Most of what follows deal with what CSA deems the ideal form of group: the self-sufficient recreational and instructional flying club, formally recognized by a given School (the CSA CLUB). "CSA SCHOOL" programs put the sport of soaring second to academics, and require a much greater commitment by the school, placing them largely outside CSAOs scope and power to help bring about. CSA also stands to encourage any combination of youth and soaring in a group format by recognizing the group as an ASSOCIATE member. Whether it's an Explorer Post or a car pool out to the nearest FBO--CSA wants to hear about it. No "form" springs full-blown overnight, and all evolve and cycle anyway--so create SOMETHING and be pleasantly surprised.
Why are "groups" so important to CSA? Traditional stumbling blocks against youth involvement in soaring are:
A cooperative young group that is forced to recruit their peers to survive and lower costs is a neat solution to all three items that maximizes the number of new young pilots. It's also a lot more fun not being the only club member under 30! The most natural context in which to pull this off is a university. There is a huge audience of young people there, all easily reached by campus newspapers, posters, et. They are pre- selected for reasonable intelligence and financial means, and eager to join campus-based clubs. The University itself gives the group an identity, meeting rooms, funding, and is prepared to help any number of purely "recreational" clubs start-up and survive. If the club can compete with other colleges, that's even better. So, how do we do it?
"Catch-22". You will find a lot of vicious-circle processes:
There are some specific solutions offered below but also, a circle can often be broken by going BOTH ways at the same time! For example, hold an "organizational meeting" early each semester that simultaneously advertises the existence of the club to the student body and draws in new members.
"Don't be defensive": Look around at all the trivial activities the University already "encourages". You DESERVE to be at the U as much as any other student activity.
"Don't let them wear you down". Recognize the UNESSENTIAL in dealing with many levels of bureaucracy. Don't agonize over paperwork. If they want "3 signatures of members", get 3 signatures-anybody's!
What comes first in getting the club rolling?
Be pragmatic: The object is to FLY-- a lot, cheaply--nothing else.
1) 90% of potential new members will never have been-in a
sailplane before. If you have a means to train them--even if not
"in-house"--you can get as many members as you can
2) The more members you have, the more costs can be spread out and "financial vises" absorbed, and the more likely the club is to survive--small numbers mean big percentage fluctuations. New members can be added anytime--CFIs (1) are much more rare.
3) Buying a sailplane is long-term. You can get started by renting one. Joining up with an existing "real-world" soaring club or FBO is a good way to get going, but can be stifling as membership (2) grows. At THAT stage, you can meet payments on a leased or owned ship: do it IF it's cheaper. But don't set a ship as a first goal--the club can prove it will fly without one. ("Catch c").
4) Getting a towplane is generally above the threshold of expense and long-term commitment for a College club. A winch may be more like it. Auto-tows you can certainly handle financially. But what are you planning, anyway--a SOARING club or a towing club and how many college- student towpilots are you going to find? You can usually contract for tows outside your operation.
If you plan to hook up with your nearby FBO or club, negotiate lower prices. Don't forget you may have a lot to offer!:
Remember that no one has a monopoly on soaring. Just because there is a club or FBO nearby, you do not HAVE to become some "junior" part of them. New clubs get started all the time, and a University offers a stronger identity, support base, and recruiting context than many existing operations enjoy. It is not uncommon for the "college club" to become more active than their "sponsor" within one term. Soaring often takes place far away from campus. Don't neglect to arrange rides and reassure potential members they do not need to supply their own transportation. Economic ideas from "Real-world" soaring clubs that are BAD NEWS:
In general, be pragmatic-- Always ask "what will maximize flying hours, enjoyment, and the survival of the club?". Don't dwell on social/fiscal THEORY.
1) These are DEATH to student members who are extremely
short-term thinkers, i.e. ONE semester at a time! Besides, the
club cannot possibly "belong" to such transient
members. The "Dissolution" article in the Bylaws or
Constitution should read something like "...any remaining
assets will be donated to a youth soaring group with a similar
purpose, or to CSA." (CSA is most dedicated to club
"purposes" and will place ships at other colleges. More
so than NSM or NSF. The U. will probably not take an aircraft).
2) Again, the short-term thinker: a Flight Fee gets immediate rewards. Dues can be comparable to other "expensive" campus clubs, activity fees, textbooks. Some fixed costs are good psychology for team spirit, activity, etc.
3) Everyone is NOT equal in a college club--a CFI is worth his or her weight in gold--if they want to fly for free, so be it if necessary for the club's survival. This is also a great incentive to progress, such as 0-to-CFI in 6 months (not infrequent!).
4) a) Internally, some operations should be subsidized by others--e.g., insurance on a high- performance single-place will be prohibitive per hour flown, But the ship can mean a lot to the spirit of the club and its advanced pilots and CFIs ("intangibles" count!). b) Overall, do not neglect OTHER resources that you have and that a "real-world club" does not--Alumni donations, University funds... you are NOT alone. A little pressure to pursue these is healthy.
5) you will never collect. Pay-on-the-spot is almost universal practice (at some schools it can be "charged" to a campus ID!).
6) Demand curves: To stay afloat, the integrated product of price and activity must reach some value. Raising prices is unstable: it drives demand down, "forging" prices up more, etc. If you are losing money, FLY EVEN MORE! If you have few members who don't fly much, GET MORE WHO WILL! (new members are usually novices and take a lot of dual, too. In fact, a low activity cycle is often due to sending the last crop solo). ALWAYS move to raise membership and activity, not prices!! Besides, a) more flying by more students is your PRIMARY goal anyway, and b) raising prices tends to leave you with older non-students who don't care if prices go up more. This spiral of declining activity, rising prices, rising age, and movement "off-campus" is a COMMON MODE of FAILURE of a College Club--don't let it happen at your school (It's the U's club, not the old guys'!!)
On balance, because of the nature of the DESIRED "clientele", a College Club works best operated more like a Commercial Operation. Ideas from that side of soaring that aren't so great:
Ideas that are good include:
1) a) charges should be simple, b) services should only be
paid in "kind" or barter fashion and c) keep it cheap!
Cheaper solo flying is a nice incentive, but cheap dual may be
2) keep it simple: using an "average" flight time and just charging per flight works fine and gives an incentive to soar! 3) The club's bread-and-butter is likely to be basic flight instruction. A 2-22 is as good (better?) than a G103 here.
4), 5), see 1). Schedules of rotating responsibility are good because they involve more people in the "club spirit", help stave off "burn-outs" and keep the club going when people leave.
6) Students don't leave their work behind them on the weekend as much as "working stiffs" do. They may not easily be able to spend all day out at the field. And if schedules can overlap to provide bodies for pushing planes, who cares WHICH bodies ?
7) Free, of course, as many clubs do. The university club has a better set-up than anyone, with auditoriums, libraries, etc., This may keep some members who can't quite afford to fly, too.
It's a PYRAMID: If lots of landing patterns in a 2-22 wasn't the glorious idea you had of a "College soaring team", relax. It's a necessary foundation. Before long, student pilots will become private pilots and will work for better equipment and cross-country training, etc. But the likelihood of having a club consisting ONLY of "upper-level" pilots is nearly zero.
Stagnation points abound in soaring progress: post-solo, etc. A scheme that works pretty well to keep things moving includes: Pre-solo training flights take priority in the AM, soaring flights in the PM. CFIs give only lessons, Private pilots give Demo flights to prospective members (this is OK by FARs, sharing expenses of Dues/Flight Fees, but check for quirks of your Insurance policy).
CSA contests offer extra incentive to fly in the Solo-Private stage. CSA has nothing to say about conducting basic training. That's a job for FARs, SSA publications, etc. We recommend you follow all their "optional" programs, too: FAA "Wings", ABC badges, SSF,... Safety and good training come first, however you do it.
The proper attitude to take is that your group is a CAMPUS club first and a SOARING club second. After all, soaring is available to the "real-world" all over. It would be pointless to have a club based AT the university if it WASN'T "special". Copy (non-soaring) campus clubs more than (non-campus) soaring clubs. Any campus-based club has a number of problems, mainly due to transient membership: continuity, leadership, etc. And most of the existing groups have found solutions to these ! Be sure to research what makes these groups work on your campus.
If your school has a SAILING club, it is likely to be an excellent example of what a soaring club could be. Finances are of the same order, the lake is usually some distance away, a lot of student training is necessary... and State university sailing clubs often have memberships over 100, replace entire fleets every 5 or 6 years, and do the school proud with a lot of racing. Other models: crew, equestrian... Spend some time researching some other "expensive" campus groups and be amazed at what fraction of their budget comes from OTHER than the student's pocket!
If your school has a FLYING club, you may find surprisingly little interest in combining efforts. Individual members will probably be the only exchange, so recruit at their meetings once in a while. However, don't get your hopes up: In this modern age when airline trips are commonplace and accessible, flying is neither mysterious nor fashionable. To the uneducated public, gliders seem quaint, antiquated, and pointlessly dangerous (no engine!?), so the curious will seek out airplane-flying opportunities first. Once they get into that realm, the creeping pressures of congested airspace, FAA regulation, and transportation technology will positively prejudice the initiate AGAINST flying gliders: In the General Aviation world, the ideals are airliners and military aircraft. The heavier, faster, louder, more complex, more expensive-the better! The bulk of these people don't aspire to fly but to "manage cockpit resources", not stay up but to get somewhere on schedule. This! is very much against the grain of glider flying. Certainly, lots of people enjoy both sides, but involvement in the FLYING club is often a step backwards.
Since Soaring is not viewed as identical to Flying and the opportunity to learn to fly "normal airplanes" may be available elsewhere on your campus, stress the Sport aspects of soaring: Recreation, adventure, achievement, competition, team activities, socializing. The point of flying a glider is to soar as opposed to the point of soaring being to fly. Most people that attend first meetings on campus perk up when you talk about long glides, efficiency, nature, thermals, badges, competitions...
In general, your recruiting efforts are best addressed campus-wide, without a narrow focus on diverting members of some other group like Aerospace Engineering, the Flying Club, ROTC... As a rule of thumb at large State Universities, up to .1% of the general student body can be drawn into trying soaring in any given semester (e.g. 50 at Penn State), just by poster, activity fair and campus newspaper advertising. Out of a Flying Club of 100, only 1 will join the Soaring Club as a rule of thumb--after intense lobbying. It's not worth it to spend all your effort chasing 1% of .2% (.002%), when you could reach .1% directly.
The proper point of view is that the club has a STEADY-STATE existence, balanced on a influx and outflow of members' not a STATIC one: The members should change while the club remains. It is normal for membership to "turn over" by 50% per year. This means that after 2 years, you should EXPECT virtually no common members. Two years as the tenure of an undergraduate- -joining as a junior--makes some sense: underclassmen can be too busy. No one is irreplaceable. Enthusiastic new people show up all the time. There's always one or two that seem the "life of the club"-- often to be replaced by another after a mere 3 months! Everyone in a position of responsibility should plan for their own replacement and help train the next person. New members should be encouraged to help run the club from the start. Running the club as an Athenian Democracy is NOT appropriate: Too many new members are too ignorant to contribute to discussions and are not motivated to sit through them. Do not waste valuable meeting time on "business" per Robert's rules of order!
Officer positions, elections should be staggered or sequenced to make transfers and start-ups easier. For example, new terms that all start with the Fall semester are NOT a good idea. Naming lots of non-Officer "positions" can work to keep getting jobs done, especially maintenance: "2-22 crew chief", "scheduler", "Party Person",... Duly list these on a membership roster which should be issued to every new member and updated every term.
While Officer positions (President, etc.) concerned with short-term decisions are best filled by undergraduates if possible (It's mainly their club, right ?--plus the U may insist), a Board of Directors with more stable members--Grad students, Faculty, Staff, Non-University can be very valuable for continuity. Beware, however, of "stable" members who view the group as "their" club that they have a "share" in. Before you know it, they'll be saying "let's drop the U. affiliation and continue as an 'open' club" (This should be in direct contradiction to any Bylaws or Constitution the group may have: It's the U's club !)
Keep a WRITTEN tradition of how to run the club circulated widely. Have standard "one-page info hand-outs" and membership applications ready at all times. Give a detailed "Operations Manual" to each new member--they need to become experts fast.
Keep the group focused on NEW members ! The old ones can take care of themselves and it won't kill them to see "Quiet Challenge" one more time or hear the same lecture about thermal centering. RECRUIT! RECRUIT! Members will NOT come to you fast enough without some evidence of your existence. This must be done EVERY SCHOOL TERM. Take advantage of the "Student Activity fair", the "Freshman packets", display a sailplane on campus, have an early-semester "orientation meeting" (suggested format: Introduce officers, who each give a 5 min. spiel about training, costs, etc. and conclude with some slides or a film). Typical recent numbers: 100 "sign-up" at the "Fair", 40 come to the meeting, 20 take a Demo ride, 10 join. All these numbers can quickly go to 0 if you do not make a move. Publicity is trivial on a University campus: Campus radio, newspapers, photocopied posters in the Union, etc. Do not recruit OFF campus, unless it is for CFI/towpilot types.
The university has vested interests in encouraging extra-curricular activities: attracting students, "mental health' alumni pride, etc. They have full-time staffs to help student organizations! Learn their procedures, get their advice.
Meet on campus. Get an office if you can. Have club mail delivered ONLY to campus (e.g. c/o Student Organizations, Union): However convenient it may seem to the (current!) Officers to have mail sent to their homes, don't let it happen! (they won't last)
Tie-in to the school as much as possible, if only for the sense of identity. It is a completely different situation, including appeal to students, to be "the University glider club" than to happen to have some members that are students. Register as an Official Student Organization. This will likely be a requirement for you to do any recruiting on campus. Register as a Recreation or Sport Club if there is such a category. Get yourself listed in the University brochures.
Apply for uniform and travel funds. Ask for winter storage space. Attend Student Government meetings, or at least learn about their budget and grant programs, if any. There are probably many "standard" fund-raising strategies practiced on campus. Learn from the Student Government.
Keep a running list of past members (you might have hundreds after a few years). Research the membership of any older glider clubs. Get the Alumni office to help make fund-raising mailings.
Check out audiovisual equipment from the library for meetings. Have the library order an essential book or two. Gear activities and schedules to the Academic calendar. Get yourself "interviewed" by the school paper every couple of years. Try to make news. For instance, be sure to submit a story if you participate in Intercollegiate soaring competitions.
These University "connections" could mean increased chances for funding. In general, explore every avenue to take advantage of your special status as a University group to beat the costs of "real-world" soaring--it SHOULD be much cheaper for you. On the other hand, bear in mind that you deserve this support ONLY IF you are accessible to and significantly composed of students !
Their primary interest is how many students want your activity. If you have collected a few names already, good. Otherwise, you should be able to get permission for at least one "organizational meeting" (get EVERYONE to "sign in"}. Names do not have to be of glider pilots, just anyone you think would be interested.
Understand that their interest is NOT your activity, per se. They will encourage groups that contradict each other, e.g. Young Republican and Democrat clubs--if students want both. So don't waste your breath selling "soaring". Save that for recruits.
Research (briefly) the presence of any previous clubs at your school. Check University Activity Office files, yearbooks, etc. There were several dozen college glider clubs in the US in the '30s. Maybe at your school--then you have a precedent.
Get copies of the CSA brochure and SSA's "How You can become a glider pilot" to hand out. For tough cases, get a copy of "Soaring in America" if you can, These will help you establish that soaring:
The University's secondary interest is likely whether they would incur any liability from your activity. Many Universities have their "recognition" suitably configured to insulate themselves. If not, a waiver or "release" may satisfy them. If not, a club liability policy may be enough. If not, there's always ASSOCIATE CSA membership ! Use any "risky" precedents: sailing, karate,....
Thirdly, the University may want you to document your training program (or the one you will Join), intent to exercise due care, etc. Be prepared to quote and photocopy FAA regs, SSA ABC rules, etc. If they ask you to prepare a Constitution, submit a list of elected officers, etc., don't panic. Make up anything that satisfies all guidelines (usually, they provide a "rigid" sample). Put down as Officers the first few student names you can think of. One person can do this overnight: Don't waste weeks holding meetings. One person can do all the University paperwork without there being ANY active "membership". It helps if that person is a student, but clubs have been started by people with no U. connections at all, SO long as the purpose is clearly "pure".
In general, appear well-prepared with answers and brochures to make the case that you just want to extend what is successful on numerous other campuses, with "credentials" from CSAF SSA and FAA. Vague intentions and a "defensive" posture will do you in.
Last revised: 28-Jul-97