By Jerry Yeatts, F39000
FMCA Executive Director
Over the past two months in this column, I have recognized two individuals who had a vision for this association, which remains true to its founding principles 50 years later. You also may have read this month’s President’s Message defining who we are. The next logical questions are what do we want to become in the next 50 years, and how do we begin to write this new chapter in the history of this great association?
Chapters have been the lifeblood of FMCA throughout its history. Research has shown that FMCA members who join a chapter, which keeps them actively enjoying the motorhome lifestyle, remain members of the association longer than other members. As a baby boomer, I realize that some of us tend to shy away from groups and group activities. Consider, however, that experts note that social connections play an important role in our well-being. Joining a chapter or even forming a chapter based upon your interests will afford you the opportunity to network and to form new friendships that may last a lifetime.
The Chapter/Area/National Services team at the national office put some thoughts on paper recently regarding ways this vital department assists in the development, promotion, growth, and retention of chapters, and I wanted to share that with you this month.
A “Chapter Formation Kit” includes everything you need to start a chapter. A formation mailing is offered to assist in promoting chapter membership to non-chapter members and to organize new chapters in an attempt to encourage members to join a chapter.
Upon approval of a new chapter, the chapter president receives a “Chapter President’s Handbook,” which contains the chapter charter, a trailboss guide, details regarding officer duties, and other information the chapter will need. We also send a set of national director attachment plates, which can be affixed to the goose egg on the individual officer’s motorhome and are to be passed on to each succeeding national director. A banner and a flag (U.S. or Canadian, depending on their scope) are presented to each new chapter. The Chapter/Area/National Services staff will coordinate the presentation with the national vice president for the area.
The aforementioned “Chapter President’s Handbook” and the chapter secretary’s newsletter, called “Keeping In Touch,” are examples of printed materials the FMCA national office staff provides to chapters and areas to help them with their day-to-day operation. The handbook includes information and forms for all chapter officers pertaining to taxes, rallies, and chapter promotion. The quarterly “Keeping In Touch” newsletter is distributed to chapter and area secretaries and provides reminders about deadlines and hints to help them in their role within the chapter.
The national office staff strives to keep chapter records updated in order to facilitate the annual process of chapter certification and to keep chapters in active status; to offer proof of insurance certificates needed for chapter rallies; and to link chapter Web sites to FMCA.com. Staff also works with the Constitution and Bylaws Committee in maintaining the chapter bylaws, which help provide a foundation for the association.
The FMCA Chapter Member Recruitment Toolkit provides chapter presidents with the knowledge and tools they need to recruit members into their chapter. The toolkit includes information about the Chapter Recruitment Benefit. Each chapter is entitled to $125 in recruitment funds one time per year. They chose one of three options, allowing them to tailor use of these funds to their specific needs.
Option A. Sometimes chapters have a hard time finding someone with the skills or the time to prepare a brochure that can be used to recruit chapter members, so the Chapter/Area/National Services staff decided to make the process as easy as possible. They created a standard brochure; all the chapter has to do is fill in the information on page 7 of the Recruitment Toolkit and mail it to the FMCA office, or send the information via e-mail. Staff will mail or e-mail a brochure to non-chapter members in the targeted area chosen by the chapter.
Option B. Chapters send their own recruitment material or brochure, from one to three pieces front and back, to the national office staff. Staff members then mail or e-mail it to non-chapter members in the targeted area.
Option C. A chapter can place an ad in a local newspaper to invite interested motorhome owners to attend their rally or event, and FMCA will reimburse the chapter up to $125 toward the cost of the ad.
Another option in the Recruitment Toolkit is receiving new member and past-due member reports. Staff can provide most chapters with a list of new members who have joined FMCA during the past month for the purpose of recruiting these members to their chapter. The list and/or address labels can be sorted by state, province, and/or coach brand.
The past-due member report is intended to help chapters and FMCA with member retention. The report provides chapters with a list of the members in their chapter who have not paid their FMCA dues. This gives chapters a chance to remind these members that they must keep their FMCA dues current in order to maintain their chapter membership. This can be provided to the chapters as a list and/or address labels.
Chapters can promote their activities in Family Motor Coaching magazine and online at FMCA.com. Chapters have the opportunity to list their rally schedule in the Association Calendar. Three months of rallies appear in each issue of Family Motor Coaching magazine, and rallies for up to a year can be listed online.
Chapters can publicize their interest in recruiting new members by advertising in the “Join a Chapter” column in Family Motor Coaching magazine. Each chapter is entitled to one free ad per year and can purchase additional ads for $.50 per word. The column appears in the January, March, June, August, and November issues.
Chapter information cards are included in new member packages and are available at conventions and area rallies. Interested members send these cards to the national office and then are matched up with chapters.
Members looking for chapter contact information have a couple of options. FMCA maintains a Chapter Directory, which lists all chapters, and an Area Directory, which lists only the chapters from a specified FMCA area. Members may contact the FMCA national office and request this information by phone, or go online and view the information using the Chapters/Area tab on the FMCA.com home page. While searching the directory online, you can create a list of chapters you would like more information about and then submit your contact information. Each chapter will be notified of your request either by e-mail or postal mail.
The FMCA national office provides educational opportunities to chapter members at area rallies and Family Reunions. Past educational seminars have included national director briefings and chapter officer sessions. Chapters also may schedule a room to hold their own chapter meetings and functions at the Family Reunions.
Every five years, chapters are recognized for their anniversary with a certificate and starting at 25 years with a cash award. The cash awards range from $100 for a 25-year anniversary to $300 for a 45-year anniversary. The Chapter/Area/National Services staff coordinates this recognition with the respective national vice president responsible for presentation of the chapter’s anniversary materials.
The FMCA Chapter Fair, conducted at FMCA Family Reunions (usually once a year) and at some area rallies, is a great place to meet potential new members for your chapter and to see what other chapters are doing to attract new members.
Of course, most members enjoy the camaraderie that comes with chapter membership. It’s nice to meet like-minded people and to connect with them through activities.
As you can see, the Chapter/Area/National Services team, as well as the entire national office staff, is here to assist you.
Let us help you to begin a new chapter in FMCA while you help us to start the next chapter.