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Thread: How to grow a chapter?

  1. #1

    How to grow a chapter?

    I thought I'd throw out a question to see what kind of ideas you all might have on this topic. The question is - how do you - or did you - grow and diversify your chapter membership?

    The membership in our chapter, like many others, is steadily aging. It is not diverse, lacking members who are women, minorities or non-pilots. We jokingly refer to our monthly chapter breakfasts as the "Old Men's Breakfast Club".

    It is a well known problem that the numbers of pilots is shrinking. Reasons and discussions why could justify the existence of a whole new message board! Despite this, I believe there is still a great deal of interest in aviation, even if everyone with an interest can not (immediately) realize their dream to be a pilot.

    It seems to me that we need to increase community awareness of our airports and chapters, let these community members know that chapter membership only requires an interest in aviation and not a pilot's license, and that members of all ages - including families, women and minorities - are welcome.

    So - how does one accomplish this? What do you do, or what have you done, to grow and diversify your chapter membership? How do you get the community involved? What has worked, or not worked for you?

    Thanks. Steve Houghton

  2. #2
    Mike Switzer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Central Illinois
    I don't think the problem is limited to EAA. We were having a very similar discussion in our church council meeting this morning.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Everyone is tightening up their purse strings. Memberships cost money. Most of them cost around 40 dollars a year. For instance the club I'm a part of is 40 dollars a year plus the 40 to EAA which they require you to be a part of. That's 80 dollars a year.

    I totaled up the memberships I had a few years ago for various things. Flying, shooting, motorcycles, ect, ect. It think I was up to around 3 hundred dollars a year just in membership fees before I even started doing anything involving those activities.

    Then people start looking at what they get out of their memberships. I signed up for EAA a month ago. I still haven't even seen a welcome aboard package or membership card or magazine. Nothing. The only reason I have my EAA number is because I got it in an e-mail.

    It's a complicated problem only made more complicated by the lack of expendable money folks have...........and the things they choose to spend their money on.

    Flying in general has very limited utility. Yeah it's fun to get in the air but say you want to take a trip. You could be grounded for days due to weather away from your home field. Are there enough airstrips in your fuel range on your trip? Can you land at the local grocery store and buy a weeks worth of groceries?
    Hy-Tek Hurricane 103

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Morgantown, West Virginia, United States
    We have the same problem in our model RC aviation club. Aging membership, harder and harder to get people to come to meetings and activities.

    Our local EAA chapter is 'active' but the most active members (i went to 2 meeting, but never joined) aren't building or involved in any projects other than young eagles and the occasional pancake breakfast. The meetings were held at local restaurants. They were friendly people, and welcomed me, but it felt like trying to break into a well established group of friends.

    Things that I think would improve the situation.

    1) Don't meet at a restaurant or around a meal. This is a very friendly and social gathering, which seems like a good idea. But to someone new to the club its like meeting your girlfriends family for the first time, at thanksgiving. Everyone is talking and comfortable with everyone else, except for you.

    2) There needs to be a project. New members aren't going to want to drop the membership fees if there is no visible benefit to those fees. If membership is $40 (.75 on the hobbs ;-) ), and the club doesn't have a building to maintain, or other static fees that it needs to worry about, or regular activities other than meeting at a restaurant for dinner, its a bit of a put-off.

    Just my 2 cents.

  5. #5

  6. #6
    Mike Berg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Interesting subject. I've been a EAA member since the early 1980's but never joined the local chapter although I have made a few presentations to them over the years. For a long while it was a lack of time. I was working, teaching, driving school bus on athletic trips and involved in church activities and I need some time at home. Now that I'm retired and +70 I find I want to go out less during the evening especially when it's cold. We do have a flying club at our little grass strip airport and meet most Saturdays for coffee , rolls and telling flying lies. I think maybe as the pilot population ages it's harder to 'get off the ground' (for a lack of better term).
    If God had intended man to fly He would have given us more money!

  7. #7

  8. #8
    cub builder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    North Central AR
    I have found the most effective way to grow the membership is to make the meetings of interest to potential members. I have made it a point for the last 6 years I have been a chapter president to have a technical presentation at every single meeting. If we are covering a subject matter that is of interest to builders or potential builders, they will be there. If we do it regularly, they are there regularly and are there as members, whether young or old. If all you do is say the pledge of allegiance, talk about planes, and watch a video, things are going to get stale very quickly. We have speakers covering a large gambit of aviation from Aerodynamics, safety, mechanical, building techniques, alternate engines, aftermarket ignitions, ADSB training, FAA FASTeam speakers, Aviation Authors, etc. Our meetings are so full we find it difficult to fit in the very nice monthly videos being posted by the EAA.

    EAA Chapter 691 (soon to be retired) President
    The other thing we do is organize events. We have an annual spot landing contest with a barbecue afterwards. We have a number of Young Eagles events, but we don't make the kids come to us. The most fun ones are the ones where we go to a remote airport that has little use. We have one currently where we go fly kids from a remote community off from a little used 3000' dirt strip up in the mountains. Events like that are even more rewarding than the typical day of flying YE from your home airport.

  9. #9
    This is excellent! Thanks for posting!

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Stockton, Ca
    Why would you want minorities?

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