After the recent election–which I unfortunately lost–our division director, K8JE, asked me to share some ideas with him about recruiting. It seemed to me that he was lumping together the idea of recuiting new hams and recruiting new ARRL members. To many of us, being a ham and being an ARRL member is synonymous. When it comes to recruiting, however, recruiting new people into amateur radio and recruiting ARRL members are two separate issues. I’ll explain.
The first issue is recruiting people into the hobby. I think that this is easier than we often make it out to be. There are lots of people out there who would become hams if they:
- knew more about amateur radio.
- are given the opportunity to take classes and take the test.
Let’s discuss the first part – getting the word out about amateur radio. I think that lately the ARRL has been doing a good job promoting amateur radio. I like the publicity campaigns that Allen Pitts, W1AGP, has developed. Not only that, he has done a great job involving ARRL members in helping him promote ham radio.
Now, we need to raise our profile even more. By that I mean that we need to target people and organizations that might benefit by getting involved with amateur radio or that we want to attract to amateur radio. We need to identify these groups and find a way to get our message to them.
What groups might benefit by getting involved with amateur radio? How about:
- Skywarn groups,
- school groups,
- science museums,
- public libraries,
- senior citizens’ groups,
- robotics clubs,
- “Maker” clubs.
Now, how do we reach these folks? Well, let’s take the maker clubs as an example. Makers are “do-it-yourself” technologists who get involved in a lot of different things. Ham radio should be one of them. Every year, MAKE: magazine holds two “Maker Faires.” The ARRL should be there in force.
We also need to reach more school groups. Yes, the ARRL conducts the Teacher Institute every year, but how about also addressing the state and national science teacher association conventions?
Once you start getting the word out, people will respond. At that point, you have to be ready to accomodate them. Let’s take our experience here in Ann Arbor, for example.
In the fall of 2007, we decided to run our first One-Day Tech Class. We had about twelve in that class, and 11 out of the twelve passed (one or two had to take the test a second time). We didn’t hold the next one until May 2008. We again had twelve in the class. This time, 11 passed. We held our third class in September 2007. This time, we had 14 in the class, and 13 of 14 passed.
We just held our fourth session. This time, fourteen were in the class. Four people decided not to take the test. Of the remaining ten, nine out of ten passed. I’m going to keep on top of those four to make sure that they get licensed. In the meantime, I’m going to claim that we’re still batting 90% when it comes to attendees of the one-day class passing the test.
The interesting thing about this session was that we had a long waiting list. Because of the classroom we were able to get, and to keep down the workload of our VEs, we decided to only take 15 students. We had to put more than ten on our waiting list. Now, these people will be all set to attend our next session in three months.
And we do intend to do this again in three months. I think that holding regularly-scheduled classes is one of the keys to our success. By holding these regularly every three months, people know that even though they may not be able to attend one session another will come along in three months. Not only that, they’ll tell family and friends about the upcoming class and get them to also attend. Word-of-mouth really works!
The new Michigan ACC, Scott W1BIC, and I are planning to take this show on the road. We’ll identify areas that might be ripe for a one-day class, find some VEs to accompany us, and then make some new hams. Not only that, we’re also planning to identify hams in those areas who we can get to sit in on our session, so that they will be able to run their own one-day classes three or six months later.
I think the ARRL needs to implement this kind of program nationally. Every section should have an Education Coordinator whose job it is to help clubs set up classes such as this one (as well as General Class and Extra Class classes). And, if it can’t find a ham radio club to work with, find another group such as a high school, university, or maker club that it can work with.
That’s enough for this post. I’ll
rant blog about recruiting new ARRL members later.