we have 20 on the roster at Santa Monica/Cloverfield Comp. 51 - I usually see 10-15 at each meeting. The # of cadets is changing... I saw about 12 at the last meeting. I'm not sure if that's big or not.
Here was my thing... I didn't know the CAP even existed. Then, when I found out - it was like pulling teeth to get any information. When I was in Chicago, I e-mailed multiple people and never got any info back. (Here in Santa Monica, the communication was great! Once I found out what night the meeting was on and came to one I had no trouble joining.) It's just being able to connect the interested party with your squad.
How to do that:
Well, you have to advertise.
What is your website like? (Do you have a website... it's cheap and a great place for info - pass the hat if you don't have one and get a tech minded cadet to do the HTML) Is is up to date, do you have clear and consice instructions on how to come to a meeting and where they are held? Is there contact information and do people follow up with e-mail and calls to potential members? I would recommend scanning docs or getting PDF's off the CAP website and putting together a standard "intro e-mail" for anyone who writes in wanting more info - something that encourages them to come to the next meeting and meet everyone and cuts through the regs. This way, all you have to do is fill in the date of the next senior meeting and you are set - total time investment 45sec. Oh, stress on your website that it is not just for pilots but tell the pilots the benefits of joining. The same for paper advertising.
Next, advertise... put up signs at the FBO's of the local airports.
-Go to the H.S.'s and see if you can give a presentation, set up a booth for a day, something to draw the attention of the kids. (being in the CAP looks good on college aps, and etc.)
-Go to the VFW and put up signs, community centers, libraries, churches, and etc. - werever retired people and regular people gather. Let them know it is just not for pilots. That they would be helping with Homeland Security/Anti. Terrorism/Anti. Drug. A hands on way to help the USA without joining the Army and being shipped off to Iraq.
-Call the local paper and talk to a feature reporter and stress the same thing - here we are, this is what we do, can you do a story on us. Play up the angle with the paper the next time you are doing drill at an airshow or guarding planes at an airshow. (16yr olds keeping million dollar planes safe at night... great feature)
Anyway, that's what I would do. (my 2 cents) It's all about marketing and followup customer service - just like in a small business. Most people get scared away by the paperwork and the length of the process it takes to join. Make it easy for them and make it fun and you'll pick up alot of new recruits/SM's.