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Recap of the Hallmarks of Successful Chapters

Christopher Gauger, EAA 746128, Chapter Field Representative I


December 2022 – Over the past year, we have covered many of the hallmarks of successful EAA chapters. We hope these articles have given you ideas on how you can improve your chapter and lead it to greater heights. Let us review the hallmarks of highly successful chapters.

Activity Equals Success
The easiest and most immediate thing a chapter can do to improve itself is to do more activities. The most common reason why EAA members recommend joining a chapter is because it engages in lots of activities. Conversely, the most common reason our members say they would not recommend a chapter is a lack of activity. Your chapter does not have to start out by planning a huge event right away. Even a small activity like a fly-out to another airport or a visit to a local aviation museum or airport facility can generate more interest in your chapter, both from your members and non-members.

Effective Marketing and Communications
If people don’t know your chapter exists, then how will they be able to join and participate? EAA has many resources available to help chapters promote themselves. These include ChapterBlast emails to promote your chapter’s event to EAA members in your area, customized marketing materials that you can tailor for your chapter and its events, brochures for EAA programs, and high-quality banners, tablecloths, and runners offered at reasonable prices.

In addition to these resources, there are many other ways for chapters to promote themselves in their local area. Having signage at your local airport telling people where your chapter is located will help newcomers find you. A website is vital for all chapters in this day and age, and social media can be used to provide an interactive online presence for your chapter. Newsletters remain a convenient means of sharing chapter information with members and prospective members. You can also engage with your local media to promote your chapter’s activities. Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of a personal invite. Word of mouth still remains the most common reason a person learns about an EAA chapter.

Growing Chapter MembershipPart 1 Part 2
Most EAA members are not members of chapters, so there is a massive pool of people you can recruit to join your chapter. These are the steps you can take to grow your chapter:

  1. Provide Targeted, Valuable Content — Find out what your chapter members are interested in, and provide a variety of programming that appeals to your members, no matter their aviation interests or experience.
  2. Missionize Your Chapter — Having a sense of purpose will help your chapter determine what goals it should work toward.
  3. Come Up with a Plan and Goals — If your chapter wants to achieve something, make a concrete plan on how you will make that goal a reality.
  4. Get Active and Promote — Make sure people know about your chapter’s activities and events. Remember that EAA has resources to help you with promotion. Invite attendees to come back to your chapter.
  5. Continue the Conversation with Prospects — Don’t forget to welcome new faces to your chapter and to give them reasons to keep coming back. First impressions are important, and so is timely correspondence with potential members.
  6. New Member Onboarding — Once a new person has joined your chapter, make sure they are in the loop on chapter updates (such as receiving your newsletter), and encourage them to get involved, even if for only a small task.
  7. Retain Your Members — Evaluate your members periodically to understand their aviation interests. Reach out to expired members to remind them to renew their chapter membership. The EAA Chapter Roster Management tool will let you easily keep track of your membership.

If your chapter isn’t growing, then it’s dying. These pieces of advice will help your chapter grow and keep growing year after year.

Vibrant Chapter Gatherings
Having a consistent date, time, and location for your monthly gatherings will help your chapter members and non-members remember when to attend. However, don’t be afraid to change the date and time if it doesn’t work for the majority of your members. Make sure to keep your chapter’s board meetings separate from your monthly gatherings — people come to your gatherings for aviation content, not business discussions. Maintain a variety of monthly programming that satisfies your members’ interests.

Fundraising Beyond Dues
There are many ways for chapters to raise funds for their activities, beyond just member dues. Determine what activities your chapter needs to fund, and then decide how you will raise those funds. Fundraising ideas range from pancake breakfasts and fly-ins, to raffles, to hosting an EAA touring aircraft, and more. People like to donate to good causes, and make sure that potential donors know what their money will support at your chapter. We recommend that chapters apply to receive 501(c)(3) charitable status from the IRS so they can receive tax-deductible donations.

Running a Chapter Like a Small Business
Chapters may be non-profit organizations, but they have many similarities to a small business. Sound financial management will help your chapter generate revenue and pay its expenses without running up a deficit. Tracking your chapter’s membership, such as with the EAA Chapter Roster Management tool, will let you know how many members you have, whether their membership is active or expired, and what aviation interests they have. Assemble long-term strategic plans to guide your chapter toward the goals it wants to achieve, and to help you understand what needs to be accomplished to achieve those goals. Maintain accurate records of chapter finances, bylaws, and other important documents.

Chapter Leadership Succession
EAA chapters rise and fall based on their leadership. Eventually, chapter leaders step down, and new ones must take their place. Look for chapter members who might be a good fit for the open leadership positions. Ask them if they would be interested in serving. Offer to mentor that person to help ease them into their role. Assign small tasks at first, and let the new leader know they can delegate tasks to other volunteers if there is much work to be done. New chapter leaders are encouraged to attend an EAA Chapter Leadership Academy or Boot Camp, and EAA has resources to help new leaders run their chapters. Have your chapter form a nominating committee to vet and approve new officers.

Understand and Thank Your Volunteers
EAA chapters are completely volunteer-based, and thus it is important to understand your volunteers’ motivations and ability to help out, and to thank them for their time and efforts. It’s good to have a core group of volunteers, but they may not be able to provide the same level of commitment all the time. Always be on the lookout for new people who can volunteer, even if for only a small task. A personal ask can be enough of an encouragement to bring someone new onboard. Recognize your volunteers for their work, such as with Chapter Service Awards or by nominating them for a volunteer award at AirVenture.

These hallmarks are derived from the proven successes of EAA chapters. All chapters have the potential to succeed by implementing the ideas covered in these articles. As 2022 comes to a close, we hope you will reflect on your chapter’s experiences during the past year. What did your chapter accomplish? What went well? What could be improved? Now is a great time to prepare the next year’s activities for your chapter, and to decide what you can do to make your chapter grow and sustain itself. Remember that if you need help, you can contact the EAA chapters office at 800-564-6322 or chapters@eaa.org.

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