Purposeful Club Transformation Through Grants

By Jeff Thomas, Indianapolis RC Modelers Club president

The Indianapolis RC Modelers Club is one of the oldest clubs in Indiana.  It was founded in 1953 and has been in only a couple locations before finally ending up in its current Morristown, Indiana, location for the last 18 years.  In 2018 and 2019, we were a medium-size club with about 62 members.  One problem was that the average age at most of the club meetings and events was well past the 55-year mark! 

There were several successful efforts in the past that helped grow the club to this point, but some changes and updates were needed to assure that the club remained viable for several years.  With a combination of new and existing leadership, we aimed to make a very simple plan to address a needed influx of members (young and not so young) and to hopefully grow.  We wanted to learn from successful efforts of the past and add in some new ideas aimed for today.

The plan of action was started by working to update our runway surfaces with new Geotextile runways.  We turned in a “pre-runway installation” 2019 Flying Site Improvement Grant (FSIG) request to AMA that year.  We were not selected for a grant.  We proceeded with our own club member donations and installed the new Geotextile updates as detailed in the grant proposal.

Flying Site Improvement Grants allow clubs spend money on projects within a given window (one year before the grant deadline and up to one year after the deadline). Because of this, we were able to resubmit and reformat our FSIG application with actual spending details and pictures in 2020. We were awarded the grant. (Thank you!)  This gave everyone at the club a boost.

Our next step was to apply for a Take off And Grow (TAG) grant and set up an introductory flight program. We asked for trainers, equipment, advertising, and signs to be funded through a TAG grant. Our club was also awarded this grant. The grant funds were used to provide the public with introductory flights with AeroScout trainers. We also purchased spare parts and multiple good, used transmitters to allow wireless buddy-box setups.

We followed this with a training manual written to provide information to any new pilot or interested person.  We added a key person as our Head of Training for the club. The Head of Training is not necessarily the best pilot in the club or the most experienced one, but one who is well trained in aviation and has the proper demeanor and engaging approach to all to be the ambassador of RC aviation to any newcomer.  We had just the right person for this, and we are so thankful that we were able to fill that critical role. 

We recommend that you work hard to find the right person for your club who is more than the best pilot on-site. Training is as much about relationships and relational skills as it is transferring piloting skills to others.

If you would like to support clubs working to improve their flying sites and expand community outreach, please consider donating to the Programs fund.