By Bob Gummersall, F127494
Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committe
FMCA is now more than 40 years old, and it has always grown by using the communication tools of the day. For many years the only ways members could exchange information, short of a face-to-face conversation, were by using the telephone and the postal service. That is not true today. The Internet, now used by a majority of FMCA members, has the potential to help improve communications and lower the cost.
Family Motor Coaching magazine will continue to be the mainstay in distributing information to members, but the Internet can offer enhanced ways to communicate effectively and safely. FMCA’s Web site currently offers a significant amount of valuable information that can be accessed easily by members. The next step is to use the Internet to interact with other members and with the national office staff.
FMCA members who don’t want to use the Internet or e-mail are not disenfranchised. FMCA’s national office and chapters continue to use regular mail and telephones to communicate, too. However, members who do not have e-mail addresses do risk late notification on time-sensitive matters such as legislation issues.
This became very clear in the spring of 2003 when RVers successfully defeated five tax proposals in the state of Washington. The taxes would have been very unfair to motorhome owners. Because I live in Washington, I was able to lead FMCA’s efforts against these proposals. This campaign was possible only because many FMCA members have listed their e-mail addresses with the national office. Through e-mail, we were able to provide members with progress reports and suggest to them what additional action they could take. Through e-mail, FMCA members communicated effectively with their own legislators. Even the FMCA members who have a home address in Washington but were traveling elsewhere as snowbirds were kept informed. The state legislators also got letters from FMCA officials that clearly and professionally stated our opposition.
Using e-mail, we were able to send more than 5,000 messages instantly to FMCA members so they could quickly let their elected officials know about our objection to these discriminatory tax proposals. We could not have been this effective using only regular mail or phone calls.
Information was also available about this at the Northwest Area’s Web site, www.fmcanw.org. The site provided a way to quickly publish the status of the tax proposals and keep members up-to-date on legislative issues.
We did send out letters about the tax proposals via the U.S. mail to members in Washington state who did not have e-mail addresses listed. The letters went out at the same time that the e-mails were sent, but based on the many phone calls I received, it appears that the letter didn’t catch up with some members until weeks after the tax proposals had been defeated. I was happy to report our success, but it could have been a situation where they got information so late that they were unable to have any effect on the outcome of these issues.
I know that some of you are concerned about giving your e-mail address to any organization, because of the possibility of its misuse. FMCA’s membership database is secure, encoded, and password controlled, allowing access only by authorized FMCA staff. Rest assured that there will be no misuse of your information by FMCA. Also note that just as member names and addresses are used for FMCA business only, the same applies to e-mail addresses. FMCA does not sell or rent lists from its membership records.
It is imperative that each FMCA member remembers to keep his or her records current in the FMCA database as information changes. This includes your e-mail address. Those who belong to a chapter also need to notify their chapter secretary of any changes. You need to take as much interest in having an accurate e-mail address on file with FMCA as you do in making sure your mailing address is accurate.
The volunteers on the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee and others in FMCA need to be able to notify you effectively when it is necessary. We need you to help make this important communications tool work.
Editor’s note: To submit changes to your membership records, in particular your e-mail address, you can either visit FMCA.com and click on Update Membership in the gray box on the lower left-hand side of the page; send an e-mail to [email protected]; or call (800) 543-3622 or (513) 474-3622.