Synergistic Recruiting: One Unit's Approach
Posted on 09/30/2014 at 12:00 AM by Barbara Buckner
2nd Lt Stacie Smith, Recruiting and Retention Officer for Texas Wing's Gregg County Composite Squadron, has put together a very informative article based on her observations of the success of her Unit's recent Open House and the plan they put in place.
Looking for ideas as to how to plan a successful Open House? Read on...
I serve as Recruiting and Retention officer for Gregg County Composite Squadron, which meets at the East Texas Regional Airport near Longview (in East Texas). I have planned and executed a variety of recruiting activities over the past eighteen months, including school presentations by cadets, school lunch-time information tables, home school group emails, and shopping mall informational events. Although each event resulted in many conversations and a considerable amount of interest from both students and adults in the community, the final outcome was a total of ZERO new members. As a small squadron with natural attrition, we were on the verge of not qualifying as a unit due to inadequate membership.
In the past two weeks, we have begun processing the membership of ten new cadet and two new senior members! This terrific response seems to be the result of a combination of synergistic recruiting efforts. We plan to implement a similar campaign in the future, and I would to share our experience with other squadrons.
Open House Promotion
Perhaps the most vital aspect of our current recruiting success seems to be the planning and promotion of an Open House. As a very small squadron with new senior member leadership last year, we were hesitant to hold this type of event in the past, but we decided to give it our best shot this fall. After all, we really do think that CAP is the nation's best-kept secret , and we are passionate about sharing it with others.
Originally, I produced a flyer that was bold and easy to read; and I thought would excite interest. Soon afterward, I saw a flyer for the Three Rivers Squadron Open House, and I was impressed with the photos and the wording that was included. It invoked the feeling that - not only did CAP offer a lot for new members, but the squadron NEEDED new members to continue an effective program. I realized that people LIKE to be needed, and asked permission to use the flyer for our promotion efforts. I produced a new flyer, and it obviously attracted the interest of the students.
I contacted five local middle schools about promoting CAP to their students. I first emailed the principal with a passionate note that pointed out that CAP was a 'particularly ideal extracurricular activity' for their students. I also asked them to 'help us let your students know about the local CAP squadron,' and followed up with a phone call. This seemed to invoke the support of administration, and resulted in a positive response from each school! We brought posters to each school, but were only able to set up a lunch-time presentation at one school, due to schedule conflicts.
Unlike our past experience, this year's lunch event was a huge success! I think the difference is that I approached each table and asked them interest-provoking questions, such as "Would you like to fly?", "Do you like model rocketry?", and "Do you like to camp?" If the response was affirmative, I directed them to the table to speak to two cadets and pick up a variety of information about CAP and our Open House. This allowed me to move on to other tables and resulted in over one hundred students visiting the presentation table. Our cadets were VERY excited at the students' interest.
Home School Promotion
As a long-time homeschooler, I had promoted CAP via email and in person many times in the past. This time, however, I passed out and emailed the Open House flyer. As I mentioned earlier, it appears that the immediacy of planned event was a prominent factor in motivating families to come and check out what CAP has to offer.
Open House Event
Our Open House included several hands-on activities, as well as informational presentations. The visitors participated in an ELT-locating exercise, a ride on a hover-craft that our squadron recently built, and drill exercises. The parents loved seeing their children showing interest and having fun.
The Great Start Program
A very significant part of our current recruiting success is the fact that our cadet commander planned the five week Great Start program in conjunction with the Open House, where it was presented to cadets and parents. It appears that the combination of (1) interesting activities at the Open House, (2) information about Civil Air Patrol opportunities, and (3) the promise of cadet promotion in only five weeks combined to spur the students and parents to a quick decision to get involved in our local squadron.
To summarize, the combined effect of on-site school recruiting, Open House event flyers, an educational and fun Open House, and CAP's Great Start program has essentially tripled the size of our cadet corps! We plan to execute the same plan in the spring, and expect that our current cadet airman basics will be leaders for an even larger incoming group at that time.
Stacie Smith, 2d Lt, CAP
Recruiting and Retention Officer
Gregg County Composite Squadron, TX-089