Executive Director’s Commentary
By Don Eversmann, F240000
Quite often I hear comments from members and non-members that they perceive FMCA to be an organization for well-to-do type A motorhome owners. I can understand how people might get that impression. Over the years, I have learned that inaccurate perceptions can be very destructive. Those in leadership positions work hard to communicate that FMCA welcomes everyone and has something for everyone.
When FMCA was formed almost 40 years ago, the original 26 families, most of whom owned homemade bus conversions, came from various walks of life. They shared a common interest in vehicles that would permit them to live on the road independent of the need to stay in fixed facilities each night, all while experiencing the great outdoors.
Well, here we are now, about to celebrate our 40th anniversary this summer. We’re substantially larger, and quite diverse. It has become difficult to portray that diversity, and that is how perceptions become inaccurate.
Since I began working for FMCA five years ago, I have noticed several things that I believe help to contribute to the incorrect perceptions about FMCA. The first is Family Motor Coaching magazine. The magazine is intended to be the association’s communication tool to the membership, and it still is. But it also has grown to become the most prestigious RV magazine in the industry. Impressive and satisfying as that may be, the magazine also has been depended on to provide a substantial amount of operating revenue to FMCA. These ad revenues have made it possible for FMCA’s annual membership renewal dues to remain at $25 for nearly 23 years.
Because of the magazine’s success and quality, its advertising rates have risen. Although the ad costs are not out of line when compared to similar magazines in the industry, the rates may be prohibitive to manufacturers or dealers that sell the smaller, less expensive motorhome units, such as type Bs and type Cs. At times, FMC magazine even seems to lack ads devoted to less-expensive type A motorhomes. Since the magazine reaches confirmed buyers of motorhomes, many manufacturers choose to focus on their higher-end vehicles in their advertising rather than their entry-level models.
Each year the magazine’s editorial staff attempts to show the diversity of motorhomes by including articles and reviews of the less expensive models. Still, the photos that appear in the advertisements, although they might not always be representative of most members’ coaches, lead many motorhome enthusiasts to believe that FMCA is for high-end motorhome owners only.
Another reason motorhome owners mistakenly believe that FMCA is a type A motorhome owners association exclusively is that a majority of the coaches in attendance at international conventions and area rallies are type As. I am a type C motorhome owner, and I admit I did feel a bit intimidated at several of the first events I attended. That feeling was of my own creation and certainly was not confirmed by the other motorhomers. The vast majority of the people who attend these events are retired and spend a considerable amount of time in their units. In some cases, the motorhome is their full-time residence or serves as a vacation home for more than half of the year.
Again, permit me to use the word “perception.” It is true that probably 80 to 90 percent of the motorhomes at international conventions and area rallies are type A units, but that should not be interpreted as being representative of the FMCA membership. We recently reviewed some of the attendance statistics from conventions and area rallies held in 2002. We found that the events had a cumulative total of 14,559 FMCA family attendees; of them, 11,237 were unique FMCA membership numbers. (In other words, many FMCA members attended more than one event.) Believe it or not, 11,237 is not even 10 percent of the association’s total membership.
I believe that many FMCA members are motorhome owners who are still working and have purchased a unit to use for weekend getaways and vacations. For them, the bigger, more expensive coaches may not be practical. It becomes difficult to justify such an investment when you have a limited amount of time to use and maintain it. Personally, I am very happy that I deal with only 24 feet of motorhome when I come home from a weekend rally.
Just as the motorhomes they own vary, FMCA members themselves are also very diverse. Over the past five years, I have been privileged in my travels to meet people from all walks of life, and, I believe, from the majority of occupations and professions. I have greeted those who own businesses, farms, and ranches; people who have worked assembly lines or in construction; and individuals who have held management positions. Others I’ve met have spent their time in public service positions, such as in the military, in education, or in legislative roles. It’s interesting that no matter their background, and no matter what they drive now, they are our neighbors in the campground, and share the same interest “” a love of motorhome travel.
FMCA members also come from diverse racial backgrounds. Currently, African-Americans make up a rather small percentage of the attendees at international conventions and area rallies, but they are a growing and vibrant part of this association. I have had the opportunity to attend a rally with a chapter that is substantially made up of African-Americans, and last year I was invited to attend the National Camp Rally of the National African-American RVers Association, a group that encompasses owners of all types of RVs, not just motorhomes. A good percentage of their members also belong to FMCA. Various nationalities are represented as well. The vast majority of FMCA members live in the United States or Canada, but we do have members who live in at least 20 other countries.
Marital status among FMCA members varies as well. I have visited with FMCA singles chapters and enjoyed the opportunity to share their experiences and their excitement over the freedom that motorhome travel provides them.
Not everybody who belongs to FMCA is of retirement age. I know that younger members are involved, because we interact with them here at the national office. However, they are not as visible at FMCA events, because attending these gatherings requires a time investment many of them can’t make “” the equivalent of vacation time. Yes, FMCA events are attended by the older generation of the association, but I have been pleased to see a trend where the international conventions and area rallies are attracting some of FMCA’s younger members. Or could it be that I am just getting older, and my generation is starting to retire?
As much as possible, the perceptions and stereotypes that have kept motorhomers from joining FMCA need to be overcome. I’m not advocating that we get rid of the flashy type A advertisements in the magazine, nor do we want to reduce the percentage of seniors attending FMCA events. We may never be able to provide adequate representation of the membership, but we can certainly discuss it and make decisions that will help work within our parameters. I, for one, believe that the more we talk about this wonderful organization, explain away the misconceptions, and welcome those who may not be part of the visible membership, the better FMCA will be for it.
This is a fabulous association, and it is evident that members are proud of it; FMCA members recruited 8,430 new members last year “” 43 percent of all those who joined. So, keep up the good work. And keep in mind that FMCA welcomes everyone and has something for everyone.