Running a flying club takes a lot of work. Just ask anyone who has held a leadership position or served on a club board. We’ve all heard the old cliché that many hands make light work, so how can clubs encourage more members to get hands on and help in the operations and running of the club?
Wings Over Waxhaw in North Carolina created a program where members can earn a discount on the hourly rate if they volunteer (See this month’s Club Spotlight). What makes the program interesting is the variety of activities and events that members can participate in to earn credit. Some of the events are fairly common activities, while others are more creative.
Let’s start with the bread and butter of flying club activities—the plane wash. Most clubs hold a plane wash at least a couple of times a year. It’s a great group activity that encourages camaraderie, it’s family friendly, and you don’t need any specialized skills to participate. This means just about anyone can earn volunteer hours.
Many clubs do routine preventative maintenance on their aircraft. This could be a good opportunity for members to work with an A&P to learn more about the technical and mechanical side of the aircraft, as well as a way to keep maintenance costs down. Offering a credit on the hourly rate a member is charged is certainly going to be less expensive than paying a mechanic their hourly rate for activities such as oil changes, removing/replacing inspection panels during the annual, and so on.
Another staple of flying clubs is the summer barbeque or pancake breakfast. Some clubs grill after each monthly meeting and there are plenty of ways someone can contribute to earn volunteer hours—whether its shopping for the food and drinks, setting up, cooking, serving, or cleaning up and breaking things down. Again, it’s a great activity to encourage participation and camaraderie and a fun way to earn some hours.
Events like routine maintenance, plane washes, and barbeques can be scheduled so members know in advance and can plan accordingly. Besides those common club activities, Wings Over Waxhaw decided to dig a little deeper. They recognize members who take on regular duties that benefit the club as a whole.
Some are individual tasks rather than group activities. Some are ongoing assignments, while others may be one time only events. For example, they have a member who updates the GPS database and inspects the fire extinguisher on a regular basis. Another maintains the web site. These members are consistently adding value to the club and their service is recognized.
On the other end of the spectrum there are some one-time projects that might arise that a member can help with. Wings Over Waxhaw had a member earn volunteer hours for selling avionics equipment on eBay that the club no longer needed! Another time, the club bought some parts that didn’t fit, so a member sent them back, got the right parts. His efforts earned him got volunteer credit for taking a menial task off of someone else’s plate.
Clubs can also tap into their members’ expertise by having someone give a presentation at the monthly meeting. It’s a way to share knowledge to benefit everyone in the club and allow a member to earn credit. One of the Wings over Waxhaw CFIs recently gave a refresher on how to calculate density altitude and why it’s important. “We try to add educational aspects to the membership meetings, not just the mundane report from the treasurer,” Club President Rachael Stoner said.
The club also encourage members to participate in FAA Wings seminars and if they make a short presentation about what they learned at a club meeting, they can earn an hour and a half of volunteer time. If public speaking isn’t something your members are comfortable with, that’s ok. At Wings Over Waxhaw, if you bring food for the group to a meeting, you can earn credit too.
One of the best things about flying clubs is that members have a wealth of skills, knowledge, and interests that can benefit everyone, and there’s always something that needs to be done. Be creative and find ways to engage, and reward, your members for serving the club. It will help build camaraderie among club members and make quick work of the many tasks required to operate a successful club.
For more ideas on how flying clubs can strive for more engagement and participation from members, see this month’s Question of the Month: How Can We Get Members More Engaged in Our Flying Club?