Executive Director’s Commentary
By Don Eversmann, F240000
Editor’s note: Mr. Eversmann presented the following report to the FMCA Governing Board during its meeting in Redmond, Oregon, this past August.
I am pleased to share with you an update on the Family Motor Coach Association and activities that have been occurring related to its operation since we last met. As of June 30, 2007, FMCA’s active membership count was 118,359 families, and the last membership number assigned was F391234.
While recreation vehicle manufacturers’ shipments of all units to retailers in 2006 increased 1.6 percent over 2005, shipments of motorhomes in 2006 declined 9 percent compared to 2005. Type A motorhome shipments declined 13.7 percent in 2006, type B motorhomes gained 15.4 percent, and type C motorhome shipments declined 3.3 percent. Overall RV shipments were down 15.6 percent in the first quarter of 2007. Motorhome shipments during the first quarter, however, were down by only 0.7 percent over 2006. The RV industry tends to be cyclical, with inherent ups and downs. Some RV market observers believe that the motorhome portion of the industry reached bottom and turned around in October 2006.
These statistics represent from 25 percent to 33 percent of the motorhome sales in the industry. Many more used units are sold than new. And while the new shipments and sales are down, it can be anticipated that used product is following a similar trend.
I believe strongly that FMCA’s membership numbers are a reflection of the current trends in the industry. Many of FMCA’s strongest years for membership growth were during the boom years of the motorhome industry. It is hoped that as the motorhome industry statistics improve this year and next, FMCA will make the same turnaround and membership numbers will again increase.
Family Motor Coaching magazine, the most appreciated FMCA member benefit, generates a significant portion of the association’s revenue. Advertising revenues have mirrored the motorhome industry’s downturn when 2006 is compared to 2005, and they continue to reflect the decline in motorhome shipments, but the decrease has been less. Family Motor Coaching magazine is still the premier motorhome magazine and continues to be a great way to reach motorhoming consumers.
Over the years, FMCA has been fortunate that a large majority of the industry has been interested in promoting their products through advertising in Family Motor Coaching magazine. However, in recent years as advertising dollars got tight and other forms of advertising have become available, it has been more difficult to sustain the desired level of advertising sales.
The Executive Board last year approved a proposal presented by the Wage Review Board and staff to hire a dedicated sales director to manage the sales personnel and concentrate a significant portion of their time and his to maintaining advertising accounts and generating new accounts. I am pleased to announce that John Renda has joined FMCA as the sales director. John comes to FMCA with a background in print, Internet, and broadcast radio sales, most recently as a sales manager at the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper. He has worked with large advertising agencies as well as large and small advertisers, which should serve him well at FMCA. John has 20 years of both sales and sales management experience. The majority of the sales team’s efforts to date have been focused on maintaining and replacing existing accounts, and we have seen a definite positive effect in curtailing the loss of and decrease in advertising revenue.
The May 2007 issue of Family Motor Coaching brought the launch of the redesign of the magazine. While the appearance of the magazine changed, the familiar elements remained. The magazine still contains a mix of the components that make the motorhome lifestyle the enjoyable pursuit it is. The goal of this redesign was to capture the energy and excitement that are so much a part of the motorhome lifestyle. An attempt was made to give the magazine a more contemporary feel, a lighter look that would be pleasing to the readers. What has changed more than anything is the packaging.
We have received mixed reviews on the new look, but in most cases the comments have been positive. The staff did receive a number of comments regarding the print size, and as a result the font size was increased starting with the July issue of the magazine.
The decrease in family membership continues to concern all of us. While the decrease last year was only 3.2 percent, it had been hoped that by now the trend would have leveled off or made a positive turn. FMCA has put a number of new programs in place in an effort to recruit new members. While in some cases we are maintaining a consistent recruitment of new members, we are not keeping up with replacing those members who become inactive each month.
I know that I said this last year, but the bottom line is that there are motorhome owners out there who are not members of FMCA. Members continue to recruit more than 40 percent of new FMCA members; however, as the overall number of new members has decreased, so has the number of memberships this percentage represents. Back in 2002 and 2003, FMCA family member recruitments averaged over 700 new members per month. However, in 2006 and continuing into 2007, family member recruitments on the average have fallen below 500 new member recruitments per month. That number alone represents 2,400 new member recruitments lost, and last year FMCA membership decreased by 4,130.
If we could get our best recruiters back out there bringing in new members, we could turn this around. Hopefully, with the industry turning around, this trend will subside, and stability “” and growth “” will return to the membership count. Even so, in 2006 FMCA’s renewal rate was again 85 percent, and everyone has agreed that an 85 percent renewal rate is exceptional.
Member-get-a-member is the program that generates the best results for associations, and FMCA is no different. Last year 41 percent of FMCA’s new members came from existing members’ recruiting efforts. This percentage exceeds any other source of new members, but we need it to return to the percentages that we were experiencing at the turn of the century. In 2001 FMCA members recruited 48 percent of our new members. So, I encourage all of you to continue to remind your chapter members to share the benefits of FMCA membership as we travel and meet other motorhome owners.
In an effort to familiarize the FMCA staff with the generation that is currently embracing the RV lifestyle, the Executive Board approved hiring a Boomer Project consultant to come to Cincinnati and work with the staff. Approximately 50 staff members participated in the seminar that was presented on Tuesday, October 3, by Matt Thornhill, president of The Boomer Project. Matt presented facts, statistics, and observations to show us how boomers, particularly those over 50, respond to marketing messages. It was enlightening and interesting to learn about the attitudes and opinions of the 78 million baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 50 every day, it’s important for us to understand this generation and learn how to approach and connect with them.
The MEDEX Emergency Medical Evacuation Program continues to be an extremely valuable and essential benefit for the membership as we travel, and members continue to tell us that it is an excellent tool for recruiting new members. This benefit has been so well received by the membership that FMCA has contracted for this program for the membership through December 2008.
Over the past year, FMCA has been searching out new benefits for our member families. In January FMCA introduced the Five Star Specialty Motorhome Insurance Program. This program eliminates the middleman, and instead of staffing the telephones with commissioned salespeople, they have licensed, qualified, salaried customer service representatives. These factors help keep costs down and allow the savings to be passed on to FMCA members. The member response has been overwhelming. Many members are reporting considerable savings in the cost of their motorhome insurance.
Late last year, we started using a new computer program that lets us send out e-mail messages in bulk. It’s called “blasting” by the e-mail marketing industry. It allows us to reach out to new and existing members to help keep them informed about items of interest or current membership opportunities, and to inspire them to actively participate in the association. Rest assured that we try to limit this type of communication to be sure members do not consider it a nuisance.
We have sent e-mail blasts to the FMCA membership to promote the FMCA North American Road Atlas & Travel Guide, FMCA international conventions, and area rallies; to distribute monthly e-newsletters; and as a way to inform specific members of legislative issues that might negatively impact the use of their motorhome. E-mail blasts are a way to reach the membership with items of interest in a very economical manner. Members are given the opportunity to opt out of specific types of e-mails sent by FMCA should they so desire.
This year, a Chapter Fair was held at the international convention in Perry, Georgia. During the Chapter Fair individual chapters demonstrate their unique qualities in an effort to attract non-chapter members to the “chapter way of life.” This is an excellent opportunity for chapters to share one of FMCA’s pre-eminent benefits “” chapter membership. Based upon statistics, it can be said that members of chapters are less likely to drop out of FMCA than those who are not members of chapters. A total of 69 chapters participated in the Chapter Fair in Perry, exhibiting their form of fun and fellowship. We certainly appreciate all who helped to make this event a success. Many areas continue to hold chapter fairs at their area rallies with wonderful results.
The Travelers Message Service was discontinued as planned on December 31, 2006. We were successful in shutting the system down and received very few comments regarding the discontinuance of this service.
During the RVIA Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in November 2006, Don Moore, FMCA national president; Connie Pool, FMCA national senior vice president; Jerry Yeatts, FMCA convention director; and I were able to meet with Carl E. Pfalzgraf, RVIA chairman of the board; Richard A. Coon, RVIA president; and Dianne Farrell, RVIA vice president, government affairs. We discussed a broad range of subjects such as lemon laws, warranty work, quality control, service after delivery, construction of motorhomes that are illegal to drive on streets in some states, and display and sale of motorhomes by out-of-state dealers at rallies and conventions. They seemed to be responsive to the positions that we presented. They expressed a strong interest to work with FMCA in dealing with the state lemon laws as they relate to motorhomes. They plan to share their efforts in hopes that we can take a united front and together give the International Association of Lemon Law Administrators (IALLA) a unified opinion.
In February, I was requested to appear in Atlanta, Georgia, before the House of Representatives Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee to testify in regard to the proposed amendment to Georgia House Bill 297, which would permit out-of-state recreation vehicle dealers to sell motorhomes at FMCA events in Georgia. On February 27 and 28, I presented testimony on behalf of FMCA for the passage of the amendment to HB 297. In its second meeting on February 28, the committee added additional verbiage and passed the amendment to HB 297 and forwarded it on to the House with a favorable endorsement.
The amendment to Georgia HB 297 was passed by the House and moved on to the Senate. The final version was passed by the Senate, but the governor vetoed the bill “” not specifically because of the RV sales provisions. The amendment would have exempted events having more than 2,500 RV units in attendance; however, there were several items in the bill that would have to be complied with regarding inviting Georgia RV dealers to participate, and some items relating to relationships between manufacturers and dealers. It would have basically permitted FMCA to hold conventions in the state of Georgia as in the past without change. We have been assured that the bill will be reintroduced again in January 2008.
A similar situation occurred in the state of Oregon that threatened the operation and success of FMCA events there. This legislative process was ongoing for about two months, and FMCA member Frank Brodersen and Northwest Area Vice President Donzella Leahy acted on FMCA’s behalf in this process. It seems that any negative impact has been eliminated. However, at the request of industry representatives in Oregon, Jerry Yeatts and I joined Sue Bray from the Good Sam Club in May for a meeting in Salem, Oregon, to discuss the operation of RV rallies and conventions with RV dealers. I feel that the meeting went well and hopefully will eliminate future legislative attempts that might impact FMCA events in the state of Oregon.
A new telephone system was installed at the FMCA national office in April to replace the aging system that was no longer being sold or supported. Overall it was a smooth installation, and all employees were trained on the system before they were required to use it the day after installation. It took about a week to get a few glitches ironed out, but overall everything is working fine and more efficiently for the employees and the callers.
In April, we started sending out a new FMCA membership card with the dues renewal notice. As approved by the Executive Board in November, the notice contained one card and was sent as a self-mailer for ease of returning. The outside of the envelope has a bold gold-colored box stating “Membership Card Enclosed.” The back of the card contains contact information for the FMCA national office. There have been some initial start-up problems with the forms, but we are working with the issues to solve the concerns that have been raised, and the next order of the dues renewal forms has been designed to be more user-friendly. It is interesting to note that prepaid dues have doubled, which likely can be attributed to the fact that the prepay option is more visible on the new form.
I continue to enjoy the opportunity to work with the staff at the FMCA national office. They are ready and able to assist you in getting the most out of your FMCA membership. Please call or e-mail the national office with your questions and inquiries. We certainly would enjoy sharing a tour of the FMCA national office with you should you happen to be traveling through the Cincinnati area. Please stop and visit. When visiting, we encourage you to park your motorhome at the Round Bottom Road campground, since the Clough Pike office parking lot is not configured to allow easy access for motorhomes.