The Civil Air Patrol was founded at a time of national crisis, mobilizing civilian volunteers to defend the nation as in no time since the American Revolution. CAP today flies the world’s largest fleet of modern Cessna aircraft that is desirable for search operations.
During Pearl Harbor, an estimated 40,000 male and female pilots volunteered their time and aircraft to defend the United States, reporting possible enemy submarines in the area and rescuing survivors from the water, resulting in Civil Air Patrol pilots being the first in the country to receive Air Medals for their service. CAP has changed dramatically from the days of WWII. It is now the non-profit auxiliary of the United States Air Force, flying more than 85 percent of all federal inland search-and-rescue missions, saving nearly 100 people each year.
Today, CAP members are usually the first on the scene after natural disasters have struck, responsible for transmitting digital images of the damage within seconds around the world. This is possible because CAP members are all volunteers and don’t get paid for what they do, making them much cheaper than their military and law enforcement counterparts who are often busy with other tasks. Members provide disaster relief and emergency services during all types of phenomena, including 9/11; Hurricane Katrina; Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado Wildfires; tornados; flooding; and even the 2006 earthquake in Hawaii.
The non-profit even performs humanitarian missions along the U. S. and Mexican border. THE PROBLEM Even though CAP is older than the Air Force, it unfortunately continues to be America’s best kept secret. Regardless of its origins, a non-profit flourishes only when the founders and their stakeholders are confident in the value of their unique, compelling purpose. What makes CAP different from similar organizations, such as Boy Scouts or Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), is aviation. That is why CAP was originally created and what continues to drive the organization today.
Civil Air Patrol saves the United States government money because it is comprised of all volunteers. CAP pilots do not get paid to fly reconnaissance missions or search for downed aircraft. Members don’t get paid to fill sand bags or assist with clean up after natural disasters. They also don’t get paid to provide color guard presentations or to teach youth about aviation, science, technology, engineering and math; nor to send youth to other countries (Australia, Germany, Belgium, Israel and New Zealand just to name a few) as ambassadors of both CAP and America around the world as part of the International Air Cadet Exchange (IACE) program.
The Murfreesboro Composite Squadron is just one of the many squadrons across the United States that may not be around in the next decade due to lack of membership and funding. Declining Membership Over the last several years, CAP has experienced a decline in membership and could very well cease to exist within the next decade. This is partly due to the ongoing Department of Defense budget cuts; however, recruiting and retention is a continuous problem. Funding Another major issue is lack of funding for advertising. In 2010, about $90,000 was spent on advertising nationally.
This number dropped significantly in 2011 to only $42,000. CAP receives more than $100 million from government grants, fundraising, membership dues and other contributions annually. Most funding is spent on aircraft, vehicle, and facility maintenance, as well as cadet activities and scholarships. What little does go to advertising is spread across various functions nationally. Nothing is allocated specifically to each unit for use in their local community. Local Affects The thousands of Squadrons spread around the country are not exempt from these problems.
Often, units in close proximity do not work cohesively, but only to benefit their own unit. Additionally, many local JROTC groups and Boy/Girl Scout groups work against CAP, and encourage members not to participate in the volunteer organization. Civil Air Patrol units need to better relationships with these semi-parallel organizations in their local areas. The Tennessee-based Murfreesboro Composite Squadron is developing a public information campaign that will raise awareness for the organization; which will bring new members and increase overall funding for the Squadron.
The campaign will be pushed locally, and depending on the outcome, may be used as a guide for other units in the future. The best time to develop connections with the people an organization needs to influence is before it needs them; therefore, potential allies for the Murfreesboro unit are local schools (including home school organizations), local JROTC units, Murfreesboro Aviation, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro Boys and Girls Club, and the Murfreesboro VA Hospital. Lack of unit members able to visit these allies due to personal scheduling conflicts will be an obstacle for the success of the campaign.
Another obstacle is the lack of awareness of CAP in general, because people prefer organizations in which they are already familiar. If the Murfreesboro Composite Squadron falls below 15 members, the unit will be closed and all remaining members have the option to transfer to another unit or quit Civil Air Patrol altogether. Having a unit locally plays a big role in membership, as many of the cadet members are not old enough to drive or are not willing to drive outside of their city. Recruiting and retention continues to be the main focal point and the biggest crisis that the organization is facing nationwide.
The Murfreesboro Squadron has lost a significant amount of members and needs to act quickly to get new members or bring back old members in order to remain in business. THE MISSION The Murfreesboro Composite Squadron of Civil Air Patrol must start locally with an awareness campaign to recruit new members, which will eventually lead to an increase in funding for the Squadron. In order to accomplish this, the unit will reach out to local media outlets and other local organizations that primarily accommodate the same age audience.
This campaign will focus on gaining more cadet members than senior members because, while often times parents join with their children, cadet members are more encouraging of their friends to join with them, therefore resulting in more new members from reaching out to those who are cadet age rather than senior member age. The current Civil Air Patrol story is rich in historic details, but leaves a lot to be desired in the realm of why the organization still exists today. Most of the United States population has never heard of Civil Air Patrol and the organization is usually only promoted by word of mouth.
Each squadron is responsible for its own promotion and advertising with no funding with which to do so. Many squadrons also compete for membership with similar organizations, such as Boy Scouts and high school JROTC programs. If this continues, the Murfreesboro Squadron and CAP may soon cease to exist. KEY ROLES Hero The hero is the classic protagonist of the story with whom stakeholders associate most. This role embodies the most ambitious values, putting higher duty and the welfare of others before itself. The Murfreesboro Composite Squadron as a whole takes on this role.
It is comprised of 21 senior members (adults) and 21 cadets (youth) at this time. Membership turnover is always a huge problem for many units across the country. At the Murfreesboro Squadron, many new faces have come and gone over the years, resulting in the unit not changing much, even with the implementation of two Cadet Great Start programs (one each for the last two years) that recruited a handful of new members each time. Mentors The mentor helps the hero in some way, furnishing them with important skills and advice.
Two mentors have been identified to help the hero not only promote CAP in general, but also to recruit new members to the unit. Foremost is First Lieutenant Diane Edmondson, a senior member with the Squadron who is also a marketing professor at Middle Tennessee State University. Her son is also a cadet at the squadron. Also, Captain Robin Olsen, who started out as a cadet in an Oklahoma squadron in 1998. After moving to Tennessee, she joined the Murfreesboro unit as the Public Affairs Officer. She currently serves as a Public Affairs Specialist with the Tennessee National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.
Together, they can furnish the unit with important skills and advice to help the Squadron reach its goals. Shadows The shadow typically provides the tension and anxiety. The Shadow is often opposes the hero and is typically the main antagonist. They may also be people who provide obstacles along the way. The shadows are primarily the local JROTC units, as they provide the most tension, encouraging their members not to participate in CAP. However, JROTC also provides the most opportunity for new cadet members.
When I was a cadet, more than half of our squadron was JROTC cadets from the local high school. In fact, I was one of them. Murfreesboro has an untapped advantage in the fact that there are two high schools with JROTC units in the city. There is great potential for making these shadows into allies. The Squadron will have to overcome the opposition and determine ways they can work together without conflict. Herald The Herald announces important events verbally, telling us what we do not realize or emphasizing the importance of an event.
In particular, the herald provides the information that triggers the hero into original action. The herald need not be a professional announcer nor even a person – a message on a scrap of paper or a radio broadcast can serve equally to trigger change. Major Gary Stanley, the Squadron’s commander, fits the role of Herald for this campaign. Stanley retired from the Army National Guard as a senior enlisted member and has many great leadership qualities. As commander, he is usually the first person to know about upcoming events and changes.
He is responsible for all of the major announcements to the unit, which trigger the Murfreesboro Composite Squadron into action. Together, these “characters” will establish promotional methods for other units to follow that will promote CAP around the country, keeping the organization both an invaluable resource and opportunity for youth. GOALCreate a sustainable Squadron for Civil Air Patrol. This will be accomplished by increasing awareness of the Murfreesboro Squadron, recruiting new members and retaining current members, and increasing Squadron funding. | AUDIENCES
There are several audiences to be reached that will help increase awareness of Civil Air Patrol, more specifically, the Murfreesboro Composite Squadron; the most vital of these being potential members. Additionally, organizations that can donate to the unit to help support it financially are also important. While the Squadron is mostly looking to recruit cadet members, parents are the primary target audience that needs to be reached, as they are most likely going to be bringing their children to the weekly CAP meetings and other functions that CAP has to offer.
Reaching parents is best accomplished through a variety of methods, including: * newspaper feature stories * the unit website * face-to-face meetings with home school groups * radio stations * unit Facebook page Next, the unit will need to reach out directly to the audience in the 12 to 18 age group that they would like to recruit. This includes many of the same methods that reach parents: * unit website * radio stations * unit Facebook page * face-to-face meetings with home school groups But, also consists of these methods: * face-to-face meetings with JROTC units * YouTube videos school presentations * word of mouth from current cadet members to their friends The tertiary audience to raise awareness for the Squadron is also a tool that will be used to for the same purpose – the local media, and other local youth-centric organizations. The Murfreesboro Squadron’s established goal and the following objectives can combat the problems the unit is facing. OBJECTIVES * Increase cadet membership by 10 percent annually over the next three years. * Retain 75 percent of new members after their first year of membership and 50 percent longer than two years of membership. Double the Squadron budget annually over the next two years. Some methods of doing this will be to build connections to increase awareness of the organization, offer services throughout the local community, increase advertising, take advantage of free PSAs for non-profits, and have more activities for current cadet members. Members can volunteer their time to wash planes at the airport where they meet, personally visit allies and talk about CAP and its services, conduct an open house, and find out what cadet members are interested in doing as a unit as well as why they are leaving.
In the past, local air shows have provided a large portion of the Squadron’s funding from selling air show programs for a percentage of the profit. Due to Department of Defense budget cuts, many air shows have been cancelled, eliminating this key opportunity. Increased funding can be accomplished through partnerships with local community leaders, conducting plane washes and open house events for donations, and sending letters to large companies in the local area that frequently donate to non-profits, and visiting local businesses in person to raise awareness about the organization and provide sponsorship/donation opportunities.
KEY MESSAGES To connect with the various audiences, key messages need to be spread during these activities. These messages should answer three questions: Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter? These questions help emphasize the importance of what makes CAP different from similar organizations. Essentially, these messages not only help to establish CAP’s brand, but also inform the local public. * The Murfreesboro Composite Squadron of Civil Air Patrol flies several federal inland search-and-rescue missions, aiding the organization in saving nearly 100 people each year. The Murfreesboro Composite Squadron cares about the advancement of youth, creating immense opportunities for leadership and team building. These qualities are essential for careers later in life. Additionally, due to CAPs training, about eight percent of Air Force Academy cadets are former CAP cadets. * Civil Air Patrol cadets gain unique education in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning environment. One way that the Murfreesboro Composite Squadron accomplishes this is through aerospace education and participation in the annual CyberPatriot competition.
REACHING AUDIENCES The major benefit of an awareness campaign for the Murfreesboro Civil Air Patrol unit is that the potential reach is virtually unlimited. There is a plethora of places that Squadron can tell its story and numerous potential recruits. CAP is not for everyone, but no organization is for everyone. The unit must highlight its strengths and what makes it unique and valuable to the community. The Squadron will need to reach out to other local organizations that work with youth between the ages of 12 and 18.
This will require members to personally visit with members of these organizations and promote the unit in a face-to-face question and answer type atmosphere. These channels are the primary audiences where the unit really needs to push its story. * Middle Tennessee Home Education Association * New Vision Baptist Home School Support Group * Murfreesboro Baseball and Soccer Associations * JROTC units * Boy/Girl Scouts Youth organizations are not the only other local outlets that need to be reached. Other organizations that can help increase membership and community awareness are: Middle Tennessee State University (including the ROTC unit and Aerospace department) * local Red Cross * American Legion * VFW * local pilots at the Airport where the Squadron meets each week Tools to Reach These Audiences Many of these organizations can be reached through the same methods and channels as the previous audiences. Additional methods that need to be utilized for reaching these stakeholders include: * send an introduction letter to the organizations * volunteer to assist these organizations in some way, or offer to perform a ceremonial color guard for their events * conduct plane washes and other creative events keep the website and social media outlets up-to-date, especially contact information * encourage these organizations to include CAP in their positive online activities Local Media Outlets There are several media channels that are suited to the message and the audience, but given the lack of funding, most are not available options. The Murfreesboro Squadron needs to stick to free radio PSAs, and cheap advertisements among various local media outlets and home school organizations. When possible, they can leave informational pamphlets at local businesses with the Squadron’s weekly meeting information.
First, press releases about the Squadron’s open house event, as well as recent accomplishments from unit members will be sent out to the various media outlets. These are traditional media outlets that can help promote the organization from trusted sources; therefore, these will likely be the most effective media channels. * WKRN news channel 2 * WSMV news channel 4 * WTVF news channel 5 * WXTV news channel 17 * Daily News Journal * WGNS radio * WMOT radio * WMTS radio * The Murfreesboro Post How to Get Media Coverage
The unit will need to do more than just word of mouth and press releases to promote Civil Air Patrol throughout the community. Possibly the hardest part of the awareness campaign is selling the idea of Civil Air Patrol to the local media outlets, followed by people who have never heard of the organization. Just submitting a press release to the local media doesn’t always get the story told in that forum. 1. Invite the media to the weekly meetings. This will allow for the journalists to create their own story angles about the organization. 2.
Talk about how CAP has benefited the community. This should include search and rescue, youth education, environmental protection, and building leaders for the next generation. An example of such would be the Squadron’s involvement in the Gulf Oil Spill cleanup. 3. Talk about the unit’s impressive accomplishments; such as receiving five unit citation awards within an eight year time period and a Murfreesboro CAP pilot who conducted an emergency landing. 4. Write stories that reflect current situations, and that pertain to a mass audience, such as budget cuts and scholarship opportunities.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of organizations competing for the same age group. It is important to showcase what makes Civil Air Patrol unique, while still stating the main missions of the organization. This is where the key messages that were developed earlier will come into play frequently. NECESSARY ACTIONS FOR CAMPAIGN SUCCESS These need to be completed by all Squadron members, including the Herald and the Mentors; additionally, support can come from the unit stakeholders: parents, family and friends.
At a minimum, these must be accomplished: * The Murfreesboro Composite Squadron goes around the local community, introducing themselves face-to-face with local business owners, raising awareness of the organization, and leaving informational pamphlets for customers to pick up. * Members of the units visit the local middle and high schools to schedule a day the organization can come to each school and distribute information about Civil Air Patrol. * Some businesses do not want the informational pamphlets left in their stores. Most schools tell the members to talk to the county school board and get permission before they can talk to the students or set up any type of display. Some actions will require interaction with the Shadows. These go beyond the minimum and will aid in the success of the campaign: * Members visit personally with the two JROTC units instructors to determine why there is conflict between the two organizations and see if they can work out an agreement between the two, so that the instructors are more encouraging of the JROTC cadets participating in Civil Air Patrol as well as JROTC. CAP members will visit with the Middle Tennessee State University aerospace department to see if any of the students would be willing to do presentations at the CAP unit. * The Aerospace department agrees, it will count as extra credit for students who are interested in participating. CAP must provide feedback on the students presentations. * MTSU has a challenge course that can be rented out for teamwork building exercises. These will help the CAP members bond and hopefully want to stay with the unit. * Challenge course is $8 per person and all cadets under age 18 must bring a signed waiver to participate. Civil Air Patrol has policies against high adventure activities, such as the challenge course, and approval must be granted through National Headquarters. The lengthy process puts a hold on this opportunity until approval can be granted. Additional actions will require funding. It is important for the Herald to encourage the unit members to promote CAP, as well as for the Mentors to aid in fundraising efforts. These include: * The Murfreesboro Composite Squadron hosts a free open house, which is promoted by placing ads in the local papers and online media outlets. The unit’s social media outlets will be heavy with information about the open house that members can share with their friends and family. Ads can be placed throughout various home school organizations websites and newsletters. * Many of the adult members do not utilize social media, and due to their jobs, do not have time to meet with people face to face. Instead, they offer donations to help pay for the advertisements. * Purchase a billboard in the local area, preferably near the airport where the Squadron meets each week. * Squadron members make signs and talk with nearby businesses to see if they can post the information. The unit also creates posters to hang at the local schools to promote the open house . IDEAL OUTCOME The Murfreesboro Composite Squadron gained new members, mostly from word of mouth and are able to stay in business (this is a loose term since it is an all volunteer organization. ) The Challenge Course was approved by National Headquarters and will be conducted once a year as a leadership and teamwork building exercise. The Squadron has invited other nearby Squadron’s to participate as well, making it more fun for CAP members in the middle Tennessee area as a whole.
The local JROTC units are more receptive to CAP and both have worked together to prevent conflicting schedules as best as possible. There is still some conflict, but only in scheduling matters, which is handled on a case by case basis as each conflict arises. The face-to-face meetings with local businesses led to some minor monetary donations for the Squadron. It was decided that these donations would only be used for advertising and to pay for the Murfreesboro Composite Squadron cadets who attend the MTSU challenge course each year.