Executive Director’s Commentary
By Don Eversmann, F240000, Executive Director
Editor’s note: Mr. Eversmann presented the following information to the FMCA Governing Board during its meeting in Bowling Green, Ohio, this past July.
Following is an update about Family Motor Coach Association and activities that have been occurring related to its operation since we last met. As of June 30, 2009, FMCA’s active membership count was 102,511 families, and the last membership number assigned was F408890.
To say that the year 2008 was challenging for the recreation vehicle industry and for FMCA would definitely be an understatement. One has to go back to the late 1970s to find a more difficult period for the RV industry. The RV industry weathered a few less-severe recessions in the 1990s and early 2000s, but this current downturn has taken a major toll.
In 1972, the RV industry recorded wholesale shipments of 582,900 units. Just eight years later, in 1980, the RV industry shipped only 106,900 units “” a decline of 82 percent. Compare that with 2006, when 390,500 units were shipped, and 2009, with an estimated 136,500 units shipped “” a decline of 65 percent. Recovery of the RV industry has occurred in the past and I believe it will happen again.
FMCA is fortunate in that it owns the buildings and land it occupies and has no long-term debt of any kind. In addition, in better years the association was able to build reserves that now are available to help sustain the organization in this downturn. We continue to evaluate ways to reduce costs and conserve the use of reserves during these tough times.
Over the years, advertising revenue from Family Motor Coaching magazine has made up a considerable percentage of FMCA’s operating revenue and permitted FMCA to support its members while keeping annual dues low. This advertising revenue has experienced a severe drop in the past couple of years, not unlike what has happened to the vast majority of print publications of all types.
FMCA’s family membership continues to experience a net decrease. The annual loss of membership mirrors the economic challenges as motorhome owners make financial decisions that impact their ability to continue the RV lifestyle. While associate membership in FMCA is an option when one no longer owns a motorhome, this primarily interests chapter members who have made lasting friendships and desire to keep in touch with people they have come to enjoy traveling and spending time with.
The most significant method of new member recruitment remains member-get-a-member. While new membership recruitment programs have been implemented, it is still important that we realize that most of FMCA’s new members, and those who continue to renew after their initial years, are those recruited by current members. FMCA still experiences an outstanding retention rate of 84.6 percent. The problem is that over the past four years, we have not had enough new members join to replace the 15 percent that FMCA loses each year.
Even during this economic crisis, FMCA programs remain strong. FMCA still has 500 chapters, and their members are enjoying the fun and fellowship they were formed to provide. FMCA’s 10 areas continue to hold rallies, and in the majority of cases are still experiencing strong and successful events. And FMCA still offers two international conventions a year, although recent gatherings have been smaller as a result of members’ economic concerns and their decreased ability to travel distances, as well as the impact of the financial woes of the manufacturers, dealers, and suppliers that support these events.
Just two years ago, FMCA had 69 employees (59 full-time and 10 part-time). Today, that number has been reduced to 49 employees (47 full-time and two part-time) through attrition and layoffs in an effort to be fiscally responsible. The national office staff continues to strive to maintain the service levels to which members have become accustomed.
Effective January 1, 2009, all $10 member recruitment coupons issued from that date forward provide the opportunity for members to use them toward the payment of their annual membership dues.
In an effort to support membership growth and increase chapter membership, the Membership/Member Services Committee recommended to the Executive Board that each chapter be given five free FMCA memberships for them to recruit new members to FMCA and also their chapter, where mentoring could take place and long-term retention would occur.
Of the approximately 2,500 free memberships that were sent to the chapters (five per chapter), we have received 187 new members. I encourage you to talk to the chapter presidents and be sure they are working on giving these memberships to motorhome owners who are interested in FMCA and also in joining their chapters.
After six months of development work, the newly redesigned FMCA.com was launched on January 28. This will always be an active project with our IT Department, as you will continue to see new things appear as time permits given the limited resources we have. We have had many favorable comments, and if you have spent any time on the site, I’m sure you’ll agree that the navigation has been greatly improved. The Community area is new, and we believe this will be a great draw to members as well as non-members.
A new electronic welcome letter has been developed and is being e-mailed to new FMCA members within three days of joining FMCA. The goal of the letter is to let new members know that FMCA is interested in communicating with them and providing them assistance as they enjoy FMCA and the motorhome lifestyle.
Another new initiative is the electronic advance dues renewal. An e-mail reminder is sent to members two weeks prior to FMCA mailing out their first dues renewal notice. This provides members the opportunity to immediately renew online, and if they do so within the two-week period, FMCA will avoid the dues renewal mailing.
On behalf of FMCA, I attended the International Association of Lemon Law Administrators (IALLA) RV Initiative Committee meeting at the Annual IALLA Conference in Sacramento, California, in September 2008. This committee meeting was a follow-up to the meeting held in June 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia, and two telephone conference call meetings that were held subsequent to the June meeting. At the June meeting, FMCA presented an association position statement (developed by FMCA’s Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee and approved by the Executive Board) regarding the initial draft of the proposed motorhome-specific lemon law. In that position statement, FMCA identified specific items that we believed had to be considered; these eventually became part of the final document.
Much of the work revolved around evaluating exactly what would be acceptable as a whole to most states, instead of just providing a document that would be rewritten and piecemealed as legislation is considered in individual states.
I was very pleased with the opportunity FMCA had to participate and with the respect that the committee members had for the RV owners’ point of view. This initiative was an extensive effort on the part of not only the RV industry and its consumers, but also some outstanding representatives of state governments whose efforts on a daily basis are intended to protect the interests of the consumer. The unanimous vote of the IALLA Executive Board on May 13, 2009, accepting the completed “Suggested Motorhome-Specific Lemon Law” document is a testament to the efforts and results of this workgroup. The ultimate goal, of course, is for states to adopt the suggested law.
In an effort to promote membership in FMCA, a concept that was proposed by several committees was the static-cling “Ask Me About FMCA” signs that were distributed to each chapter. The chapter president, national director, and alternate national director each received one.
We are working with the commercial members in the distribution of larger static-cling “Ask Me About FMCA” signs. We hope that they will use these signs in their businesses and at events that they attend to promote membership in FMCA.
The Membership/Member Services Committee also decided that FMCA commercial member campgrounds need to have more visibility for RVers to recognize their relationship with us. A mailing was sent to FMCA commercial member campgrounds offering them an aluminum FMCA commercial member campground sign and the smaller static-cling “Ask Me About FMCA” signs. We received requests from about 189 of these campgrounds that were interested in receiving the sign and static-cling.
This year marked my 11th year with FMCA, and I continue to enjoy working for the association. I guess one could say I have experienced the best of years and the worst of years. Never could I have anticipated the turbulent times we are going through right now. However, each day as I enter the office, I am constantly reminded by the performance of the dedicated staff that I work with in Cincinnati that we are here to support you and the lifestyle of which you have chosen to be a part. Even in the face of staff reductions as a result of attrition and layoffs, the remaining staff members have maintained a positive attitude and remain devoted to ensuring FMCA’s ongoing success.