chapter separate from your member gatherings. By following these simple tips you’ll be well on your way to making your gatherings an enjoyable and valuable part of members’ lives.

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