delara newsDelaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH VOL 37 NUMBER 2
Dan Romanchik KB6NU
Clubs and the ARRL……again
Our club banner hanging on the public information tent at the entrance to our Field Day site.In the latest message from our division director, our vice director, Tom, W8WTD, wrote:And how can we strengthen our clubs in a time when people don’t want to join anything, and don’t want to volunteer for anything inside a club they do belong to? Throughout the Great Lakes Division, we see examples of clubs that are thriving, and then some that aren’t doing so well. Trying to understand what works to get people interested in a challenge for all of us.I replied:In your section of the latest Dale’s Tales, you ask, “How can we strengthen our clubs….” I can tell you one thing. If you and the ARRL are really serious about strengthening clubs, I have yet to see it. League officials like to say things like “clubs are the lifeblood of amateur radio,” but do little or nothing to back that up. Yes, there are a couple of pages on the website exhorting club leaders to do better jobs, but seriously, shouldn’t they get more?Here’s an example of how the ARRL is letting clubs down. The ARRL used to publish an email newsletter called ARRL Club News. It is, in fact, still an option under the Edit Email Subscriptions tab in your ARRL user profile. But, it hasn’t been published regularly for at least a decade.I brought this up ten or twelve years ago, when I was simultaneously our local club president and the Michigan Section Affiliated Club Coordinator. The answer I got was that the ARRL didn’t have the staff to produce it. If that’s true, then I guess that shows how far down the priority list clubs are since Contest Update, the Instructor/Teacher E-Letter, and VE newsletter appear regularly in my inbox.At the time, I volunteered to edit the ARRL Club Letter for the League at no cost. (In case you’re wondering, I am a professional writer and editor, and have been writing about technology for many years.) I don’t think that I even got the courtesy of a reply to my offer.I recently became aware of another instance of how low a priority clubs are to the League. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was an Assistant Director of the Delta Division. He was working on a project to geocode all US hams in the ULS license database from 2000-present, and he raised the issue of how weak the connection between the League and local clubs was. In order to try and make a better connection, his director requested a list of clubs in the division, and Norm Fusaro prepared and sent the list.However, just the name and address of a club doesn’t tell much about them—what they offer, what they do, and so forth. He then requested that Norm Fusaro send him the latest set of reports that each affiliated club must submit to the League each year (or so) to maintain their affiliated status. Fusaro phoned him, and he learned that those paper submissions are merely put into a file drawer and NOTHING else is done with them. Fusaro said that he just didn’t have time to copy the reports, and that was that.When I was the Michigan Affiliated Club Coordinator, I was often asked if there were any benefits to being an affiliated club. Being honest, I would tell them the only real benefit was that if the club had a hamfest, the ARRL would put their hamfest on the hamfest calendar and donate a few prizes. When you get right down to it, that’s really about all there is.I take that back. Clubs do get a commission on ARRL memberships when they collect them. The $2 commission for returning members is a joke, though. I think that very few club treasurers consider it worth their while to collect a measly two bucks.That’s where I left it. The point of all this is that if the ARRL really was serious about supporting clubs, then they would do something about it. At the very least, they need to get the ARRL Club News up and running again. Another thing that I’ve advocated in the past is providing club officers with training on how to do their jobs better. I’d love to start this dialogue and help our ham radio clubs work better, so that they can make ham radio more fun for their members.