Great Start Squadron Open House
The Squadron Open House should be part of your yearly planning cycle. It can be helpful to plan for an Open House after an event, like a big airshow at your local airport. This way you can hand out flyers at the squadron booth and people will know to come the next week if they’re interested. You might also look at something like a summer encampment and plan backwards. If your wing’s encampment will be in June, you might look forward three to four months and schedule an Open House for February or March.
Whenever you schedule your Open House, you’ll want to leave yourself at least six weeks to publicize the event, obtain any needed materials, schedule the Orientation Flights for the new cadets, and identify and train the cadet cadre who’ll be leading the Great Start. See the Pre-Planning Checklist in Resources for the full schedule.
Please note that these recommendations are drawn from best practices from the Recruiting and Retention Team. They are tailored to cadet recruiting. Find tips on recruiting seniors, resources, and more in-depth discussions on recruiting at www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com/recruiting. To get people in the door, you’ll need to reach out to the community and let them know who you are and what CAP and your squadron offers.
Recruiting booth. Set up a table at busy local events, such as an airshow, county fair, sports game, or other cultural event. Have cards to pass out with the time and date for the upcoming Open House. In addition to handing out information, get the names, emails, phones of interested parties. An iPad can streamline this information gathering, making it easy to reach out after the event.
Schools. Schools are a great source for reaching out to potential cadets. Current cadets can talk to friends informally, but watch out for opportunities such as career or health fairs at Middle and High schools. The outreach can also be more direct, such as hosting a Red Ribbon Leadership Academy or the ACA Plus squadron classroom adopt program. You can promote the Open House specifically placing posters around the school, making an announcement during home room, setting up an info booth during lunchtime, and/or hosting an short presentation for interested students. See the Letter to Schools in the Resources section for a template on how to start the conversation with a school.
Local paper/radio station. Put an ad in the local paper or radio station publicizing the Open House. Afterward the Great Start concludes, send a news release to your local community newspaper and include the dates for the next Open House. See the sample news release in the Resources section.
Social media. Reach out on the squadron’s social media pages. Post information to local pages, such as city pages, homeschool groups, and other local youth groups. Many suqadrons have had success with creating an event and using paid Facebook advertising to boost the post. For a modest budget of $25-$30 your event can reach a much larger, particularly targeted audience.
Flyers. Create flyers advertising your Open House and post them on local community boards. Ask if you can post your flyer at businesses. Include the information on a QR code so it’s super easy for interested people to capture the information quickly.
Once the big day arrives it’s show time!
Static displays. Interesting static displays can be a great conversation starter. Consider displaying awards the squadron has won, pictures from recent activities, cadet uniforms, color guard equipment, STEM kits, or other items that demonstrate what the squadron is all about.
Refreshments. A table with light refreshments such as bottled water, lemonade and cookies can be a wonderful way to welcome guests and help them feel at home right away.
Greeters. Have designated squadron members act as greeters, welcoming guests at the door. Greeters can help direct guests to areas of interest and connect them with other squadron members to chat.
Squadron slide show. Show your guests what a cadet membership looks like. See Exciting Opportunities lesson plan for more on building your slide show.
Sign-in Sheet. Be sure to have a way to capture your visitor’s contact information so you can track participation and follow up with interested parties.
Open House Schedule:
Exciting Opportunities. 30-45 minutes. Lead by the squadron commander for all participants. Introduce CAP’s Cadet Program to all.
Cadet Membership. 20 minutes. Lead by the squadron commander for all participants. Look more closely at eligibility requirements, costs and time commitments.
Teambuilding: Mine Field. 30 minutes. Lead by cadet cadre for prospective cadets. Concurrent with parent’s introduction. A fun, hands-on activity involving communication and trust.
Parent’s Introduction. 30 minutes. Lead by the squadron commander for parents. Concurrent with Teambuilding: Mine Field activity. Addresses cadet safety and family/squadron communications.
Great Start Overview. 20 minutes. Lead by a Great Start project officer (senior member or cadet officer) for all participants. How will the orientation program work over the next seven weeks?
There’s about 2.5 hours of content, to fit the normal squadron meeting time. But feel free to demonstrate an opening/closing formation, build in a refreshment break or add a tour of the facility or plane. This is your chance to highlight the squadron and why people should join.
After the Open House, be sure to follow up with the guests via email or a phone call during the next week. If someone’s age (under 12) or immediately upcoming schedule won’t allow them to participate in this Great Start cycle, make a note to invite them to future Open Houses/cohorts.