I recently blogged about the difference between recruiting new hams and recruiting new ARRL members. I went on to describe the various ways that we could do more to recruit more people into ham radio. Today, I want to discuss how the ARRL might turn more of those hams into ARRL members.
Currently, less than 25% of licensed amateurs are ARRL members. There are probably many reasons for this, but whatever the reason, I think this is something that the ARRL needs to work on. More members would mean more money and more support for all of the good work that the ARRL does. As I said during my recent campaign for Great Lakes Division Vice Director, we need to set a goal of at least 30%, and then develop the programs necessary to get there.
There are probably many reasons why hams aren’t ARRL members. One of them, surprisingly enough, is that there are still a lot of old-timers who are upset that the ARRL supported incentive licensing 40 years ago. They blame the ARRL for their losing priviledges.
I think the biggest reason, though, is that the ARRL has really failed to get amateurs involved in its programs. The ARRL is either doing a poor job of publicizing its programs or doesn’t have the right programs. The result is that many members view the ARRL as a publishing house and their membership dues as simply a subscription fee to get QST.
So, what can the ARRL do to boost membership? Here are some ideas:
- Give ARRL name badges to all new members or returning members. Wouldn’t you think about joining (or re-joining) if a sizable percentage of the hams wandering around a hamfest or other amateur radio activity were wearing these badges?
- Offer a membership discount on ARRL books. This is a no-brainer to me. All of the professional organizations I belong to offer member discounts. Why doesn’t the ARRL?
- Show some member appreciation. I joined the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) a little over a year ago. On my first anniversary, they sent me an ACM coffee cup. I thought that was a nice touch. I can’t recall the last time I got anything from the ARRL saying that they appreciated me being a member. All I seem to get are solicitations for the Spectrum Defense Fund, the W1AW fund, etc., etc. etc.
- Revamp the lifetime membership fee structure. With the current fee structure, it makes sense for young members to sign up, but there’s less incentive for older members to sign up.
- Develop some programs that members really want or need. There has been, for example, talk about the ARRL getting more involved in technical development. As it is now, it seems that the ARRL has ceded this to organizations like AMSAT or TAPR. I think it would be a good idea for the ARRL to get back on this horse.
Another good idea would be to develop some programs to get new hams involved in the hobby. As far as I can see, the ARRL really has no programs for getting new hams involved and on the air. Something like this would grab new hams just as they’re getting into the hobby and make lifelong members out of them.
If I had the time, I could probably come up with a half dozen more ideas.
Why the ARRL isn’t doing more to recruit new members I don’t know. Perhaps the new membership manager will have more of a chance to do this than the outgoing membership manager did. All I know is that having more members means more funds for programs and more hands willing to work on these programs, and ultimately, ham radio will benefit.