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Tips for School-Based Recruiting

Posted on 09/16/2014 at 12:00 AM by Barbara Buckner

Maj Todd Mandel, WIWG Public Affairs Officer, recently shared some great tips and ideas about how to approach school-based recruiting: 

One of the top questions I get is how can a squadron get into schools to recruit. Many squadrons find it difficult to get inside school walls to tell the CAP story. Here are some thoughts/tips based on past successful endeavors as well as my own personal knowledge that comes from spending the past five years as an elected member of a public school district's Board of Education:

The politics. Understand that schools, particularly public ones, are political footballs in most communities. School districts protect themselves by creating policies so staff can simply function and not have to constantly gauge the political fallout of every decision. Therefore if your district has a policy against outside groups advertising, recruiting, etc... you will likely have a hard time getting in via the "front door". A conversation with a superintendent or principal will likely direct you to the policy and if the policy says "no" then that's the answer you will get.  But... don't give up there...

Be of service. Policies may prevent general recruiting or solicitation, but if groups offer something of value to a school they are treated differently. Provide a service to the school and you are no longer an "outsider trying to solicit", now you are a resource providing a service! So what do we have to offer? Aerospace instruction is one great tool. Connect with 6th and 7th grade teachers and offer your services to come in and do STEM-based aerospace instruction. Use your cadets on the day of and you have a built in recruiting tool. Red Ribbon Leadership Academy and its anti-drug message is another built-in service we can deliver to schools.

Find like-minded groups and come in the back door. Ok, so the policy says you can't recruit to the entire student body at once. So what? Frankly, you probably don't want the entire student body to join anyway. Imagine 800 cadets joining at once, yikes! Instead see what activity groups are already operating in the school. Is there a computer/technology club? Aviation club? Science club? Drug-free club? Connect with the advisers of those groups and offer to support them. For the Aviation or Science club, offer to demonstrate aerospace principles using STEM kits or fun hands-on events. For the Tech Club, come talk about CyberPatriot, etc. Sure, you're not talking to the 800 member student body, but you are talking to the 8 or 10 or 15 kids in the club. That's a good starting point and those kids all have friends. Also a club meeting atmosphere allows for more one-on-one interaction instead of the few seconds you might get during a lunch period recruiting table.

Target middle schools. I've found the best success comes from engaging middle school students. Think about it... middle school students typically are still trying to find their identity. They often don't have a schedule chock full of sports, choir, band, etc... If a cadet joins in 7th grade and really gets into CAP then CAP becomes part of who they are. When he/she becomes a Freshman, Sophomore, etc.. CAP just stays part of who they are. You are not "swimming upstream" against the current all the stuff high schoolers have on their plate. Instead you are already part of the stream.

Private schools. Public schools tend to be politicized and thus districts have an aversion to inviting controversy. Private schools however have greater latitude. They only answer to donors, students and parents instead of to donors, students, parents, and the entire electorate. They tend to be smaller and it is easier to connect with staff and administrators. Again, you're not actually trying to recruit 800 new cadets at once, right? So that private middle school with a 150 student enrollment could work just fine for your purposes.

Lastly, use your cadets to tell their story whenever possible.  "Passion persuades" and a member who is passionate about CAP is the greatest selling point we have.

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