Recruitment and Retention
2021 Missouri Wing R&R Report
Good bye to 2020 and hopefully Covid-19. Hello to a brighter, healthier 2021!
Recruiting and retention membership took a major hit from Covid-19 in 2020. It may be the largest single year drop in membership on record.
When people cannot meet face to face and socialize, eventually it causes them to lose interest and drop out of CAP. But, as this virus dies out and goes away, and we get vaccinated against it, things will slowly turn around and CAP life as we used to know it will return to the fun times we remember!
So, we need a new plan for when this does happen. We must plan now and implement our R&R strategy when time comes that all Covid restrictions are lifted. Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who fail to plan, are planning on failing”!
My last R&R post talked about the new concept of cohort training. Cohort is a fancy word meaning group. The concept of cohort training came into being because it is easier to train a group of new cadets or adults (notice we don’t call them seniors anymore) versus training individuals. National has found that training in a cohort creates a sense of competition and camaraderie. The initial membership cohort is sort of the cadet boot camp. It also allows the cohort/group to move forward, advance in rank and achievements together. How do we conduct cohort recruiting and training? First you get your squadron leadership together and make a schedule (dates) for recruiting your first and maybe second cohorts for the year. It is suggested that this effectively can be tied to the school year. August is a good month to target schools and homeschoolers. Plan to be part of their “back to school day” programs. Target as many schools as you can in your area. Have an eye-catching booth, balloons/banners/freebees! It has been demonstrated that if you have an activity going on at your booth, chances are that will attract kids. One example is to fly small drones (with permission) above but near your booth so kids will be attracted. When they visit, talk to them, maybe supervise them and let them fly the small drone? Have several cadets and adults manning your booth so that when they come, we engage them in conversation about what their interests are and what we offer that might be a good fit for them at your squadron? Ask them if you can text or email them some information about cap and areas that specifically interest them? This does two things, 1. You have a phone number or email contact 2. It gives them your contact information in the text or email if they want or need additional information, they can contact you. Have some simple replies stored on your tablet/iPad/iPhone to copy and paste to text or email the potential visitor. I would start with a text/email with your contact information and invite them by name to visit your squadron, and give them the times and address of where you meet. Have them ask for you when they visit, and you be their host/mentor at the meeting. Introduce them to your cadet/adult friends and make them feel welcome. At the meeting or formation formally introduce them, and thank them for visiting, and that we hope they will come again to the next meeting. After the meeting, maybe the next day send a follow-up message thanking them for visiting and invite them to come to the next meeting and give the date, place and time. Always leave your contact information should they have questions or need directions. On their second or third visit I would put their information on a list of potential new members who would or could be part of a new cohort initial training group. Once you get the desired number of new recruits that you think you can handle, then set a start date for completing the membership application and processing. When these members are approved by NHQ, and they have been issued a CAP ID number, then you can discuss when is the best time to start indoctrination and training. Now having said that concerning cohort training, some units will elect not to train in cohorts. It might be they do not have enough new members to form a cohort and may prefer to train them individually. Either way is acceptable, but the cohort method is the more efficient method.
Every squadron should have a R&R officer. I suggest the adult R&R officer, pick a worthy cadet to be the assistant and work together as a team if you are in a composite squadron. The R&R officer needs to be someone who is friendly and outgoing, the type that is easy for anyone to talk to. The R&R officer needs to have an extravert rather than introverted personality. By that I mean, being able to proactive and engage people rather than waiting for people to come to them or to their display booth. You must be up on your feet talking to people passing by. Say hello, are you enjoying the back-to-school fair? Or are you enjoying the air show? You have to have an opener comment, capture their attention, then bring the conversation home to why you are there, to recruit people for your squadron!
The R&R officer and assistants need tools to help them. We already talked about how important a back-to-school booth or airshow booth is. It must be eye-catching and attractive! It can have balloons, banners, music, models, drones, flight simulators, real airplane display, candy and freebies. Whatever it takes to attract people to your booth. Once you attract them, then you must engage them with meaningful (recruiting) discussions. If talking to a youth, determine if they are at least 12 years old? Do they live locally? Where do they go to school? What sort of interests do they like? Try to tie their interests into something CAP does and pursue that path toward inviting them to visit your squadron.
Earlier, I suggested gathering their information and sending them some electronic messages via text or email. I like this because it acquires their contact information and secondly it is something that is on their tablet or phone. I have observed visitors at our booth during airshows. We give out a ton of paper brochures and other paper literature and if you watch them long enough, it usually winds up in a trash can. And yes they can and do delete messages from their tablets and phones, but at least you still have their contacts and can send a follow-up message and ask if they are interested or not. If not, delete them off your CAP contacts list.
Remember the “Rule of 100”. For every 100 people you talk to, ten percent or 10 will show some interest, but only 1 or one percent will become a member! Until someone told me that, I was disappointed because I thought at least 50 percent of the people I talked to would join CAP. So you can see why it is important to be proactive and engage lots of people hoping to capture that 1 percent or more.
2021 presents a big challenge to rebuild our membership. We must have good squadron leadership that will choose good recruiters. Squadron leadership should monitor recruiting and retention efforts, and if not getting meaningful results, make some changes in duty assignments. Maybe the person currently in that position, just took it because no one else would, and really has no interest in recruiting or retention. Maybe they would be happier in some other duty position.
One of the squadrons in Group V realized that some of the cadets they recruited could not afford the membership fee or the cost to acquire the uniform and accessories. The commander took the initiative to ask some of the local businesses if they would sponsor one or more cadets in assisting them to pay the membership and initial uniform costs. The commander’s initiative and leadership was a total success and the cadet membership has grown substantially.
R&R tools: Open eServices, click on the menu symbol (looks like a stack of papers) in the top left corner, select reports, then member reports, then click on the “V” in the circle at the top, then again member reports. Click on the pull-down tab and you will see a whole line of reports available to you. Below are the ones on the list I would recommend you use monthly/quarterly/annually to track your squadron membership status.
- Membership statistical report: shows membership trends via graph/charts.
- Membership recruiting report: chose the date parameters you want to look at.
- New CAP membership report
- Membership by duty position report
- Prospective membership report: Leads & contacts from our national website
- NHQ monthly membership statistical reports sent out by Marie Vogt
- How to create a R&R plan: Slide 1 (gocivilairpatrol.com)
- Lots of resources can be found by Googling “Civil Air Patrol, recruiting and retention best practices”.
- Tips for school based recruiting: Tips for School-Based Recruiting | Recruiting and Retention Blog | Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters (gocivilairpatrol.com)
- The Recruiting and Retention Officer and why you need one by Barb Buckner
Let me leave you with this parting thought, that recruiting and retention is not a one-person job, it is every member’s responsibility. An individual squadron recruiter cannot do the job alone, it takes the whole squadron to have a successful recruiting and retention program. CAP rewards members for their recruiting efforts. Be the first to earn your recruiting ribbon, (just make sure the new member puts your name down on their application as being the person who recruited them).
Lt. Col. Chuck Stone
Wing Director of Recruiting and Retention