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Measuring Up: Determine Your Population Penetration

Posted on April 19, 2016 at 12:00 AM by Darin Ninness

Units ask all the time "How are we doing? How can we do better? How do I know if I'm doing all right?" 

Here is a "quick and dirty" way to measure your unit's recruiting success against a yardstick and figure out if you're coming up short or knocking it out of the park.

This answers the question "How can I figure out if my unit is doing OK at reaching my target audience: the people in my "recruiting area"?"

(Throughout this exercise, I'll use real world numbers from my unit, the Concord Composite Squadron, to give you a real example of how this works)

First, figure out the population of your "recruiting area."   In our case, we recruit from the City of Concord New Hampshire (about 42,000 people), but really, we draw from from the entirety of Merrimack County (about 147,000 people).   You can get your 2010 census numbers, or 2015 estimated numbers, easily enough on Wikipedia or from the census bureau,  

Determine your "effective" recruiting area. If there are two units in your county, don't take the whole county's population.  Figure it out by town, or even zip code, if you have to.  

In our case, like I said, we recruit from most of Merrimack County, New Hampshire, not just the city of Concord.  We do have a few people from outside the county in the unit, and there are some distant corners of the county that are literally 40+ minutes from the unit's meeting location and we have no members from that area, so it all works out in the wash.

Second, divide your current membership numbers into the recruiting area population.  We have 122 cadets and seniors today, divided into 147,171


Our population penetration in our recruiting area is about 1 CAP member for every 1,250 people. (the column PPSM is just "population per square mile".. I tracked that but haven't done anything with it yet. Anybody any good at this kind of thing want to chime in?)

Thats a pretty good number.  Why do I say that?

The population of the State of New Hampshire is about 1.3 million people.   My wing has 567 members. That works out to 1 member for every 2,420 people. We're doing approximately twice as good as the wing as a whole.

Nationally, we have a little over 56,300 members against a nationwide population of almost 319 million people. Around 1 member for every 5,660 people.  So we're doing about 4 1/2 times better than the "national average".

Now, before you email me and say "NIN, that's not how it works!" I'll tell you right now that yes, this is probably the functional equivalent of scratching numbers on the back of an envelope. I'm not a demographics scientist by any stretch of anybody's imagination.

This doesn't take into account varying population densities across states and regions, the sheer size and expanse of the Western states or Alaska, my state's total square miles, things like commuting distances, terrain, economics, the cost of gas, or any of a zillion other factors.  As the areas get bigger, the numbers skew in funny ways.  This is entirely true. Remember, this is intended as a "ballpark number."  It is just a way to put a stake down and say "OK, here we are today with just one set of numbers. Where do we go from here?" and later look and say "Where were we, and where have we gone?" 

Just because I said earlier that we're doing "4 1/2 times better than the national average" or "twice as good as the wing average" doesn't mean that everybody else is doing poorly. Do I look at these numbers in this way all the time? No.  I look at our numbers a couple times a year as a "how goes it" against our prior numbers only.  Are we getting better or worse in our recruiting area?

Because I'm the wing recruiting director, too, I can see how other units in my wing are doing.  By way of example, some are doing slightly better (1/1010 in their county) or somewhat worse (1/3850 and 1/4300 for example) in their particular area.  For strictly the unit's purposes, I only compare our ongoing efforts in our own recruiting area, I don't look at the other units or even the wing. I know that 6 months ago, we were 1/1325, so I can see that we are gradually improving our "population penetration" on our recruiting area.  This tells me that our recruiting efforts are bearing fruit inside our area. 

Like I said before, this is just a line in the sand sort of "where am I, how do I stack up?" kind of thing.  Its not intended as a completely legitimate demographic effectiveness analysis. Maybe at some point, some day, with some great GIS data and oodles of time, I can really do some different analysis both for my unit and the wing.  But until then, well, at least I can see where we are against a pretty general yardstick and whether we're improving or not.

Let me know what you think.

In our next installment, we'll talk about how you can use retention averages to estimate your expected loss and bake those numbers into your annual recruiting plans.

- Lt Col Ninness
National Recruiting & Retention Manager



Categories: Management

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