Generating interest in your club is important, whether the club is brand new or has been around for decades. There are several ways your club can raise its awareness from old fashion word of mouth and printed newsletters and flyers to sophisticated marketing techniques using social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And don’t forget events that could attract attention outside the aviation community. Successful clubs typically use a variety of methods.
Word of Mouth
Many flying clubs form among friends who share an interest in flying. From student pilots to airport bums, hanging around your local airport and making connections to the businesses on the field is bound to generate interest. This requires an investment of personal time and is fairly limited in its reach. But if you can generate a buzz about your club at the airport, it will help generate new members.
Airport bulletin board
Create a flyer that will catch someone’s eye with basic information about the club and post it at your airport, as well as surrounding airports.
Develop relationships with the businesses on the field
Whether it is the local FBO, airport owner, maintenance shop, or flight school, we all benefit from a strong general aviation community and developing a relationship can be critical.
The maintenance shop interacts with many pilots and can be a great resource. It may know owners who are thinking about selling their aircraft or are interested in putting their aircraft into a club environment. And if the shop is going to get business from the deal, they’ll probably be happy to help spread the word.
Airport operators or committees, whether they are full time staff or volunteers will probably have the pulse of the airport. They are great resources when looking for new members and present an opportunity to start a ‘Buzz.’ You might ask to present at a meeting or volunteer on a committee so your club is a known member of the community.
FBOs/flight schools can be a touchy subject, but it doesn’t have to be. Flight schools may view a club as competition for business, but it also provides a great source of new members for the club. However, a good relationship is more important for sustainability. A successful flying club will build a positive working relationship with their local flight school.
One option is for a club to only accept members who already have a Sport Pilot Certificate or a Private Pilot Certificate, allowing new students to be trained by the flight school and once they are licensed they can join the club. Club members could be encouraged to participate in a flight school’s ground classes for recurrent training. If the flight school or FBO offers maintenance, fuel, or pilot supplies, the club could use these services. Another option is to have aircraft in the club that the FBO doesn’t offer, such as a taildragger, larger aircraft like a Cherokee Six/Saratoga, or higher end aircraft like a Cirrus.
EAA Chapter, 99’s, or other social groups
Chapters are always looking for speakers and might be an opportunity to present your ideas for starting a club or share what your existing club is all about. It helps to have an instructor from your club or local flight school on hand to speak with perspective students or give inactive pilots who need a gentle nudge to become current again an opportunity to do so.
In today’s day and age if your club doesn’t have a web presence, it doesn’t exist. One of the first things a club should do is create a web page with basic information, including the club’s mission or purpose, aircraft, rates, how to join, location, and contact. Having photos and a visual appealing web site will go a long way in attracting new members. The web site can also be a place to list upcoming events and newsletters
Using Facebook and Twitter are great ways to keep members engaged because they can do it themselves. Nothing generates interest like an interesting tweet or post with photos or an intriguing question. They are easy to set up and provides an outlet to get your club’s name out there without necessarily doing much work. Another option is posting YouTube videos of your flights. It’s amazing how things get passed around on the Internet or through email. Just make sure you identify your club and provide a way for people to get more information.
Newsletters and Press Releases
Traditional outreach methods are still a great way to go, even if delivery methods have changed. A newsletter can share information about the people, aircraft, and events the club is hosting. It can be posted on a web site and emailed out to membership. Press releases to media outlets are a method to reach beyond the aviation community and share what the club is doing. However, a follow-up phone call to the news agency is important to develop that relationship and will help get that story on the local news or in the paper.
Hosting events, whether it is just for pilots, like a plane wash, or for the general public, such as an open house/family day with airplane rides and other activities, are great ways to have some fun and let people experience what your club is all about. Events also provide good material for press releases, as well as newsletters. They could be as simple as a BBQ or Aviation Movie Night at the hangar. Be sure to invite or co-host social events with other airport groups like the FBO, flight school, or other organizations. Events could include guest speakers and safety presentations that are advertised as open to anyone, not just club members.
AOPA Flying Club Finder
AOPA’s Flying Club Finder is a great way to put your club on the map. It allows you to list your club as either a developed club or a ‘club in formation’. Users may search for clubs using a map of the United States or by looking up a particular state. The finder allows existing clubs to list their location, aircraft, rates, buy-ins, and other facts.