Does your unit recruit new members for “fit,” or do you just take anybody off the street, regardless of qualifications?
Look at it another way:
Do you buy your clothes based on how they look, or how they fit?
Would you buy a great looking designer suit that was two sizes too small? No?
Good. Neither would I.
So why do we keep recruiting people into Civil Air Patrol who aren’t a good “fit” for the organization?
Units that are short staffed and hurting for people sometimes only see a potential new member as “yet another warm body” with the short-term gain of “yet another name on the roster.” Instead of seeking out a person who possesses specific qualifications, skills or capabilities, some units take anybody who can fog a mirror, sign on the dotted line and fork over a membership dues check.
When a unit is struggling with membership, and especially when it is short staffed and lacking a lot of dedicated training resources, it is even more important to bring in the right people by examining the new member’s fit. What this person can bring to the table, and what return on the investment of training time they will contribute back to the unit after initial training and in subsequent years and beyond.
So what are some strategies to recruit for fit?
First - During the recruiting process understand what your unit needs. A PAO? Pilots? A photographer? Cadet Programs officers? An IT officer?
The commander, deputy commanders, personnel officer, professional development officer and RROs should work together to identify the specific needs within the unit and then building the message “We’re looking for people to do these things..” during presentations, open houses, etc.
Second - Understand what the prospective member wants to do in Civil Air Patrol. A prospective member may be an IT professional in her day job, but she may be totally uninterested in doing that for another 4-5 hrs a week on Tuedsay nights and weekends. (I'm an IT guy in my day job. I don't want to do that after 5pm on a Thursday.. Nope!)
Or, maybe thats EXACTLY what she wants to do? But you don’t know until you talk to her and find out!
Third - Take a solid look at the prospective member’s capabilities (skills, education, background, available time, etc). Take the time to understand what they bring to the organization and how it relates to what they want to do. Maybe your prospective member was an instructor at MTI School at Lackland (and he really wants to work with cadets). Or she’s a part time photojournalist and wants to document the unit’s events and has the camera equipment to do so.
Finally - Look for the overall fit between their capabilities, what they want to do, and what the unit needs.
Maybe the fellow who is dyslexic is not the best choice for Finance Officer. Call me crazy, but the young lady with 20/400 corrected vision and a propensity toward airsickness might not make a really effective aircrew scanner (but maybe she’s got a voice like butter and would make a fantastic radio operator!).
In case you’re not aware, this is what the Unit Membership Board should be doing when a prospective member applies and they meet with him or her. Talk to that prospective member, see what they have to contribute to the organization, and how they fit within the dynamics and needs of the unit. (See CAPM 39-2, para 1-5, and CAPP 52-26, the CAP First Talk Guide, for more information on that)
Some questions to ask of a prospective member:
What do you expect to get out of your first year in Civil Air Patrol?
What do you expect to get out of your second year in Civil Air Patrol?
What kind of time to do you have to devote to CAP? Can you be here once a week? Twice a month? Three times a quarter? Once in a blue moon?
(there are undoubtedly more questions to explore with a prospective member, but these are examples of the kinds of "longer term contribution" things you want to be looking at)
The unit should not be afraid to tell someone “You know, maybe you’re not a good fit for our organization because of your schedule” or “Why not come back next year after you’re done with grad school and have more time to contribute?”
Because if you recruit a person who quits before they’re in CAP a year, now you have to go and recruit another 2 people (one replacement, and another for growth!) and repeat the whole investment of training again.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a little bit lazy and don’t like to repeat things over and over, like Level I training, without some payoff. I want to know that the 3-4 months of training and mentoring we are investing in a new member is going to pay off 8-12 months down the road when they can contribute to the unit in a meaningful way, and for years to come. And when your unit is short of resources, this is doubly important!
Lt Col Darin Ninness, CAP
National Recruiting & Retention Manager