By R.G. Wilson, F21025
The president of the United States gives a yearly “State of the Union” address. Along this line, in last January’s issue, I wrote an article titled “State of the Association” to inform you of the status of the Family Motor Coach Association from my viewpoint as the association’s president. Again this year I want to bring you, our member-owners, up-to-date on the state of the association.
As I write this article for the January issue, the committees of our association have just completed two weeks of very successful meetings at our headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. FMCA is a committee-driven, member-owned organization. The Executive Board consists of the four national officers “” president, senior vice president, secretary, and treasurer “” along with the immediate past president and the 10 national area vice presidents. The Executive Board, along with the standing committees and special committees of FMCA, meets in May and November at the national office in Cincinnati to review operations, transact business, and plan for the future.
While all this is fresh in my mind, I want to inform you of the state of our association as I see it. I am in my seventh year of serving as a national officer. During my three years of service as national treasurer, our association’s financial reserves grew by $3 million. In the past four years, however, we and other companies have been faced with a sagging economy, and the challenges that go along with that. After much discussion and consideration, we asked the Governing Board for a $10 dues increase in 2003, which they approved. This dues increase “” the first in 23 years “” took effect in 2004. In part because of this increase, FMCA’s financial picture for 2004 seems to have improved, and we are on track to end the year on a positive note. With talk of a near-record year for wholesale sales in the RV industry, we are hopeful that things are on the upswing for our industry partners and for FMCA. The motorhome lifestyle continues to appeal to a broad range of people, for the many reasons veteran motorhome owners among us can recite without fail.
Despite the lackluster economy and increasing fuel prices, attendance at FMCA international conventions has remained stable. In fact, the Albuquerque convention held in March 2004 ranked as FMCA’s 10th largest convention to date, and the Redmond convention in August 2004 went down in the record books as the 16th largest. These events continue to provide motorhome owners an opportunity to gather with friends who share their love of the lifestyle, and to offer motorhome manufacturers and dealers and component suppliers and service providers the opportunity to showcase their products. These functions are vital to the success of FMCA and, we believe, to the well-being of the motorhome industry. We are attempting to hold conventions in popular destinations and returning to locations that were popular in the past. We are adding activities and arranging more headliner entertainers in an attempt to draw more family members to our conventions.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable convention sites and facilities. Part of this problem is the size of the facility required to accommodate our large conventions. FMCA also continues to seek states that will permit the display and sale of motorhomes to our members during the event. The Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee is working on suggested legislation in various states that will permit all commercial members, both in-state and out-of-state, to continue to participate in our conventions.
Soon after being elected president in 2003, I authorized Don Moore, F154921, national senior vice president, to study all convention costs and make cuts where possible to keep our costs in line with our revenue. Our new convention organization structure was developed as a result, and is permitting better control of costs. We are also soliciting more competitive bids for local services required at conventions.
Another goal that I had when elected president was to look at all aspects of FMCA’s operations and make improvements where needed. I believe that with the help of many hard-working volunteers on committees, and the cooperation and support of the Executive Board, we have been successful.
I appointed a subcommittee from the Executive Board, chaired by national secretary Ginger Painter, F23514, to develop a revised job description and an Executive Director Handbook. This project was completed and approved by the Executive Board during our convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this past March. The revised job description and the handbook have been great guidance tools for our executive director and have facilitated the president in his annual evaluation.
I then assigned this same committee the task of evaluating and updating our employee manual and employee benefits package. This was a monumental project. The documents were presented and accepted by the Executive Board at our November meeting.
This past summer during the Executive Board meeting in Redmond, Oregon, I appointed a new committee called the IT & Communications Committee. This committee consists of Bob Gummersall, F127494; Charlie Johnston, F27211; and Hal Sharpe, F95050; and is chaired by Northeast Area vice president Bill Conway, F99081. These members are all highly qualified and experienced in the computer technology field. They worked very hard and long hours to bring us their valuable findings and recommendations to improve our information technology department. They will continue to develop plans and recommendations to improve communications with and between the Executive Board and other committees.
In the past five years we have added some valuable and popular benefits for FMCA members. The MEDEX Plus emergency medical evacuation program, for instance, has been very valuable. Because of our large membership, we were able to negotiate some very good rates for this program in the beginning. As this service became known and used by our members, the program provider assessed their position and drastically increased our renewal costs. This is having a tremendous impact on our budget and operating statements. The cost of our MEDEX Plus program has tripled; however, we have secured continued service for our members through 2006. We are fortunate to have the cash to enable us to contract further out and to lock in the fees before they rise even more. I believe the Risk Management Committee, under the direction of Judy Allen, F193946, has done a superb job in negotiating these contracts.
The Education Committee, chaired by June Davis, F158928, continues to seek seminars, programs, and courses to educate our members on RV safety and other items of interest. They also have developed a very beneficial and popular series of seminars for training our national directors, who serve on the Governing Board.
The Long-Range & Development Committee, chaired by Western Area vice president Tony Vincent, F161584, did an in-depth analysis of the progress of implementing FMCA’s Strategic Plan. Much has been accomplished in the implementation of this plan, including the rewrite of the association’s Constitution, Bylaws, and Policies and Procedures. The committee went through the entire Strategic Plan and made proposals for revisions to update the document.
The Constitution and Bylaws/Policy and Procedure Committee, cochaired by Jim Phillips, F158824, and Mary Elizabeth Preston, F51004, have accomplished a huge task working with chapters and area organizations in revising their bylaws to bring them into conformity with national guidelines. They also did a marvelous job in revising and getting approval from the Governing Board on term changes for national officers through a change in the FMCA Bylaws.
We have another hard-working committee, chaired by my wife, Jeri, which we call the Round Bottom Services Committee. This committee is what we call a free committee, because it is made up of spouses of other committee members, and no additional travel expenses are incurred. After long, all-day meetings we prefer to relax and eat at our Round Bottom Road campground. This committee’s responsibilities are to provide or make arrangements for those evening meals. At our November meetings, this committee provided nearly all our evening meals; we ate at restaurants only three nights. This is much preferred by all committee members and is a great savings to FMCA financially.
In summary, I believe the state of our association is excellent. We have a staff of very good employees. They know their job requirements and are very capable, courteous, and helpful to the Executive Board and other FMCA committee personnel, as well as to the general membership. I am extremely pleased with the cooperative attitude of the Executive Board. Although we do not always agree, I see a stronger consensus now than I have ever seen since I have been a member. We work hard but all seem to enjoy representing FMCA and are having fun while taking care of business.
We are blessed to be part of such a wonderful organization. FMCA continues to consider ways to enhance the motorhome lifestyle for its members. It is likely that we will face challenges in the days ahead in maintaining the many benefits that FMCA offers its members. I promised the Governing Board when I was elected that I would not let our association operate in a deficit. I already have had to make some hard decisions to fulfill this promise, and I will continue to do what I feel is necessary to keep our association financially healthy and strong to enable the fulfilling of our goals and core values.
As we enter a new year, I would like to wish all of you a very happy, prosperous, and safe 2005 as you continue your travels.