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Recruitment and Retention

The Recruiting & Retention Officer: Why Your Staff Needs One

(Re-printed from CAP National archives. This article was written by Barbara Buckner when she was the National Retention and Recruiting officer a few years ago, but her remarks are still relevant today!)

Everyone will agree: Our membership numbers have declined, for many reasons, and we need to recruit new members and focus on how to retain the ones we do have…the ones we have invested time and training in.  But, how do we go about doing that?

When I have asked Commanders why they don’t have a Recruiting & Retention Officer on staff – be it at the Region, Wing or Unit level – the response seems to be the same: “I have other positions that I need to focus on staffing first.”  Sound familiar?  What this tells me: They don’t see or understand the benefit of having a Recruiting & Retention Officer on their staff…to them, it is just another position.

Everyone recruits for CAP – whether they intentionally set out to do so or not.  When you wear the uniform, when you post a comment or a picture to social media about your involvement in CAP activities, when you just talk to friends/family/coworkers about why you joined and what you are doing…you are recruiting.  This is how we have gained the most members in our organization through the years – the “word of mouth” technique – so having someone dedicated to the role hasn’t seemed like a priority in the past. So, let’s breakdown what a Recruiting & Retention Officer (“RRO”) really is at each level of the organization so you can see why they actually play a vital role:

Unit Level

The RRO is the most hands-on at this level but has probably been more focused at recruiting than retention.  This is the staff member that plans and conducts the Open Houses, talks to the prospective members about joining, and makes phone calls to those members that haven’t been showing up for a couple of weeks.  Seems simple enough so why dedicate a full-time staff member to the position?

The Unit RRO should also be working hand-in-hand with the PAO – Public Affairs Officer (to help promote the Unit for recruiting efforts) and the CPO – Cadet Programs Officer and PDO – Professional Development Officer (to focus on retention ideas/problems).

The Public Affairs Officer will already be sending out press releases and posting about activities the Unit is conducting, but they can also assist the RRO by getting the word out to the community about Open Houses.  They can design marketing materials that highlight the Unit’s accomplishments and goals…the reasons why a new member will want to join YOUR unit and not just CAP.

The Cadets Programs Officer and Professional Development Officer will already be working on schedules and activities to keep the Unit’s Cadets and/or Senior members trained and active, but the RRO’s role is to keep them informed of the feedback from members as to what training or activities they would like to see and what frustrations they may have that cause them to stop attending meetings/activities.

For Commanders who need to fill Staff positions, this is where your RRO comes into play!

When RROs talk to current and prospective members, they uncover talents/skill sets that the member already has and how they could use them to help your Unit.  A mistake that occurs too often: Some members do not want to do the same job in CAP that they do as their day job…and this is where members will lose interest in CAP as time goes on.  If the Commander asks them to take on the role, they may feel obligated.  If the RRO asks them, you have a better chance of finding someone who both wants and can do the role.

Group/Wing/Region Levels

The RRO at these levels should be focused more on assisting and training the Unit RROs than actually participating in hands-on recruiting and retention.  Once the Commander at each particular level has decided who they want to target for recruiting and what goals they have regarding retention, the RRO should then be tasked with helping make those objectives happen.

1) Re-communicate the Group/Wing/Region Commanders goals’ for recruiting and retention to the Unit RROs.  The Unit Commanders already will have but the RRO is a support staff position so we need to “support” each other at every level…and that starts with getting communication lines open between each other.

2) Host “Recruiting & Retention” training classes for Unit RROs where ideas and best practices can be shared.  This shouldn’t wait until a Wing Conference to accomplish.  With technology today, this can even be done via online forums if distance between Units is an issue…but always start with asking the Unit RROs what kind of help they would like to receive.  This will give you a better idea of where to start your focus.

3) Monitor each level’s New Member report.  See where the trend is in recruiting for your area to help streamline the process or uncover missed opportunities to address.  Do the Units need help?  Are there organizations we aren’t contacting that we should?  Who is having success in recruiting and what Units need some extra help before they lose their charter status?

4) Work with the Safety Officer and Professional Development Officer to uncover those members that aren’t progressing or participating.  They will be able to tell you from their monthly reports.  Check with the Unit RROs to see if they have contacted the members and what feedback they received before the members hits the “point of no return” and does not want to come back.

5) Work with the Public Affairs Officer to get out pictures and information regarding successful recruiting events.  This is less about publicity from the RRO perspective and more about sharing ideas for other Units to see that may not know where to start.

6) Help Command fill their staff positions!  The primary job of any Recruiter is to help find the right person for a position.  Take this issue off of the Commander’s plate and help him/her fill staff roles.  Open dialogues, make suggestions to the Commander and follow-up to offer positions when the match has been made.

The only way to successfully turn around Recruiting and Retention is to make it a focus…and that starts with putting someone in place to help make that happen.

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.

*Link to Cohort Recruiting: https://www.gocivilairpatrol.com/members/cap-national-hq/recruiting-and-retention/2018/06/25/cohort-recruiting—a-blue-print-for-retention

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.

  1. Membership statistical report: shows membership trends via graph/charts.
  2. Membership recruiting report:  chose the date parameters you want to look at.
  3. New CAP membership report
  4. Membership by duty position report
  5. Prospective membership report: Leads & contacts from our national website
  6. NHQ monthly membership statistical reports sent out by Marie Vogt
  7. How to create a R&R plan:    Slide 1 (gocivilairpatrol.com)
  8. Lots of resources can be found by Googling “Civil Air Patrol, recruiting and retention best practices”.
  9. Tips for school based recruiting: Tips for School-Based Recruiting | Recruiting and Retention Blog | Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters (gocivilairpatrol.com)
  10. 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).

Semper fi,

Lt. Col. Chuck Stone

Wing Director of Recruiting and Retention

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