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Chapter 59 Applies Lessons Learned in Leadership Boot Camp

By David Leiting, EAA Lifetime 579157, Chapter Outreach Specialist

December 2017

On October 7, 2017, EAA members from Texas, Arkansas, and Arizona attended a Chapter Leadership Boot Camp in McKinney, Texas. Coming out of that boot camp, many chapters had a plan they were ready to execute to improve chapter offerings and increase chapter membership. Chapter 59 out of Waco was prepared to make significant investments in its members and prospective members.

Below is an excerpt from the president’s column in Chapter 59’s November newsletter. This column is a great example of the value and enthusiasm gained from attending a chapter leadership training session.

Prez Sez, November 2017, Phil Perry, President of EAA Chapter 59

With the end of 2017 upon us, it is time for your chapter to start planning for 2018 and beyond.

This is the most excited I’ve been when I’ve written this column for our chapter. There’s a good chance this will be a lengthy column, but if you are passionate about our organization, this will be a very important column and, by the time I finish, I hope that you are as excited as I am.

Just before daylight on October 7, Chapter Vice President David Wilson, board member Jon Botsford, and I loaded into my RV-10 and flew to McKinney. The purpose of our trip was to attend an EAA leadership training session that was being provided by EAA headquarters. None of us knew what to expect out of the day, but we reviewed topics such as chapter business fundamentals, recruitment, fundraising, public relations, insurance, EAA resources, etc. We covered a lot of ground and by the time we loaded up in the airplane to come home, all three of us were on cloud nine.

What we left with were insights into some of our own problems, key metrics that relate to our own growth (or decline), fresh ideas, and a long list of opportunities to improve. Most importantly, it opened the door for a meaningful conversation with our board about our chapter and our need to change.

Most of you have been around Chapter 59 longer than I have, and if you’re one of those people, you’ve witnessed our decline in membership and activities over the past six years. I have the metrics of our membership base and they’re not good. I won’t bore you with the details, but you can simply look around and gauge with your eyes and you won’t be far off. I will share with you that our membership has declined every single year since 2011. There are a number of reasons for declining membership and I’m not going to go into all of them, but complacency is probably the largest factor in the equation.

With all this doom and gloom, you’re probably wondering why I’m excited and why I’m trying to drag you down too. You are a member of this organization to be encouraged and motivated by it, not pulled down by negativity. Well, keep on reading.

At our October board meeting, I presented an honest assessment of our chapter. It wasn’t our typical tablecloth-washing and napkin-counting tactical meeting. This was a board meeting about a serious issue: the future of our chapter. It wasn’t sugar coated; it wasn’t meant to make us feel good; it was straight talk about our chapter and shining a spotlight directly on the spots where we are failing and where we can improve. I have to tell you that I was impressed by the board’s ability to rise above the noise and take a serious look at our chapter. If anyone is going to stem the tide of decline, it’s going to start with the men and women sitting at that director’s table.

At the completion of our meeting, the directors’ excitement level matched mine. They grasped our trajectory and understood some of the actions we could take starting in 2018. The good news is they didn’t just understand it; they took action to support a strategy that included approving necessary changes and funds. This upcoming year is going to be a year of change. Some folks do well with change and others don’t, but the board is in complete agreement that change must happen if we’re going to stem the ebbing tide.

In 2018, as a leadership team, we are going to be making investments in our members. We are committing funds toward legitimate marketing initiatives. We have already initiated a social media presence, allowing us to reach deeper into our community where we are currently invisible. We are also committing funds toward building a better, and more welcoming, event type of environment during our scheduled activities and toward making our chapter more visible from U.S. Highway 84 during our scheduled events. We are committing funds toward the kids of our members’ families. We are committing to providing our members a members-only shirt and providing members with nametags to enhance the socialization opportunities during our chapter events.

Along with these changes, we are going to make changes to our schedules. Most notably, we are going to retire the Thursday lunch bunch as an event we market and operate from the chapter front office. A middle-of-the-week Thursday lunch just isn’t conducive to families, kids, or anyone who isn’t retired. If there are some members who would like some form of it to continue, they’re welcome to use the clubhouse for a members get-together, but as a chapter we won’t be preparing or selling meals. The Thursday lunch will be replaced with a lunch on the third Saturday of every month. This means a pancake fly-in on the first Saturday and a fly-in lunch on the third Saturday. This will give us an opportunity to properly plan and resource the event while also being fully prepared to welcome a broader group of the public to our facility.

In 2018, you’re going to see more activities for our members to engage in. You saw the first of these in the form of our Fredericksburg trip, where we had 16 members participate. We are actively working to coordinate a fly-out trip to Big Bend in March, followed by a trip to Palo Duro Canyon to watch the play Texas in June. Don’t be surprised if we squeeze in another Hill Country trip before Christmas to take in a small town holiday setting.

Therefore, 2018 is going to be a year of change for EAA Chapter 59 — a lot of change. But all of that change is being made for the betterment of our chapter. As all of this change happens, I ask that you keep an open mind and not allow yourself to become anchored in the past, because we are moving forward and writing the next chapter in our history book.

Now you can see why I am so excited to write this column. You can see why our board of directors is excited for 2018. I hope you are equally excited about 2018. As we approach the end of 2017, you’ll notice a few of these changes taking place already and our goal is to have everything in place before January 1, 2018.

I’m looking forward to an awesome 2018 and I hope you are too!

EAA has three Chapter Leadership Boot Camps scheduled for 2018: one in Broomfield, Colorado, on January 27; another at Spruce Creek Airpark in Daytona Beach, Florida, on February 24; and a third in Santa Rosa, California, on March 10. There are also two Chapter Leadership Academies scheduled in Oshkosh, the first of which is January 19-21, with the other scheduled for April 18-20. Learn more or sign up.