Membership in Your ARRL

On QRZ.Com, K3UD frequently reports on the number of licensed radio amateurs. Comments on the latest item, “ARS FCC License Numbers 4th Quarter 2007, A Look At The Trends,” took a turn when WW3QB reported:

I looked up ARRL membership for a few years (from annual reports).

1996 – 175,023
2000 – 164,106
2004 – 151,727
2006 – 148,641

I would expect the ARRL membership to reflect some percentage of “active” hams. But the trend is clear.

To which, K1RFD replied:

Attributing this decline to things the ARRL has (or hasn’t) done certainly makes for lively discussion, but I suspect the trend is mostly due to two other, more mundane factors.

The first may be a decline in the number of active hams, both in real numbers and as a percentage of total licensees. Inactive hams aren’t likely to keep a yearly League membership going. Those numbers might be very close to the number of active U.S. hams.

But the biggest reason is probably the overall state of magazine publishing in the 21st century. If you were to look at other organizations that have a magazine subscription as their primary benefit, you’d probably see the same trend. For example, according to, subscriptions to traditional news magazines have been on a downward slide for decades, and the average subscriber age has been going up.

I think K1FRD is probably right that a big reason for the drop in ARRL membership is because amateurs no longer have to rely on magazines for their information about ham radio. The flip side, of course, is that it’s too bad that the main reason these guys joined at all is to get QST.

Even so, you can’t really blame them. The only thing that most members see from the ARRL is QST and a raft of solicitations for this fund or that. And if they can get pretty much the same technical information off the Internet, why should they continue their ARRL memberships? The ARRL has been saying all along that your membership fee is for more than just QST, but they obviously haven’t done a great job of selling that.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that we do need a national association representing amateur radio, and in the absence of any other viable national organization, I think the ARRL is it. But the ARRL has to do better at attracting and retaining members.

Someone else commented that looking at what the NRA was doing would probably be a good idea. Benchmarking the ARRL against the NRA would be an interesting and very useful exercise, I think. We should find out what the NRA, and other similar large, membership-based organizations are doing right and doing wrong, then figure out how the ARRL can benefit from this knowledge.


  1. Robert, KC0YDZ says:

    I diagree, if this is REALLY how you feel, and your a member right now… let them know how you feel and what you’d like to see them do, they really value the opinions of Hams, both Members and non-members,


    take a look at my QRZ Profile picture

    And I realize that I am going to get a lot of sh** over this, but it is my opinion

  2. David N8SRE says:

    Well, if you’re going to use the NRA as a model, the first step would be to convince hams that the government is about to take their radios away. ;)

  3. David N8SRE says:

    By the way, I just went and signed up. I was an ARRL member years ago, then I went through a period when I was inactive so I didn’t maintain my membership. Now that I’m somewhat active again, I decided it made sense to sign back up.

  4. Lou Janicek says:

    Dan KB6NU

    I think your idea that the AARL should benchmark itself or hire an outside consulting company to benchmark it to say the NRA is a great idea. I too have been a ham since the early 70’s and have recently gotten bitten by the CW bug … I love our hobby and still find it interesting and fascinating ………. HOWEVER ……… I see too many “nostalgia” type articles, etc in the ham radio press as opposed to hard hitting articles focused on the newer digital technologies, etc. Rather than build from the ground up a new national ham organization …… I’d say the ARRL should be the basis of a re-birth for our declining hobby/service. How can we get this moving ?



  5. You mean there’s more to ARRL than the litter box liner magazine they put out? I join, then let it lapse, then rejoin.. I go through phases when I lose interest in ham radio, then get back into it. My ARRL membership somewhat follows that. The biggest problem is that I see ARRL and QST as an organization/magazine for old farts. I’m in my mid 30’s, and my primary interest isn’t HF and wire antennas. Or contests. There just isn’t a lot of things in the magazine that interest me. I want in depth articles on things like digital voice, microwave, ATV, ideas for fun stuff for clubs to do, stuff like that.

  6. they really value the opinions of Hams, both Members and non-members


  7. Our school ham radio club has a subscription to that magazine and it is lame!!! They really need to put some cool stuff in there for younger people. I got into my ham radio club at school cause my granpa and uncle have a ham radio and it will give me something to do at my dads atv store.

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