The Future of Flight Foundation is embracing advances in communications technology and cultural changes in how people seek to interact and look for information.
When the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour opened 10 years ago, even forward-thinking enterprises were still largely relying on traditional methods of marketing, recruiting, and communication such as print media, radio, television, and word of mouth. The most prominent technological advance was the Internet website, and one of the Foundation’s first tasks was setting up a site for the new venture in 2005. Since then the Foundation has adopted many more current communication and community engagement tools, and it has created new programs and opportunities for the public to become personally involved with the Foundation and its work.
Initially there was a single website for the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour. After a few years the Foundation set up a separate website for itself, but found linking it to the initial site to be a challenge. A few more years of experience convinced the nonprofit that a unified web presence was best, and in January 2015 the two sites were consolidated into a single website at http://www.futureofflight.org. Here the public can learn about the Boeing Tour and purchase tickets. They can find out about the Aviation Center’s exhibit gallery, ongoing activities there, and upcoming special events. Extensive information about the Foundation’s education programs is presented. Details about renting meeting space and obtaining catering services are readily accessible on the website. Volunteers can easily find opportunities, the public can make contributions to the Foundation, and sponsors can sign up online. The Foundation’s supporters are recognized in a timely and professional manner on the website.
But websites are no longer the exclusive – or even primary – source of information or means of communication for many people, so the Foundation also has an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Flickr. In addition, the public can read reviews of the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour on the Yelp and TripAdvisor websites. (Links to all these resources are on the Future of Flight’s website in the footer on the homepage.) The Foundation is also using the Internet-based Volunteer Match service to recruit volunteers. Between 40 and 50 percent of current volunteers come from this source.
In 2014 the Foundation launched The Leading Edge, a free, emailed newsletter delivered each month to members and to others who have signed up to receive it. Each issue includes topics such as recent and upcoming Future of Flight events, new Gallery exhibits and activities, member experiences, and the latest aerospace news summarized in the “Aviation Roundup” section. In mid-2015 The Leading Edge was being sent to over 8,200 recipients.
While new technology has significantly expanded the Foundation’s ability to easily connect with people at home and around the world, getting together in person is still a vital part of the nonprofit’s mission. To that end, in 2014 it launched a new membership program. Benefits are extensive, including:
- unlimited free visits for one year to the Aviation Center, including the Gallery and the Strato Deck
- free admittance to special activities like Weekend Family Workshops and Maker Mondays (in the first 3D printing “makerspace” in Snohomish County)
- a 10 percent discount on Future of Flight Gift Shop purchases
- Boeing Tour guest passes (during the off-season)
- discounts for the Foundation’s education programs, including summer cAMP
- exclusive access to member events such as VIP tours of the Boeing Everett plant, the Paine Field Fire Department, and the Flying Heritage Collection, and talk and book signing by Steve K. Bertrand, author of Images of Aviation – Paine Field.
Annual fees are modest for the four membership categories (student, educator, adult, and family), with discounts for military personnel and their families and for senior citizens. By June 2015 (a year after its inception), the program had just over 400 memberships, representing approximately 500 people when multiple family members are taken into account. By mid-2015 Future of Flight members represented fourteen states and four foreign countries. To handle the growth in this program and to continually enhance its benefits, in March 2015 the Foundation hired its first Membership & Events Coordinator.
In 2014, Friday After Hours on the Strato Deck events were introduced. They were free to members and open to nonmembers for a small fee. In addition to the fabulous experience of taking in the panoramic view and watching aircraft activity, musical entertainment was provided and food and beverages were available. In 2015 the events were renamed Summer Nights on the Strato Deck, and the July 17 kick-off featured a presentation by Russ Banham, author of Higher: 100 Years of Boeing.