Recently, I received this email from a reader:
“Hope you’re doing well. I have a couple of questions about the ARRL. I’ve been reading your blog and other sources, and it’s clear that the ARRL is in a little trouble. I have to say, though, that as soon as the current administration in D.C. notices that some of their friends can make money off of amateur radio bandwidth, the whole amateur radio service is in very serious jeopardy. The only way I can think of to counter that would be an organization like the ARRL, and I think there’s really only one organization like the ARRL. Is that not true? If it is, how can we help?”
I replied that it is true that there’s only one organization like the ARRL. In the past, there have been groups that have tried to compete with the ARRL, but they’ve never really taken off. It’s an incredible amount of work to set up an organization like the ARRL and none of the alternates have been able to get to critical mass.
The second question—How can we help?—is the big question. Here are a few thoughts:
- Join the ARRL. If you’re not currently a member, join. You’ll have little or no influence if you are not a member.
- If you are a member, but your friends are not, encourage them to join. The more members the ARRL has, the more influence it will have. This is common sense, but the ARRL doesn’t really seem to care about this. In the past, I’ve encouraged the ARRL to set a membership goal of 25% of licensed radio amateurs (link 1, link 2). I honestly don’t think this is asking too much, and I’ve never heard a good argument for them not to do this. They continue to ignore me, and the percentage of licensed radio amateurs that are ARRL members continues to decline.
- Take an interest in ARRL matters and let your director and vice director know your views. Get your friends to do likewise. Get on the mailing lists for the board meeting agendas and minutes. To do this, log into the ARRL website, click on “Edit your profile,” then “Edit email subscriptions.”
- Invite your ARRL elected officials—your division director, vice director, and section manager—to talk at your club meetings. Be prepared to grill them on issues that you think are important.
- Run for office yourself. I ran for Great Lakes Division vice director twice. Unfortunately, I lost both times, but even running is a way to have an impact. I’d like to see the “loyal opposition” get organized and challenge the status quo, especially in divisions where I think the current director is making bad decisions.
Having said all that, there are ways to make an impact besides playing ARRL politics:
- Get on the air. It’s easier to lose bands if we’re not using them. Encourage others to be active.
- Be an Elmer to those that need it.
- Teach classes to help those who want a license get a license and to help those who are already licensed to upgrade their licenses.
- Be an ambassador for amateur radio, especially to related groups, such as the “maker” groups that have sprung up around the country. Make sure that they know about your amateur radio club and the classes and exam sessions that you offer.
I’d love to hear any other thoughts that you all may have on this. I really do think that at this point, we need to inundate the ARRL Board and staff with input from the membership. While they may have a long history of ignoring the membership and just going about their own merry way, now is really a time of change, and this might be the right time to set the ARRL on a better path.
Dan, KB6NU, is the author of the â€œNo Nonsenseâ€ amateur radio license study guides and blogs about amateur radio at KB6NU.Com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.