Pandemic Wasn't Cause of Membership Losses

Started by baronet68, July 11, 2022, 09:48:59 PM

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baronet68

Taking this discussion from "CAP Launches bold new something something..."

Quote from: TheSkyHornet on July 11, 2022, 07:16:26 PM
Quote from: flyboy53 on July 10, 2022, 01:40:19 PMStatistics, such as previously quoted that blamed the pandemic on the reason why people left CAP, may have a root significance but, in reality, can be manipulated to whatever end the presenter is trying to argue. It may not address the true core organizational culture or personal issues that initiated the departure. After all, how many of those members left for personal reasons, for a toxic command or membership culture, or simply because they found a different venue like the Coast Guard Auxiliary or a volunteer ambulance or fire department, or Red Cross to fulfill their needs.

That information and data would need to be captured through an exit interview/survey to best provide any actual metrics regarding member attrition; and the majority of members leave CAP by not returning rather than expressing what their issue actually is.

Now why they choose not to express that information may vary depending on if they feel ostracized by the unit, are afraid to confront the unit out of some feared adversarial response, any level of embarrassment, or perhaps maybe a total disregard and lack of courtesy. There are really countless reasons at this point.


The discussion had strayed somewhat from the original topic so I wanted to start fresh and share some findings related to the pandemic and its impact on CAP membership.

Since members are "bought in" to their membership for an entire year, it's difficult to see exactly when someone decides to leave CAP.  People will usually stop participating long before their membership expires and the effect from their departure won't be seen until their membership finally lapses.  This means that a significant exodus of membership wouldn't be seen in real time and instead, membership retention rates would show a gradual downward trend for the first 12-months, followed by a steep drop off for the next 12-months.

This did not happen during the pandemic. 

In fact, membership retention rates across the board remained consistent during the first 12-months and then increased (especially among cadets) during the second 12-months.  Meaning, we didn't lose any more members during the pandemic than we were losing before and those who joined during the pandemic were actually retained at a higher rate.

The pandemic didn't cause people to leave CAP.  The drop in overall membership was almost entirely caused by the inability (or more often unwillingness) of units to continue recruiting new members.  Sadly, a majority of squadrons across the country went into hibernation mode, ceased all operations, and decided to "wait it out" while the natural causes of attrition (age, school, marriage, relocation, employment, disinterest, lack of engagement, etc.) continued to whittle away at their members. 

Squadrons that did not hibernate but instead worked to remain engaged with their members through virtual meetings and disaster/community relief missions and who followed NHQ's guidance to conduct online recruiting events weathered the pandemic much better.  Most of the units that stayed active maintained their membership levels and some of those units even GREW during the pandemic.

In a nutshell, nobody can truly blame the pandemic for membership losses.  Long-standing issues within our collective CAP culture such as leadership toxicity, a lack of member engagement at the unit, and bad membership experiences still remain top issues that need to be addressed.
Michael Moore, Maj, CAP
National Recruiting & Retention Manager

etodd

#1
Quote from: baronet68 on July 11, 2022, 09:48:59 PMThe pandemic didn't cause people to leave CAP.  The drop in overall membership was almost entirely caused by the inability (or more often unwillingness) of units to continue recruiting new members. 

I've never blamed COVID:

In terms of Seniors, its getting increasingly difficult to persuade people to train for missions that never come. Yes, there are a "handful" of Wings still active in SAR and DR, but it has dwindled dramatically it seems for most Wings.

We recruit, train them to be a AP, MS, MO, GTM, UTM, and whatever else ... and then the only time they do anything is once or twice a year practicing at a SAREX. They lose interest and don't feel useful. Giving certificates and ribbons only goes so far.

Cadets are venturing into many types of STEM activities and finding new directions.

But Seniors need new missions ... something ... anything. First responders don't need us anymore for the most part. They handle their own. Usually with better trained personnel and much better equipped.

I've really enjoy CAP, its been VERY good for me, and I try to pay it back as much as possible. But the things I did 6 or 7 years ago never happen now. Its time for a huge reset.
"Don't try to explain it, just bow your head
Breathe in, breathe out, move on ..."

Larry Mangum

Etodd, you state that they only attend a SAREX once or twice a year. That probably means that the local units do not get together and plan local SAREX's and are only relying upon wing or group level SAREX's. Why not develop the local SAREX and plan on monthly or quarterly local ones to hone those skills and prepare for the larger exercises. Have your squadron ES officers reached out to local EMAs and talked to them about how CAP can assist them? If they don't know what assets you can bring them, or what they need to do to get your assistance, they will never call.

There are many ways to be involved at the local level in ES, and in the community at large, that will grow the squadron and make members feel that they are returning something to the community. After all, that is why most of us joined CAP, to give back to our communities, states and the nation.
Larry Mangum, Lt Col CAP
DCS, Operations
SWR-SWR-001

THRAWN

Quote from: Larry Mangum on July 13, 2022, 11:46:29 AMEtodd, you state that they only attend a SAREX once or twice a year. That probably means that the local units do not get together and plan local SAREX's and are only relying upon wing or group level SAREX's. Why not develop the local SAREX and plan on monthly or quarterly local ones to hone those skills and prepare for the larger exercises. Have your squadron ES officers reached out to local EMAs and talked to them about how CAP can assist them? If they don't know what assets you can bring them, or what they need to do to get your assistance, they will never call.

There are many ways to be involved at the local level in ES, and in the community at large, that will grow the squadron and make members feel that they are returning something to the community. After all, that is why most of us joined CAP, to give back to our communities, states and the nation.

Laudable. I think the point is why is the organization "training" for something that, for the most part, it is not doing?
Strup
"Belligerent....at times...."
AFRCC SMC 10-97
NSS ISC 05-00
USAF SOS 2000
USAF ACSC 2011
US NWC 2016

TheSkyHornet

I think we're back to blanket, very generalized statements about what did or didn't contribute to the loss (or gain) of members.

We're, again, looking at data of member attrition and recruiting, but that data doesn't necessarily come with causation or affirmative statements as to why someone chose to leave (or stay...which is something that isn't collected at renewal).

More so, every unit experience is extremely different from squadron to squadron, and varies significantly not just from one neighborhood to that a few miles away, but across hundreds or thousands of miles throughout the continent. We also really need to look at the variations in local or wing (or statewide) policy and actions. Oftentimes, calling it "toxic" is just another blanket statement when many issues are so much more complex.

I can look at the timeline of what my unit experienced during the pandemic, and there's some ups and downs. We went into shutdown on March 2020 along with everyone else. The very next day, our entire squadron staff (including cadet staff) engaged in a 2-hour virtual meeting to develop a plan of action to go virtual for the next two weeks. We remained constantly engaged and quickly drafted an updated plan to be virtual through 60 days since the start of the shutdown. We continued to extend that. During that time, we had a few senior cadet NCOs who were very active just prior to the shutdown across the United States. They were extremely inactive when we rolled to a virtual format, and they remained relatively inactive even after we resumed in-person activities in the later phases. They didn't want to participate in masked meetings, and they fizzled away after once the mask mandate was rescinded. By 2021, they were pretty much done.

Can we call that a pandemic loss? It's probably not just a pandemic thing. There are other factors: increasing in age and maturing over that time (maybe not always maturing for the better as far as logical thought and appropriate behavior goes), changing interests, changing friends groups at home/school, adapting to a new learning environment outside of CAP...there are many contributing components to someone's loss of interest in CAP. The pandemic could be a very significant part of that, or it could be just another straw to add onto other factors.

In December 2021, we rolled back into another Phase 0 and had yet another round of mandatory virtual activity. This one definitely played out differently than the first Phase 0 experience in that our wing was in a state that no longer had any COVID mandates. So CAP was the extracurricular that required virtual participation, and when we resumed Phase 1 and 2 meetings, masks. In this case, we were just about to run a Great Start class, and we had a very negative response from prospective members (parents especially) who said they didn't want to participate in a virtual organization, and we couldn't promise how long the circumstances and precautions would remain. We also could not share a meeting space at the venue we were using because the employee staff did not adhere to the same protocols (we experienced this in the first round of Phase 1 and 2 in 2020).

I think the second Phase 0 experience, and weeks following, had a pretty reasonable impact on CAP, at least in my own wing and squadron. Now, are those issues solely COVID? Not necessarily. I think it's a stretch to call it "toxic leadership." What we saw here was impactful, but I wouldn't say it was negligent or malicious. I think the decisions were well-intended, but they didn't align with my own personal feelings about how to best approach the matter.

Would we have lost the members we lost anyway because of their own dwindling disinterest in CAP? Probably. It's very much likely that it was only a matter of time. But we do not have definitive data to declare it in either direction.

I think there were actions taken during the pandemic that led to members not wanting to participate or renew because they felt that CAP was failing to adapt to the COVID environment, that CAP was failing to remain consistent with other community organizations, and that CAP was not providing a long-term indication that "normalcy" would return as we knew it pre-pandemic. That said, there were many units that could not adapt to the virtual/hybrid format. There were units that could not produce more educational and enjoyable activities across a wide enough spectrum of members. There were units that did not adapt well to returning to in-person activities and subsequently continued to decrease morale and drive by their members.

That pandemic, actually, still isn't even over. The majority of CAP, as I understand it today, is "back to normal." Let's be mindful that we have actually not formally declared that, and we still have guidance regarding Phase 3 protocols. The last document was updated in February 2022. It actually points to CAP guidance issued in May 2021 which speaks to overnight activity criteria, COVID mitigation planning, etc. Activities are still supposed to have temperature screens upon entry while in Phase 3, and we have yet to officially implement Routine Operations. Our dear friend, Eclipse, has been updating us on this recently and has pointed out issues in the COVID-19 interface within CAP.

For most of us, we're moving along much like it was pre-COVID with some new tools and best practices that we learned over the last couple of years. But we also have a very new member corps in many regards, and we're still working to regain a lot of experience and training with our newer members. It'll take time to adjust. These might be considered long-lasting effects from COVID-19 and decisions made in response to the pandemic.

What simply don't have the data to tell us why exactly x-number of members left from March 2020 through July 2022. And the majority of our "displeased" members are either silent, or they're griping through unofficial means that can't be collected as any actual data (CAP Talk, in-person complaining, social media, etc.).




etodd

Quote from: Larry Mangum on July 13, 2022, 11:46:29 AMEtodd, you state that they only attend a SAREX once or twice a year.

It was a generalized statement.

The point is that we train people ... and then they rarely actually get called into action. All they ever do is just practice. A good example now is that the vast majority of Saves over the last few years is thanks to the Cell Phone Forensics Team, who can get their job done anywhere with a laptop, often in minutes, without taking the time to put on a uniform.  They get the info to the first responders, while the rest of us sleep. No need to put on a uniform and head to the airport.

I had high hopes for the sUAS program. But again, first responders have their own drones, and usually much better equipped gear. They don't need us.

My Wing successfully found an ELT going off in a hangar last week. Members get credit for it. But finding errant ELTs is just hard to fire up a membership drive.

Real Missions .. for Senior members appear to be dwindling for most Wings. Its time for a new purpose and new missions .. to get us fired up again.
"Don't try to explain it, just bow your head
Breathe in, breathe out, move on ..."

PHall

Maybe part of the solution is to not say we do everything ES everywhere but target the stuff we do by wing.
California does very little Ground Team stuff but we still get a couple of ELT's and PRB's a month plus AP stuff including the newest toy, Waldo. We also don't do tornado recovery stuff but we do have earthquakes and fires.
While on the East and Gulf coasts they get a number of Hurricanes and Tornadoes plus Ground Teams are actually used there. We also need to make it clear to the pilots we recruit that we expect you to get qualified in at least one pilot specialty. i.e. DR flying, O-Flight Pilot, Glider Tow Pilot. The days of us down at 300 feet AGL on a grid search are mostly behind us. Training requirements need to reflect reality.

flyboy53

Quote from: PHall on July 14, 2022, 12:11:39 AMMaybe part of the solution is to not say we do everything ES everywhere but target the stuff we do by wing.
California does very little Ground Team stuff but we still get a couple of ELT's and PRB's a month plus AP stuff including the newest toy, Waldo. We also don't do tornado recovery stuff but we do have earthquakes and fires.
While on the East and Gulf coasts they get a number of Hurricanes and Tornadoes plus Ground Teams are actually used there. We also need to make it clear to the pilots we recruit that we expect you to get qualified in at least one pilot specialty. i.e. DR flying, O-Flight Pilot, Glider Tow Pilot. The days of us down at 300 feet AGL on a grid search are mostly behind us. Training requirements need to reflect reality.

True.

In my previous role as a squadron/group AEO/Wing DAE, I always encouraged subordinates to pursue aircrew ratings -- specifically scanners or observers -- I did that not so much because of the operational mission side but because it gave them credibility as AEOs. That also meant that many of them would pursue the rating, get qualified, and then never set foot in an airplane again. I also made it a point for all units to pursue the various aspects of the AE program because I saw value in their member's participation,, which even senior members enjoyed, and the result was a team building exercises -- that sometimes ended in funny stories of senior members flying paper airplanes.

All sorts of people are attracted to CAP. It is so easy to caught up in the "romance" of the organization's history, and the heroism displayed by a limited number of volunteers in truly challenging situations. The reality, however, is just the opposite, where members are focused more on the primary "day-to-day" functions, where an individual's morale may wane because they don't see a value to meetings or training requirements.

The point is that unit leadership needs to monitor those trends and then be open/prepared to develop those programs that will engage the membership. There is so much more to do, such as the UAV program, communications or first aid classes -- or even participating with other units in programs leading to specific qualifications.

flyboy53

Quote from: flyboy53 on July 18, 2022, 01:34:10 AM
Quote from: PHall on July 14, 2022, 12:11:39 AMMaybe part of the solution is to not say we do everything ES everywhere but target the stuff we do by wing.
California does very little Ground Team stuff but we still get a couple of ELT's and PRB's a month plus AP stuff including the newest toy, Waldo. We also don't do tornado recovery stuff but we do have earthquakes and fires.
While on the East and Gulf coasts they get a number of Hurricanes and Tornadoes plus Ground Teams are actually used there. We also need to make it clear to the pilots we recruit that we expect you to get qualified in at least one pilot specialty. i.e. DR flying, O-Flight Pilot, Glider Tow Pilot. The days of us down at 300 feet AGL on a grid search are mostly behind us. Training requirements need to reflect reality.

True.

In my previous role as a squadron/group AEO/Wing DAE, I always encouraged subordinates to pursue aircrew ratings -- specifically scanners or observers -- I did that not so much because of the operational mission side but because it gave them credibility as AEOs. That also meant that many of them would pursue the rating, get qualified, and then never set foot in an airplane again. I also made it a point for all units to pursue the various aspects of the AE program because I saw value in their member's participation, which even senior members enjoyed, and the result was a team building exercises -- that sometimes ended in funny stories of senior members flying paper airplanes.

All sorts of people are attracted to CAP. It is so easy to caught up in the "romance" of the organization's history, and the heroism displayed by a limited number of volunteers in truly challenging situations. The reality, however, is just the opposite and much different, where members are focused more on the primary "day-to-day" functions, where an individual's morale may wane because they don't see a value to meetings or training requirements.

The point is that unit leadership needs to monitor those trends and then be open/prepared to develop those programs that will engage the membership. There is so much more to do, such as the UAV program, communications or first aid classes -- or even participating with other units in programs leading to specific qualifications.

One other point here that I didn't think about until after I posted this discussion. As CAP members, we enjoy a rather interesting and very complex relationship with different levels of participation. On another string, there was a discussion of "member in good standing," which means at the core of our organization are "members" unified by common goals and a membership card. The member aspect is probably more important than anything else because it involves "dues" that help fund the day-to-day operations of the organization. That is why all "members" are ultimately important, whether they are active, inactive, retired, in a ghost squadron, donors, or AEMs.

RiverAux

QuoteThe drop in overall membership was almost entirely caused by the inability (or more often unwillingness) of units to continue recruiting new members.  Sadly, a majority of squadrons across the country went into hibernation mode, ceased all operations, and decided to "wait it out" while the natural causes of attrition (age, school, marriage, relocation, employment, disinterest, lack of engagement, etc.) continued to whittle away at their members.

Squadrons that did not hibernate but instead worked to remain engaged with their members through virtual meetings and disaster/community relief missions and who followed NHQ's guidance to conduct online recruiting events weathered the pandemic much better.

I suppose I can agree based on these statements by someone in your position that the pandemic didn't cause loss of current members, but they sure point to the pandemic being the cause of membership decline due to a failure to recruit new members because of curtailment of activities caused by the pandemic. 



 


TheSkyHornet

Quote from: RiverAux on July 19, 2022, 11:07:53 PM
QuoteThe drop in overall membership was almost entirely caused by the inability (or more often unwillingness) of units to continue recruiting new members.  Sadly, a majority of squadrons across the country went into hibernation mode, ceased all operations, and decided to "wait it out" while the natural causes of attrition (age, school, marriage, relocation, employment, disinterest, lack of engagement, etc.) continued to whittle away at their members.

Squadrons that did not hibernate but instead worked to remain engaged with their members through virtual meetings and disaster/community relief missions and who followed NHQ's guidance to conduct online recruiting events weathered the pandemic much better.

I suppose I can agree based on these statements by someone in your position that the pandemic didn't cause loss of current members, but they sure point to the pandemic being the cause of membership decline due to a failure to recruit new members because of curtailment of activities caused by the pandemic. 

Sounds to me like that curtailment would impact retention/attrition.

RiverAux

Quote from: TheSkyHornet on July 20, 2022, 02:28:02 PMSounds to me like that curtailment would impact retention/attrition.

I would have thought so, but he says the national numbers don't really support a decline in retention rates. 

Holding Pattern

One other telling note is that a lot of people (myself included) continued to pay dues and simply took time off during periods of bad leadership in their wing.

But since we don't keep attendance rolls consistently across the org yet the number of people like me that simply waited out bad command climates is harder to quantify.

I do know that locally, participation is up now that we have new wing management. Social media engagement is also up. Hopefully things continue to look up.