Event Spotlight: And the Winner is…Increasing Engagement Through Awards

Let’s be honest, everyone likes to be recognized for their achievements every now and then, and members of flying clubs are no different. Giving awards to members for a variety of accomplishments can help club morale, increase member engagement, and improve safety. 

Flying clubs are volunteer organizations that depend on the dedication and active participation of the membership to succeed.  Awards and certificates of appreciation are a way to recognize those members who are making contributions to the club and achieving personal milestones, all while having some fun, encouraging more participation and building camaraderie.

A great time to recognize members is at an annual meeting—whether it’s an end of the year party to enjoy each other’s company or a planning meeting to begin the new year. (See the January Club Spotlight).  Another possibility is to award members for their achievements as they happen at monthly meetings, depending on the accomplishment.

And the nominees are…

So, what are some categories of awards that can be given out?  There are personal achievements such as new ratings, endorsements, or check outs in different club aircraft (if your club operates multiple planes).  Those are good to acknowledge at monthly meetings as they occur.

Other categories that can be recognized are more cumulative—things like most hours flown in a year, or most flights flown in a year. If your club has a fleet, you can give awards for most hours or flights for each plane and have an overall club winner as well.  Having these types of awards helps encourage members to fly more often, and that should lead to greater familiarization with the aircraft, greater proficiency and ultimately safer pilots and a safer club.

Other awards that help encourage flying could recognize the member who flew to the most different airports during the year. Consider giving an award to the member who made the longest flight of the year—this can be either the farthest airport or longest flight time or have an award for each.

To help build a safety culture in your club, honor members who attend WINGS safety seminars each year.  This could be a certificate given to anyone who has been to at least one seminar, or between two and 5, or 6 to 10, etc.  Similarly, have an honor roll for attendance at club events, whether it is showing up for the monthly meetings, plane washes, maintenance events like oil changes and inspections, or fly-outs. Whatever your club does, track who is participating and award their commitment to coming out to support the club. 

Consider having an award for overall contribution to the club—it could be the Member of the Year or Volunteer of the Year. Establish some criteria so you have a way to determine winners and so members understand what goes into achieving the recognition.

For longtime members, give certificates or plaques for milestone years of membership, such as five, 10 or 25 years.  These types of awards help create a culture that values stability in membership.  It also gives newer members an idea of who has been around for a while and could be a good mentor for club procedures, or other aviation information.  It helps identify the club elders (regardless of age) who can pass on tribal knowledge to newer pilots.

Besides cumulative-type awards, does your club have an open house or barbeque?  If so, consider having some skills competitions—a spot landing contest is always fun, as is flour bombing, but work with your airport manager!  Perhaps there are other flying skills that you can test and give awards—maybe pull 10 questions from a private pilot exam and see how members do. Get creative and have fun.

Ways of Recognizing Members

There are a few ways to recognize achievement and awards.  The most obvious is the individual award—a trophy or plaque given to members.  For achievements that might be more numerous or more commonly achieved (advanced ratings, check out in a new plane, etc.), a certificate of appreciation may be more appropriate. 

One way to honor award winners publicly and in perpetuity is to have a plaque or a display on the clubhouse wall or hangar.  For instance, if you have a member or volunteer of the year, have a plaque that gets updated each year with the new winner.  It’s a nice way to honor the history and legacy of members over the years, and hopefully inspire future members to serve the club.

If your club recognizes advanced ratings or check outs in various club aircraft, have a white board where you can keep an ongoing list and post photos for the year.  It is a simple and inexpensive way to acknowledge members who are flying and advancing their skills. At the awards dinner, or perhaps at each monthly meeting, you can give certificates of accomplishment with the date of the achievement to those members.

In a similar vein, you can have a scoreboard tracking the most flights and the most hours.  If your club has multiple planes, you can do it for each plane and overall.  If you have competitive members, it just might get them to book another flight or two each month or at the end of the year to make sure they are on top of the leaderboard. More club members flying more improves proficiency and safety, and that’s good for the individual members and the club as a whole.

Wings over Winyah in North Carolina has a map, and each member has a colored pin. Whenever they fly somewhere, they put their pin in the map. They also have a journal in which they write where they flew and a few thoughts—things like “great restaurant,” “cheap fuel,” or maybe “watch for deer on the runway” or “no service after 5pm.” The book becomes a mini-Michelin guide for the club, and years from now a great piece of club history.  Another benefit of visibly tracking where members are flying is to provide other members with ideas on where they may want to fly.  This could create conversations among members about destinations they have been to or where they want to go.  It also makes it easy to see who gets the award for flying the farthest!

Regardless of how a club chooses to recognize its members, the one thing is for certain. It’s a great way to say thank you for the hard work, dedication, and commitment of members who are giving their time to serve the club, or to those who are actively flying. Awards help create a culture of camaraderie, can add a little fun and good-natured competition, and help engage the membership.

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