You and your cofounder colleagues have worked hard to establish a new club, attract members and purchase an airplane, so “going operational” was a frenzy of flying, meetings and hangar evenings. Even the airplane was squeaky clean. At the start, it was difficult to find free time as everyone wanted to fly the plane, take up friends and family, participate in club business and so on.
Then things started to slow down. Members settled into the routine of their own schedules for flying and other club activities, and perhaps not all members attended the monthly meetings anymore nor participated in the myriad tasks required to operate a flying club.
As we have written about many times before, flying clubs provides much more that “just” affordable access to good aircraft. Of equal significance is the camaraderie and pleasure that comes from sharing the love of aviation with like-minded people.
So, how can we keep it fresh and interesting when the honeymoon comes to an end?
Firstly, embrace the change from an exciting start-up to a more mature flying club—it is going to happen, so go with the flow and plan for it.
Secondly, accept another inevitable—at any one time around 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. To involve all members, ensure that responsibilities (board and officer) rotate on a reasonably regular basis so that the people making up the 20 percent change over time. One way of making this work is to write it in the club bylaws. This has added benefits of a) members become more invested in their club, and b) there is a constant requirement to be training others and passing on (sharing) corporate responsibilities and hence avoid “single points of failure.”
All well and good—but what other tangible things can an operational club do to keep members engaged and for the club to appear as exciting to new members as it was to the founders?
Here are few well-proven ways to keep it interesting. Yes, it will require work and planning, but that’s what the current 20 percent do for the 80 percent:
- Hold monthly meetings. A flying club month is like a dog year— the club matures quickly and a lot happens in a short period of time, all of which needs to be communicated to members. Engagement is the key factor in keeping members active in club business and operations, so work hard to involve them. Keep meetings on topic (agenda) and as short as possible, as people will have made plans for after the meeting. If an item is taking too long, agree to hold a separate and very focused meeting to address it in the near future. This might be a good opportunity to establish a small committee to work the issue and report back to the overall membership at a subsequent club meeting. An example of wording regarding committees can be found in the sample bylaws in the Downloadable Resources section of the AOPA flying club website.
- Make the meeting interesting. In addition to club business, perhaps invite a guest speaker, such as a local A&P, ATC staff, airport management, FBO manager, or have a club member share an interesting trip or aviation experience, etc.
- Always, that is always, have an interesting safety segment at club meetings. Members love it. Insurance companies love it. Don’t be bashful to use whatever information is available from all sources, such as AOPA’s ASI, FAASTeam, etc., and don’t be worried about reusing topics on a regular basis, as constant reinforcement is important in matters of safety.See last month’s Club Connector safety article for more ideas and resources on this topic.
- Hold some outreach events. Not only to promote the club and attract new members, but to also remind yourselves of the responsibilities we all have to the next generation of GA pilots.See the July 2017 edition of Club Connector for some more ideas.
- Occasionally revisit and update your club’s mission statement. Missions will change over time as members ebb and flow, so it is a good practice to get all members together every now and then to ensure that everyone is still on the same page—or if a new page needs to be turned over.It is quite remarkable what people will just accept as normal but are really looking for change.So, just ask them!
- Similarly, review your bylaws and operating rules. From experience, we have found that something needs to be tweaked in the bylaws every 2 years or so. Not doing so usually results in:
- Not catering to the club membership as it exists, today.
- The club accepting to operate outside of the bylaws on some topic or other, which can cause grief if something happens.
- Bylaws are just that – laws of operation.If you don’t enforce all of them, they all may become unenforceable, which is a slippery slope and may cause problems (liability, insurance, etc.) in cases of accident or incident.
- Finally (for now), remind yourselves of some ideas on “how can we get more members, more involved with the club.” We ran articles in August 2017 and September 2017 Club Connector editions on this topic which provide some solid tangible activities for you to consider your clubs.
At the end of the day, complacency and familiarity are the enemies of all relationships, not just in progressive flying clubs, so stay sharp and stay active. In these ways, you’ll also stay interesting.
We’d be pleased to hear about how your club keeps things interesting. Please send an email to [email protected] and Steve or Michael will get back to you so we can share your experience with all AOPA Network clubs. Alternatively, post directly on the AOPA Flying Club Network Facebook page,
As always, fly lots and stay safe.