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Recruiting Handouts Don't Attract New Members - Your Story Does

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Barbara Buckner

 When it comes to Recruiting, every Unit has their own style...their own method that has led to success stories.  For some, however, there seems to be a struggle with how to go about it and what tools to use - so let's start with talking about "recruiting handouts."


I have received a couple of messages from members concerned about the lack of NHQ recruiting materials currently available and that, as a result, they feel they are unable to attract new members without them.  Others have commented that we need to provide "give-aways" in order to attract prospective members at recruiting events.  In both cases, it seems some Units are relying too heavily on the use of recruiting handouts and hoping they will lead to new members joining.  


In the Recruiting world, using general marketing handouts and giveaways is a method called "spray and pray"...the concept being that you give out as much material as you can to as many people and then wait for them to contact you.  Yes, the handouts are a good "quick reference" about CAP and the giveaways having "CAP" or "Civil Air Patrol" on them ideally are supposed to make people keep our organization on their minds....but stop and think about it.  The last time someone handed you a handout or gave you a pen or keychain or other type of marketing giveaway with the company's name on it, what did you do with it?  If you are like most people, the handout went into the trash when you came home and the giveaway either also went into the trash or into the "junk" drawer along with others of a similar nature.


As was talked about last month under "Exit Surveys," less than 2% of members that joined CAP said it was because of the marketing materials they received.  Over 50%....said it was due to word of mouth.  So, does it make sense to put money and focus on something that only nets a 2% success rate or a 50% one?


Bottom line

When recruiting, the prospective member will be joining YOUR unit...not just it is best to talk about what your Unit can provide to see if they are a fit if you hope to keep the member beyond their first year and this is a result of what YOU tell them about your Unit and your personal experience.  They may be joining CAP as the organization, but they are specifically joining your Unit and that is where you need to capture their interest.  

  • Why does the member want to join YOUR unit?  
  • What activities can your show that your Unit has done that will be of interest to them?  
  • What roles can they play at your Unit to feel that their time will be well spent and their skills used?

One of the complaints we have heard from both Cadets and Seniors is that "CAP wasn't what I thought it was going to be."  And that is a direct result of how they were approached and what information was given to them about what would happen once they joined.  An example I have used in the past uses one of the Cadet recruiting posters that shows a Cadet flying a glider: If your Unit doesn't do glider flights but you use this to attract Cadets to your Unit, then how can you expect to retain those Cadets past the first year of enrollment?  You are promoting something that CAP does, but your Unit doesn't.


Quoting Marie Vogt at NHQ: "Recruiting is most successful when accomplished by the local Unit.  CAP is doing less nationally as far as exhibiting and focusing on providing Units with the resources and information they need to successfully recruit in their area."  While exhibiting at national events does give us publicity and exposure, it doesn't yield us many new members based on information we are now receiving.  So, we have taken the focus off of such activities and that includes the emphasis on only using the marketing handouts we have had in the past.


LtCol David Kenan, MNWG RRO, uses two tools to recruit: 1) a business card that on one side lists opportunities with CAP and on the other side specific information on where the Unit meets with his contact info, and 2) his story.  He talks to people about CAP before handing over his business card.  You have to get and gauge their interest in the program first and then build a connection with them...before inviting them to come to a meeting to learn more.  Remember: a prospective member will feel more comfortable about coming to a meeting or joining if they have already developed a contact in the Unit to make them feel more "at home."


In today's social media world, so much communication is done via the Internet and email...don't be afraid of it thinking people don't really use it.  It is in your Unit's best interest to come up with multiple ways to contact and recruit new members.  Work with your Unit's PAO and get more "success" stories out to the media, to schools, in the form of Unit newsletters to other organizations, etc.  Putting up flyers or posters of a general nature won't grab their attention - people will be interested in hearing what YOUR Unit specifically is doing and that will make them want to learn more and possibly join when they can see how it can relate personally to them and their community.


Don't forget to plan and host an Open House...or two.  Again, when the prospective member can actually see what your Unit does and talk to others that are a part of it, they will be more inclined to want to learn more or join.  


Once you have a conversation with a member and invite them to attend your Unit's meeting, follow up with an email to them and use the new Recruiting Packet on the NHQ website as an attachment.  After they have attended your meeting, follow up with a phone call to talk about their impression and additional questions...focus on keeping the relationship developing.  If the personal touch goes away, usually so does the prospective member's interest.


Maj Barb Buckner

National Recruiting & Retention Officer

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