By Connie Pool, F140306 , National President
This month I thought I would share some excerpts from the report I gave to the Governing Board at FMCA’s 80th International Convention this past July in St. Paul, Minnesota.
It is hard to believe that a year has passed since I was elected and assumed the position and responsibilities as FMCA’s president. It has been a very busy and time-consuming year, but also rewarding through the interaction I have had with many members, the national committee members, and, of course, the members of the Executive Board.
One of the first important decisions a new FMCA president must make involves appointing members to the national committees. Throughout my campaign for election, I promised to appoint committee members based on their qualifications and experience and to provide more diversity. I also had certain requirements for all committee members. Those requirements included: using Executive Board members as the chairs where possible; finding new, well-qualified members; using some area association officers; and spreading the responsibility among the 10 areas within FMCA as fairly as possible.
I am pleased to report all the committees have worked very hard during this last year, and I am extremely pleased with the participation of the committee members and the resulting committee recommendations.
A common theme throughout all the meetings has been improving membership recruitment and retention. As promised, I established the Marketing Strategy Committee to develop and implement a marketing strategy for FMCA, as I felt we lacked a specific strategy for advertising FMCA to the general RVing public. We have traditionally relied on word-of-mouth by our family and commercial members. While this has been our most successful recruiting method in the past, the scope of recruiting is limited. I am very pleased with the actions taken and the recommendations presented by the committee. Now that they are oriented on the task at hand, I am hoping for more focused and results-producing effort this coming year.
A “Boomer Focus Group” was held at our 79th International Convention in Pomona, California, where I had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with younger baby boomers. We sent invitations to FMCA members 56 years old or younger who were registered for the convention. Of the 25 couples identified and invited, six couples participated. I wanted to talk with boomers who are still a few years away from retirement to get their perspective of what is important as they travel in their motorhomes. Attendees also filled out a survey form to help us understand their backgrounds and how they currently are using their motorhomes. The session provided many suggestions to help make FMCA more appealing to them. The suggestions were passed to the various national committees for review and implementation where possible. Boomer focus sessions are also scheduled for FMCA’s convention in St. Paul. Since this article is being written before that convention, I have no results to report at this time.
Pomona was the first international convention that I was responsible for as president. The convention was small by our standards but was an overwhelming success by all other measurements. We had 2,332 family coaches and 881 commercial coaches, for a total count of 3,213. We took some risks and went with some entertainment we thought would appeal more to younger attendees, and it turned out to be a big hit with the entire audience. When you see 99 percent of the crowd remaining in their seats until the end of the performance and see people waving lit cell phones to Herman’s Hermits, you know you got it right.
I believe every member should have a good understanding of FMCA and what goes on behind the scenes. I asked each department director to give me input so I could accurately portray the duties and areas of responsibilities of each department in the articles I have written over the past few months in my “President’s Message” column in Family Motor Coaching magazine. I have reviewed the Convention/Commercial Services Department, Communications Department, Member Services Department, and Administrative Department, and I will cover Chapter Services in the September issue. I have also asked each of the committee chairs to write articles concerning the work of their particular group. I firmly believe it is our responsibility to provide our members as much information as we can about the operations and functions of our organization.
Membership and financial responsibility have been and will continue to be my primary focus. We are experiencing a continual decline in our membership numbers. We are not recruiting the number of new members that we have in the past, and we are not retaining our current members. The Marketing Strategy Committee is working on recruiting tools to help members recruit motorhome owners to FMCA. We have never provided a guide or tool to use, but have relied on our individual ability to “sell” a prospective member on FMCA while trying to remember all the member benefits. We also will start a training program for association officers to assist them in training others on not only recruiting members but to recruit chapter membership. It is still a proven fact that a chapter member is more likely to renew his or her membership than a non-chapter member.
This next year has many challenges before us as individuals and as an organization. The downturn in the motorhome industry, the increase in fuel costs, and the overall economy will continue to severely impact our lives. I will continue to address the issues of declining membership. All expenditures will continue to be scrutinized, and we will continue staff reductions through normal attrition with replacements authorized only on an absolute need basis. The staff’s size was reduced by two persons (4 percent of our permanent workforce) this past year, and we are continuing to seek voluntary reductions through retirements. However, you must realize with every reduction in the staff we have, there will be an associated reduction in the time and services the various departments can provide to areas, chapters, and membership. While the number of members continues to decline, the number of chapters the staff provides service for keeps growing.
The sharp increases in fuel prices are making all of us re-evaluate the way we travel in our day-to-day lives. We don’t know how much higher fuel prices will go, but there are some projections that indicate that we could possibly see a turnaround in 2009. On our trip to the summer convention in St. Paul, we continued to see plenty of motorhomes on the road, but most were licensed in the state where we saw them. It appears people have not given up their RV lifestyle but may be limiting the distance they drive. FMCA also is having to re-evaluate our business plan and spending habits now that we are encountering slower sales of magazine advertising and a decline in membership. Our international conventions may be smaller than what we have experienced in the past, but they continue to be successful for all those who attend. On a positive note, the convention in St. Paul has all the makings to be more successful than Pomona was in late February 2008.
May all your travels be safe and trouble-free.