The Love Air RC Club

 CAP Day is a great way to attract junior members to the club.

How we doubled our club’s membership

By Fred Smith [email protected]

Photos courtesy of the LoveAir RC Club

As seen in the March 2022 issue of Model Aviation.

Afew years ago, our club representatives attended an AMA District IX meeting in Denver that was hosted by District IX Vice President Jim Tiller. A primary point of discussion was how much our clubs were struggling to maintain or increase membership.

At approximately that time, the LoveAir RC Club, located in Weld County in northern Colorado, began a process that, by November 2021, increased our membership from roughly 80 members to a current count of 160. When Model Aviation Executive Editor Jay Smith offered us a chance to share our story in the magazine, we decided to write it.

In 2018, our club was active, hosting three RC events each year, as well as other gatherings. Open flying was available to members whenever the weather was good. We held membership meetings 11 months a year but never had large participation, despite presenting programs of building tips or show-and-tells. There was little other activity to encourage member engagement.

We began reminding ourselves of the importance of being consistently friendly, welcoming, and engaging to our members, guests, and spectators, and assuring them that all kinds of RC aircraft are welcome and encouraged. This was important because we had not been consistent with this in the past.

We established a subgroup, called the Prop Twisters, that is composed of "seasoned" RC pilots. The group meets every week at Drake Field throughout the flying season, from April through October.

The best flying day in the coming week is determined on Sunday evening and the day is announced. In the beginning, we only had six to 10 interested pilots who attended. Now we have 75 members on the distribution list, with an average turnout every week of 20 to 25 pilots, with many more airplanes.

Lunch, consisting of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, and cookies, is served at noon. It is an excellent event that provides social interaction, trading information about airplanes, and lots of flying. The group has developed a camaraderie and traditions during the three years it has been going. The group sets up our big tents for the major events that we host and they serve as instructors for junior pilots and new adult pilots who attend. They interact with spectators who have learned about the gathering via word of mouth, and many of those spectators join the club as a result. They donate cash for the lunches, building a significant cash fund to be used to support our club.

This group creates meaningful interactions with "junior" RC pilots ages 13 to 22. They attract them, instruct them, mentor them, and encourage them. For example, they sponsor an annual Civil Air Patrol (CAP) day in which young members of a local CAP unit come to our field and get to fly an RC model on a buddy box.

During one of the CAP events, a grandpa brought his grandson. We overheard the grandpa say, "Grandson, I think we need to make this a partnership enterprise." They both joined LoveAir RC. The junior members generally participate with support from their parents or grandparents, who also become interested in the club. Several of them have joined.

At the LoveAir RC Club’s Drake Field, the welcome starts with the club sign. At the LoveAir RC Club’s Drake Field, the welcome starts with the club sign.

The Prop Twisters decided to set up a Junior RC Pilot fund to support our young RC fliers. That fund is part of the financial records of the club, and it now pays the club dues for young members. It pays half of the cost for them to get a simulator and pays their entry fee if they sign up for one of our hosted events.

In addition to the fund, the Prop Twisters conduct an annual swap meet, at which they collect significant quantities of used RC airplanes and equipment that are sold for donations to the club and are also made available to our young pilots at little or no cost. This combination of support strategies for our young pilots has attracted 20 junior pilots to our membership.

The Prop Twisters challenged one of our 12-year-old junior members to become an instructor. The young man was given a Sig Kadet kit to build with his dad that was to be used by him as an instructor aircraft. By the way, this is a three-generation flying family, and Grandpa says his grandson is the best flier of the three generations.

We also updated our methods of consistently communicating with our membership. The website was significantly upgraded, including access to our on-site weather station, and we switched to regular email communication with members rather than a periodic newsletter.

Instead of a newsletter editor, we have a communications director, who makes sure members are aware of the weekly flying day and are encouraged to "come on out and fly." It really works.

Whenever someone visits the field to see what we are doing, we get his or her name and put them on the communications contact list and follow up with invitations and encouragements to try a buddy-box flight and join in on the fun.

In addition, we restructured our dues. We have a rate for individual memberships, family memberships, two levels of junior memberships at lower rates, and we also have a long-distance membership at half price if a member lives 70 miles or more from our flying field.

We have a new-to-the-hobby dues rate for people who have never been a member of AMA, and we also have a rate for the months of October through March. If a new member pays dues during that period, his or her membership is good through March 31 of the following membership year. He or she can get up to 17 months of membership for the price of 12. This is a good deal because we are fortunate to have many flyable days in that time period.

Because of the overall increase in activity, another subgroup was formed to focus on members who emphasize building in their hobby interest. It is called the Balsa Bashers. The group identifies a specific building project and invites members to join. At the present time, we have 20 members who are building Quickie 500 kits by Old School Model Works.

This photo is from LoveAir’s 2020 warbird event. Warbirds are great for attracting spectators. This photo is from LoveAir’s 2020 warbird event. Warbirds are great for attracting spectators.

The group has winter meetings to share building tips and techniques and information about how the build is going. This spring, the group will be invited to participate in RC Pylon Racing, and several of them have already finished their airplanes and are practicing on the pylon course at Drake Field.

We have also been diligent about financial planning and careful management so we stay on track. We are fortunate to have a long-term lease on private land with nothing but open land, oil production, and waste management facilities nearby. We maintain an 800 × 60-foot asphalt paved runway, large tents, an on-site weather station, a solar-powered charging station for our many electric fliers, and an alternate electric flying field at our site. Each year, we budget for capital improvement of some kind to serve the needs and interests of the membership.

The combination of our three annual RC flying events, our friendly and engaging attitude, our facilities, our consistent communication, the activities, and supporting programs from the Prop Twisters and Balsa Bashers, has produced this upswing in our membership, including the initiation of a significant cadre of junior members ages 13 to 22, who are enthusiastic, learn quickly, and are lots of fun to work with.

Our membership doubled in approximately three years. We are very pleased with this outcome, and we will be working to keep it going for the future.

SOURCES: LoveAir RC Club

By Fred Smith | [email protected]

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Hats off to your club for the creative and innovative ways you came up with to improve and grow your club. You set a great example for other clubs to follow, INCLUDING OURS!

You want to increase membership but you kept the location "secret". Northern Colorado, Weld County, not much to go on. Good luck with that.

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