delara news Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH   VOL 37 NUMBER 3

No Wonder ARRL membership is falling!

A reader contacted with a bit of information that I found almost incredible. He wrote: “You may have seen the video of N6AA at the Yuma hamfest (ARRL Forum). One tidbit he shared from the latest Board meeting is that each year there are approximately 30,000 new FCC amateur licensees. 3,000 of these join the ARRL, and only 600 of them keep their ARRL membership into the second year. This is way worse than I would have expected. That’s a 2% capture rate. Using my advanced strategy skills, I submit that it is not what we call a sustainable business model. :-) “ I replied, “Those numbers are truly bad, almost to the point of being terrifying.” I daresay that there are more than 600 ARRL members pass away in a given year.  With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that the ARRL membership is falling. What really gets me is the cavalier attitude that the League seems to have about this. They’ve known for years that membership has not kept pace with the number of licensed radio amateurs, and yet they haven’t seen fit to do something as simple as set a membership goal. It gets worse Here’s the video. It starts at the 42:00 mark, where N6AA begins talking about this issue. Apparently, this study was done by Mintz & Hoke, an Avon, CT public relations firm. (Why the ARRL hired a PR firm to do a membership survey is kind of puzzling to me. They do list marketing and branding as one of their “capabilities,” so I guess that’s how they got the gig.) Mintz & Hoke’s study noted that one of the problems is the lack of Elmers (“Elmer” is ham radio lingo for mentors). D’uh. Haven’t some of us been saying that for years? Did the Board actually have to pay a PR firm tens of thousands of dollars to hear this? What really got my goat was the PR firm’s proposed solution – a website! They actually proposed that the ARRL pay them more than $400,000 to set up some kind of “lifelong learning” website. But the real kicker is that this money was just for the framework. The ARRL would still have to provide all the content! There were a number of suggestions from the floor, including: Publish a list of Elmers on the ARRL website. Publish more information for newcomers on “The Doctor is In” podcast. Give a year’s free membership, then reduced membership for some number of years after that. There was also the suggestion that every radio club should have Elmers. While that’s certainly true, just saying that’s the way it should be isn’t going to improve the situation. I’ve blogged many times about how poorly the ARRL supports clubs. I’ve blogged in the past about how the ARRL should be Elmering Elmers. Amateur radio technology has gotten pretty sophisticated. Asking a ham to not only master the technology, but also have the people skills to be a good Elmer is a tall order. Providing some training to hams who would like to be mentors would go a long way, I think, to producing a solid corps of Elmers, who would then do the job of helping more people have fun with ham radio….and become ARRL members. The decline in membership is only going to get worse if the ARRL doesn’t take steps now.  I really hope that the Board takes this lesson to heart and figures out what to do here. I stand ready to help in any way that I can.
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