Florida squadron doubles membership in one year

Innovation spurs squadron growth

For innovative ways to grow membership, look no further than Central Florida’s Harris Chain Sail & Power Squadron. In 2007, squadron public relations officer Kerry Kline came up with several ideas that helped double the squadron’s membership in just one year.

With help from the squadron educational officer and other members, Kline decided to hold an eight-hour Boating course on the second Saturday of every month.

The squadron drummed up publicity for the classes by participating in the Eustis First Friday Street Fest, held the first Friday of each month. At its booth, the squadron would display an eye-catching poster of the Harris Chain of Lakes. When visitors stopped by to look at the poster, they would receive information about the following week’s class.

When visitors signed a roster indicating their interest in taking a class, the squadron asked for their e-mail address and added them to its mailing list. That way, even if visitors didn’t take the next class, they would continue to receive information about the squadron and its upcoming classes. Kline’s goal was to sign up eight people for each class, which enabled the squadron to double its membership in one year.

Another innovative idea was to hold the class at a public lakeside facility with dock access. When the class studied docking, the students went outside to see how it was done. Afterward, they went back into the classroom to review the lesson. The squadron provided drinks and dessert for a brown bag lunch, which gave everyone a breather and let instructors talk with students.

In 2007, the squadron started participating in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. Kline decided to challenge 15 other area boating groups to see who could collect the most toys by weight. For the weigh-in, 40 boats paraded along the Harris Chain of Lakes to Hickory Point Park, where food vendors awaited the participants. The event drew media coverage, giving the squadron much-needed publicity.

This past summer, Harris Chain Squadron spearheaded a lake cleanup project involving 15 other boating organizations that collected 8,000 pounds of trash. The squadron received an award for its part in arranging the event, which garnered additional media coverage.

Harris Chain Squadron’s activities are just a few of the many innovations taking place throughout USPS. Tell us what your squadron is doing to boost membership. Send your stories to Kristi Anderson, and we may feature your squadron in an upcoming issue of The Ensign or USPS Compass.