In looking over all the posts on this topic, my original post seems to be missing. I may have not posted correctly; or, possibly the post is lost somewhere out there in cyberspace. In any event, I felt as a member, the need to post my comment to this issue, so here goes:
First of all, I am not a chapter member, choosing not to be as I don’t want to be involved in any politics which are associated with chapter membership; however, as a dues paying member of FMCA, I felt the need to address what I believe are important items to be considered.
(1) Membership Numbers
The article appearing in an earlier edition of the FMCA magazine cited that membership from 2004 to date is down by 595,000 members and motorhome sales are down from 2006 to date by 1.6% and as equally important the average age of FMCA members "seems to have gone up" from the age of 65 to 71.
Given all the statistics cited, one can readily see the decline in the various groups. The Governing Board, with all due respects, must look at and be realistic without any pre- conceived and/or political agendas, what are the driving forces behind these declines.
First, the Board must be open to and willing to accept the idea that while the population is aging and the "newer generation", those who are now into rving and in all likelihood make up the statistic cited (i.e., the "average RV owner is age 48"), are leading very different lifestyles that those of the generation that started FMCA. The current rver is more involved in the lifestyles of "being on the go" and are much "more active" than the aging generation. The 48 year old rver is running from here to there, keeping schedules and trying keep a balance between work and play. While most 48 year old rvers are not retired, they are, in fact, rvers.
The article stated that FMCA’s proposed solution: "To open membership to towables." My question, is this really going to work? I think one must look long and hard as to whether this is really a solution. When FMCA solicits membership, it is to those of motorhome owners. In all likelihood, one chooses to join FMCA because of what it is, an organization dedicated to motorhome owners.
If the organization choose to open to towables, FMCA must look at what they can offer that the other large organizations don’t; specifically, what can and/or would FMCA be able to offer to towables that Good Sam and/or Escapees don’t offer? In looking over the benefits of FMCA, there really isn’t much in the way of benefits geared towards the towables. After all, the bumper pull trailers and fifth wheel owners most likely do not need, nor purchase the larger and more expensive tires from Michelelin and/or Continental; and, in all fairness, the roadside assistance is cheaper through other organizations. Further, the benefits of the touring connection, mail forwarding and glass coverage can be utilized through other avenues. If FMCA is looking at the increased membership numbers in Good Sam (which is open to all units) are increasing, it most likely has to do with its association with Camping World; which from a business point was a tremendous idea. Is FMCA thinking that by opening membership to all units this will also increase FMCA membership numbers? Does FMCA have an avenue to align itself and provide its members with something as strong as the Good Sam / Camping World merger?
I read with concern a posting by a member on line that seemed to indicate the Board may consider an outside consultant to review and provide ideas on growing membership. To utilize an outside consulting group would equate to the same as the government hiring outside consultants to do a study for a substantial amount of money only to return results that could have been had without such a study.
The question really becomes "Why does one choose FMCA over another rving organization?" The most honest answer might just be because FMCA IS dedicated to the motorhome owner. As motorhome owners, we attend Rallies for information related directly to the use and safe operation of the motorhome and to shop with vendors that have items and products directly related to coaches. To open the FMCA membership to towables would defeat the purpose of "specific" rig information.
(2) Rally attendance
I've read both on line and in print the attendance numbers are dwindling for the Rallies. Is this the "aging" population referenced in the article; or, might it just be that the "same old, same old" just isn’t working any longer? We attended the Perry Rally and very much enjoyed the seminars and vendors, so much that we have invited two other couples to go with us from Texas up to Indiana. We believe that FMCA must realize and implement ideas that the newer generation is just that, "newer" and much more of an "on the go rver". The Board can not and must not continue to operate under the idea and concept of "that is the way it has been for years and it shouldn’t change." To successfully grow this organization, the powers that be must change and improve upon and bring in excitement with new and innovating ideas. The FMCA Energized program appears to be attempting to do just this and we are hopeful that they are on to something with their concepts and beliefs.
Another issue with Rally attendance might just be the lack of posting of dates far enough out for planning which from the recent postings has been addressed to which I thank those making such decisions. It is important to keep in mind that if FMCA wants to grow and increase membership at these events and seek the younger rver, such information should go out as soon as possible as the "younger" rver has a full schedule on their hands, i.e., between this child’s event, that grandchild’s soccer game or event and scheduling vacation time within their own work schedules requires planning as this is the real world of many.
(3) The Financial Aspect
The article to which I refer stated that "the cost of providing membership benefits to an organization’s members while still maintaining a profit is and/or should be the ultimate goal of any organization" and further stated that "as with any business, FMCA has both fixed and variable costs." My question, might these costs be distributed differently?
a. FMCAssist Medical Program: An extensive amount of detail is set out as to the costs associated with the FMCAssist Medical program, citing the cost of increase from $4.32 per member family to $8.52 per family member currently. The article further stated that by "adding younger FMCA members this would help with the loss ratio." My question would be Isn’t this the same concept that failed currently under the Affordable Health Care Act? This didn’t work. By opening up FMCA to towables, is FMCA really going to bring in that many more "younger" members to help offset the cost of the product; or is FMCA going to loose members for the reasons that FMCA is no longer dedicated to motorhome owners. Before joining an organization, it stands to reason that as a consumer, one looks to join the organization that gives you the most bang for your buck. If FMCA is open to all, including towables, then the decision for a member becomes which organization will give me the most for my membership dues. Does FMCA provide such benefits to compete?
b. Family Motor Coaching Magazine: To quote the phrase used in the article referring to the magazine, ... for many years "a cash cow" for the Association, I believe the article correctly set out the reason for the decline in advertising in the magazine. With the internet and social media, why would a company spend so much on an advertising budget? I do not believe that by opening up to all Rvers" will resolve this problem. The article alludes to the fact that by opening up to all Rvers, it would open up possibilities in terms of new advertisers. I think the powers to be must ask themselves - "will it really?" One should consider the fact that when Good Sam and Camping World merged, the magazine was filled with advertisements and sales pitches. As a consumer, after one or two issues, I've personally seen the advertisements and are tired of them. I can go on line and goggle anything and will find numerous companies to go to for their purchase of products, again choosing the vendor providing the best bargain. My thought is that those with the power must find other creative ways to increase their revenue; and, advertising dollars, most likely isn’t one of them. Projecting out five years or so, the most likely source that consumers will look to will be that of the internet, not in print.
One solution to rising magazine cost might be to go with only the digital version and forego the printed option. This most likely will meet with a lot of criticisms, especially among the "aging generation" however, in today’s world, its all about the internet. The magazines are nice to look at and the quality of paper and color is nice, but once you read them, they most likely go in the trash or recycle box. Times are changing and so must the thought of printed copies of magazines.
c. Might there be other ways to cut costs? Having been involved in a large organization, there is always somewhere to cut costs in order to bring about a more positive bottom line. Without being political and/or stepping on toes, what about expenses associated with the Board members or others involved in the Association? Might it be that travel expenses, rally fees and/or reimbursement expenses might need to be looked at and adjusted? This is, I'm sure, a very sensitive area, but one that must be considered.
In summary, like many others, we started out with towables, then went to a fifth wheel and thereafter a motorhome. For us, when we purchased our fifth wheel, we called FMCA asking about membership and after receiving the reply we, like others, thought FMCA was just for the "snooty" (to quote another blogger). We took the news in stride and went on about our business. After purchasing our first motorhome, we joined FMCA because it is an Organization dedicated to motorhomes, the type of unit we chose to purchase. We felt that with such an organization being dedicated to just motorhomes, the information shared and learned through the seminars and events would be product specific to the safety of ownership and maintenance of a motorhome.
We too are life members of Good Sam and personally don't see how FMCA can compete with the membership numbers of Good Sam because of their merger with Camping World. After all, if a customer (camper or rver) goes into a Camping World store to make a purchase, the first question asked is "are you a member of Good Sam?" If not, the pitch is given that if they sign up they would get a discount on their purchase. It makes sense at that point to buy into the membership, if not for any other reason, but for the discount on the purchase. Wow, membership numbers increase! Go figure. Is FMCA going to be able to come up with a product large enough to compete with Camping World? Without such a combined effort, will your numbers really increase?
As a member of FMCA we look forward to receiving information relative to motorhomes, the type of unit we have. We are not interested in receiving articles and information as to products on trailers and fifth wheels. While this is not to say that towables aren't just as good, to open up FMCA to towables without being able to provide a competitive membership product, in all likelihood will decrease the FMCA membership numbers.
There are other competing organizations out there (Good Sam, Escapees and others) and, if opened up to towables, from a personal standpoint, we would have to look seriously as to which one (1) organization to maintain membership. If there are three different organizations out there opened to all types of rigs, then the choice would be simple, we would ask ourselves which organization provides the best value and savings for our money. Can and/or would FMCA be able to provide that value and savings?
Thank you for allowing me space to post this.