Civil Air Patrol

Recruitment and Retention

2020 Wing Recruiting & Retention Plan of Action

Have you heard someone say that “CAP is best kept secret”!  Do you think your local community knows who CAP is, probably not?  Step one is to get the word out to the community, but how do you do that?

  1. Talk to as many civic/community clubs as you can like Rotary, Lions, Friends and Neighbors, organizations.  They are always looking for luncheon or dinner speakers!
  2. Social mediais another good way to spread the word.  You do this by multiplication.  As the local R&R officer my squadron which has 35 cadets and 40 senior members, that totals 75 members.  Probably each of those members has at least 100 or more friends.  So if the local recruiter sends out a well thought out recruiting (short) message that can be forwarded to their friends, that is 7500 R&R messages quickly shared.  Now you ask the members friends to also forward them to their friends, well you get it.  With just one stroke of the enter key you have reached out to thousands!  However, keep in mind the 10% rule of thumb for sales and recruiting: for every 1000 people you pitch/talk too, only 10% will respond.  And of the 100 who do respond, 10 will likely buy or join.  Or put it another way if you engage/talk to 100 people at an airshow, 10 will show some interest, but only 1 will join.  So the more people you can engage, the more likely you will be a successful recruiter.  Remember we are looking for quality members, not just numbers!
  3. Contact local newspapers and radio/TV stations and ask if they will support your public service organization (CAP) by providing some PSA’s (public service announcements).  These are done free of charge as a community service.

People learn from the known to the unknown.  What do I mean?  If you ask a person at an event like an air show if they have ever heard of CAP?  What do you think is the most likely answer would be? Probably no!  That is because in my humble opinion we should stop referring to ourselves as CAP.  Here’s why, what is CAP to a stranger?  Is it a hat or what?  If you tell them it is the Civil Air Patrol, now they know it is not a hat, but some kind of organization or club?  How about we back up and start over, and you “engage” a visitor at an airshow and say are you familiar with the United States Air Force?  Now, what do you think the answer would be?  In the majority of the cases, the answer is yes!  What you have just done is taken something “known” and are about to relate it to something “unknown”.   You continue your conversation, and tell them that the United State Air Force Auxiliary/ CAP or Civil Air Patrol is the all-volunteer part of the USAF and is called the USAF Auxiliary!   So, in your opening remarks you have both educated and informed the visitor as to exactly who CAP is!

Second question I would ask would be, “do you have any interest in aviation or aerospace?  (After all this is an air show event).  If they do, then take the lead and follow up on their interests.  Next question, do you have children or grandchildren ages 12-18?  If so, tell them about the cadet program.  It’s also a good idea to have some cadets with you on recruiting duty at an airshow.  Kids, relate to kids!  If you have an airplane display invite them to sit in the cockpit for a close up look!

Not all people have an interest in aviation or aerospace.  If not, dig a little deeper and see what other interests they have.  I have found that older men have an interest in HAM radio.  If so, pursue what CAP offers in the way of HF/VHF communications.  Mission Radio Operator for ground teams, and Mission Observers for air crews.

Remember the key buzz word used here is “engage”!  You have to make the first move toward a visitor at an airshow for example.  Don’t just sit in the CAP tent behind the table of CAP literature and posters and wait for them to come to you!  Get up, stand out front, and engage visitors as they pass by your booth, if only to say “are you enjoying the airshow today”?  At least you have opened a conversation with them and it may lead to other questions mentioned above.  We must be proactive!

Does your unit have an R&R officer?  If not, why not?  Could be like Barbara Buckner said above, the commander feels he has more important duty positions to fill?  If so, this has to change!  The R&R officer is just as important as other duty assignments.  So my first challenge to all units and groups is to appoint an R&R officer and assign that duty in eServices with an assist recruiter who could be a cadet, so that the Wing R&R director will know who to contact concerning R&R updates from region and national.

As your Wing R&R officer I get R&R statistical information from the region/wing monthly and I need to be able to share that information with all groups and squadrons.  I will send the information to squadrons without an R&R officer to the squadron commander.  Those units that have an R&R officer, I will send the information to both the commander and directly to the R&R officer.  So, I need commanders (squadrons & groups) to keep your duty assignments current in eServices.

We have recently started a new calendar and fiscal year at CAP.  Good news coming down from Marie Vogt the NHQ director of R&R is that CAP nationally has grown about 6% per year under the leadership of General Mark Smith our national commander.  The Missouri Wing has surpassed the 1000 member mark in the past few months.  We are doing well, but we can do better!

There are lots of resources available online and I will list some of the links to resources at the end of this message.  One of the things I have noticed at events like air shows is the CAP literature usually winds up in a nearby trash can.  A new method I am experimenting with is going digital.  Almost everyone has a smartphone and you can accomplish two things in one (phone number and email) by first asking if you can send them some digital information about whatever it is that interest them about CAP.  You can be specific; if it’s the cadet program then send them digital (links) information about the cadet programs.  If they are interested in being part of the CAP aircrew or CAP pilot send them information about how to become a pilot or air crew member.  If they interested in ground teams or com’s send them information about those specialties.

An effective recruiting program is just the beginning. There are many highly successful ways to bring new members into the program. Bringing that “newbie” on board may be the result of a one-time event. Keeping him or her, however, will require the recurring efforts of your entire staff. A well-structured retention plan executed with professional leadership will guarantee strong retention results of your most qualified members.

A program called cohort/group/boot camp recruiting is making a comeback verses recruiting one member at a time.  The main advantage to this concept is the unit holds limited open house/recruiting events 2-3 times a year and starts all those recruited in cohort or groups at one time.  For example, cadets all join/start and progress as a unit/group and making training much more efficient and far less hours invested by cadet staff versus individual training one on one.

One last thing in closing, this year the Boeing Company is underwriting a program that will allow all youth 18 years and below to attend the 2020 EAA Air Adventure free!  I encourage you to take your cadets to this once in a lifetime event, “the world’s largest airshow”!  There will be thousands of youth/seniors at this air show and it is a recruiting opportunity we do not want to miss.  When these kids seniors see our squared away cadets looking sharp in their CAP uniforms they will want to know more about this organization, and we can gladly tell them about the opportunities we offer cadets and seniors!

For More Information There are several resources written on recruiting and retention. The CAP Public Affairs office provides several items available to members on the web. The Great Start guides for both Senior Members and Cadets have many useful tips. When researching reading material, it is recommended that you concentrate on publications that focus on volunteer organizations. While there are several overlapping concepts with non-volunteer programs, the motivations, techniques and implementations are typically quite different than for an all-volunteer force.

Respectfully submitted,

Lt. Col. Chuck Stone

Wing Mission Pilot, Instructor Pilot, Check Pilot, Examiner

Wing Director of Recruiting and Retention


March 2018 Update

Please review the documents attached below.

CAP-MOWG 101 Script, Feb 2018 (DOCx)
CAP-MOWG 101.1 PPT, Feb 2018 (PPTx)
How to Create a Recruiting Plan – Abstract (PDF)
How to Create a Recruiting Plan – NHQ Pub (PDF)
MOWG CAPabilities Flier, Feb 2018 (DOCx)
Planning an Open House (PDF)


National Recruitment and Retention Resources

Recruiting Materials
R&R Blog
R&R Facebook

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