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Can people find your unit?

Posted on 04/24/2015 at 12:00 AM by Darin Ninness

 Recently, I had some time to visit another unit in my capacity as the Wing Recruiting & Retention Officer. I set about to contact the commanders of two different nearby units to clear a visit to their meeting.
 

Knowing some generalized info about these units (they were meeting today, what town they met in) and who the commanders were, I decided to Google the unit names to get the unit’s current meeting location and maybe a contact email or phone number for the commander, just like a non-member interested in Civil Air Patrol might.

 

In one case, I emailed the wrong commander.  There had been a change of command not too far back, but it was not reflected on their website. I knew the previous commander’s email and sent one off, only to find out I was wrong. Partly my fault here, but reinforced by inaccurate info on the web page.

 

I never did find a way to email or call someone from that unit’s website, and the website did not list anything about the day, time or location of their unit meeting in an obvious way. I later found the meeting time and day on an info page buried deep in the website. Never did find the meeting location on the website.

 

In the case of the other unit, I found their meeting location and time, and I emailed the commander. I never received a reply back. At all.

 

I went home and watched something on TV that night.  But this whole episode got me to thinking: If a guy who knows what to look for can’t find information on your website, what luck will a prospective member have?

 

Bringing prospective members inside what I call the “maximum effective range of recruiting” (1-2 meters.. basically arm’s length face-to-face talking distance) should be a major focus of any CAP unit website.

 

But you can have a fantastic website, great graphics and the latest and greatest layout, but if nobody is responding to basic inquiries about membership in a timely fashion, we're really all just wasting our time here.

 

National Headquarters gets between 150 and 200 emails a year from recruiting prospects who either cannot find information about a local unit because the information is incorrect or out of date in eServices (and thus in the unit locator), they cannot find a website or Facebook or similar contact page, or they did try to contact the local unit and never got any kind of a response.

 

Right there is a major failure in the recruiting pipeline if people are trying to get in touch with you and you're not responding.

 

Unit Commanders, PAOs & RROs

  • Periodically check your website out. Look at it from the standpoint of a person who knows nothing about Civil Air Patrol. Is the information written clearly for a layperson to understand?  Too much jargon or acronyms? Keep it simple and straightforward, and provide avenues to get them in contact with a live person (phone, email, etc) to find out more.
  • Make sure your unit contact information is correct in the Unit Locator found on GoCivilAirPatrol.com. The information found there is usually gleaned from the CAPF 27 submitted when a unit changes command, location, meeting nights, etc. Make sure it is accurate! 
  • Unit Commanders can also make minor changes (location, meeting nights, point of contact, contact info) through his or her eServices account, and the unit locator allows the commander to name a point of contact. If no contact is identified, the default name is ... you guessed it: the unit commander!  
  • If you are an RRO in your unit, you should be the point of contact. Make sure this information is accurate! 

Wing & Group Recruiting and Retention Officers:

  • Spot check your subordinate unit’s information for accurate meeting locations and contact info.  Is the information provided on a unit’s CAPF 27 correct and accurate?
  • When you see a unit not growing, or a unit says “We can’t seem to generate interest,” Google that unit’s name and town. Maybe their website “went under?” Maybe their website isn’t very helpful? Do they even have a website? Is it obvious from the website where they meet? What times? What days?  Is there a contact phone number or email on the website? If someone emails or uses a web form, will it actually get to someone?
 
Bottom line is that people use the Internet to look up the most mundane facts, order a pizza and pay their phone bill.  And they will also use it to look for things to do or organizations to join in their local area or organizations to join.
 
When they do, can they find you?  Can they get in touch with you?

If they can’t, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
 
Lt Col Darin Ninness, CAP
National Recruiting & Retention Manager
dninness@cap.gov

Categories: Management

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