Are Ham Radio Clubs Dying?

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Hey everybody and welcome back to Everything Ham Radio. This month I was able to go back to my ham club meeting for the first time in about three years. The last time I went to a meeting, we had about 10!people in attendance, which wasn’t great to begin with. This month when I went, I walked into two people at the meeting and another that joined us a little bit later.

It’s really sad to see our membership dying like it it. When we started the club in 1995 we started with about 20 people and at our peak around 2000, we had about 35 members. However, ever since then it has slowly gone down hill until now we have only a handful of people that attend our meetings it seems.

Life gets in the way

I realize that in today’s world, life gets in the way of extra curricular activities like a ham club meeting. People have to work, like I have for the past three years, people have families and of course they come first, or people just flat out forget

This meeting made me wonder if this is happening just to our club or if it is a common thing around the world. So off to begin my research I went.

What I found was kind of disturbing. It seems like a lot of clubs are dying out or dwindling in number at the very least.

Some people said that politics have ruined their club; Some say it’s egos. Others say that their meeting are just so boring and that nothing is ever done except business meeting type stuff and complaining.

I even saw a post of Reddit that a guy posted that said he found a local ham radio club that had an awesome website and he was able to join it online. He paid the $75 membership fee and a couple weeks later he went to the meeting online to find a couple people there that told him that the club dissolved a few months prior.

So what do those that are thriving have that other clubs don’t? What should your club do to maximize attendance and/or participation and to help your club grow and thrive?

1. Have Fun!Miller County ARC training

Source: Miller County ARC

I hear so often and have experienced it first hand, that club meeting are often boring. Several club meeting that I have been to is majority business meeting related or a butt chewing session on things that weren’t done right in a previous event. This is honestly what has cause me to stop going to some meeting that I use to go to.

When people have a hobby, they do it because they want to have fun in their lives. In our everyday lives we work, take care of our kids, take care of our house and sleep. Often times that is what the majority of our time is spent doing.

We want to do a hobby that is fun. By making a meeting about that hobby boring or counter productive of that fun, it causes people to not want to come to them anymore.

Rather than dragging out your club meeting with business type stuff, make that part of it as short as possible. Let your officers and board members take care of the majority of your business part of the meeting at another time. If there is something that has to be put before the club, do it quickly either at the beginning of the meeting or at the end.

Do presentations, hands on building things, or other items of interest to the members of your club. Get them involved and enjoying themselves, make them laugh and excited to try something new.

2. Give Your Members What They WantAurora Public School - Your Voice Matters

Source: Aurora Public Schools

When your club is planning out their presentation/training schedules and booking people to come and talk to your club, make sure that it is something that your club members will be interested in. If they are not, or if it is to technical, they might get up part way through and leave.

How to you find out what your club members like?

You have to stay attuned to your membership. Listen to what your members are saying, ask them what kind of aspects of the hobby they are interested in, what they like to do, etc. Give a questionnaire or a poll to your members asking them what they like or would like to learn about.

When you have someone come to your club to give some training, have your members rating the speaker and the topic. Not only will this help the speaker to learn about his/her presentation and what he/she can do to change it and make it better, but it will also tell the club leadership how the club feels about that topic.

Let’s say that someone comes to your club to talk about Fox Hunting? You give the evaluation forms to your membership and the results you get back are all positive and many say that they would like to learn more about it. Congratulations, you just opened up two events/training topics for two more meetings. In your next meeting you could build antennas to use in fox hunting. Then in the following meeting you could actually go out and do it.

Better yet, your club could meet up on a weekend that is not your regular meeting time, spend time together outside of an official meeting and do some fox hunting. This kills two birds with one stone really. One it provides a couple fun activities for your members to do and two it get your membership together somewhere other than your club meeting.

3. Promote FellowshipHawaii Blog - Koolau ARC

Source: Hawaii Blog – Koolau ARC

This brings us to number 3, promote fellowship! Having just a single meeting a month and nothing else is often a recipe for your club to slowly die. Remember number one, Have Fun? Having unofficial get togethers other than your official meeting can bring your members together for something fun.

Maybe it is just a get together at a coffee shop or a restaurant for breakfast. Doing something like this breads camaraderie among your members and provides a fun time for them. Maybe have a potluck lunch once a month where everyone brings some food and their family and everyone just sits, eats and talks.

Workbees. Yea I know work doesn’t sound like fun, but it can be. If you have a fellow ham needing help putting up a tower, mounting their antennas, installing radios, whatever, this brings hams together and they have fun together.

Even a basic concept of this topic, being friendly to new members or perspective members that come to your meetings. Go to them and introduce yourself, ask them about themselves and what they like to do, be friendly. Don’t be the type of club that just allows new people to come into the room and be lost as to what they are suppose to do, where they are suppose to sit, etc, and then put them on the spot without notice during your meeting asking them to introduce themselves.

This often times puts them in an uncomfortable position from the get go and then you might not learn very much about them, so get up and introduce yourself before the meeting start, get to know them a little bit and maybe even tell them, “we have everybody introduce themselves at the beginning of the meeting so everyone knows who everyone is.”

4. Recruit New MembersKB6NU giving a ham radio class

Source: KB6NU.com

New members is a key component of making sure your club will survive. I have been to several club meetings where the members have been there forever and their is very few new member. This also leads to the club becoming stagnant and people getting set in their ways.

There is nothing I hate worse than hearing people say, “this is the way we have always done it” I have seen many new people come into a club and suggest something or make a recommendation and other club members reject I without thought and say something like that.

Don’t be set in your ways so hard that you can’t have an open mind to new ideas. This is often a major reason why a new member doesn’t return after a few months.

Do ham Radio License classes and testing sessions. Giving a class once or twice a year often leads to new members joining your club. You might even offer the first years member ship for free with the class. This will allow the new ham to be a new member and try your club out at no additional cost to them.

After you give a class or a test, make sure you have someone follow up with the new ham to answer any questions they might have. Elmering is a must in this hobby, if a new ham feels like they have no idea what they are doing and has no one to help them, they will quit the hobby as fat as hey got into it.

5. Tap Into The Talent Of Your ClubVolunteers needed

This also means that the older members of the club need to stay abreast of all different aspects of the hobby. I’m. It saying that everyone needs to know every aspect of the hobby, but you should have a pool of people to pull from that know about different things.

That is one thing that makes this hobby so great! There is so much to do in this hobby other than just talking on the radio, but if everyone in your club doesn’t nothing else but talk on the radio then no one will be able to answer a new hams question about something else.

Along those same lines, know what your members like to do and use that for your club. If someone is good at using APRS or Mesh Networks, use them to give a training session to your club. If one member enjoys it, maybe others will as well. This also promotes fellowship among your members because they may get together outside of your meeting and work on something together.

Every club needs certain things. Things like a website or a social media presence, a newsletter, someone to help maintain equipment, etc. Tap into the talents of your members to do things like this. Don’t shame them into doing it because that will often make ill feelings or things not go the best that they can. Tell your membership what the needs of the club are and often times someone will step forward.

6. Have A Good NewsletterNewsletter

There is an old saying that says, “If it was not wrote down, it didn’t happen”. Use this to your advantage! Put out a monthly newsletter telling your membership about things that are going on in your club or things that are coming up. You can even put your meeting minutes in your newsletter and send it out the week prior to your meeting. This way everyone will be able to read through them and it doesn’t have to be read through during the meeting.

Not only will your club newsletter act as a way for members to know what happened at the last meeting, but it can also serve as a reminder for your next meeting or an upcoming event.

A good newsletter is something that every club should have. Often times, a newsletter is the only tangible thing that a member will get for their membership, so make sure it is good. Finding someone to make sure it is good can often be a hard thing to do, but even a novice newsletter editor can get a lot of good information to put into it fairly easy, especially with the internet!

Many hams have blogs that, if you ask the author, I’m sure would let your editor use an article from their blog in your newsletter. Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, has a email list that your newsletter editor can sign up for to get a monthly newsletter article. Here is the link to sign up for it.

7. Social MediaSocial media

Social media plays such a significant ripe in our lives today that a club NEEDS to have a social media presence. Get your club on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even possibly YouTube.

I personally would recommend being on at least Facebook and Instagram. Having a Facebook page and/or group for your club is a good way of keeping the membership up to date with the things going on in the club. You could put your newsletter on there, other articles, event notifications, and just general questions or comments.

Much like a newsletter though, finding someone to volunteer to take on this responsibility and do it well will be the most challenging part.

8. Staying Active!W6TRW ARC Field Day

Source: W6TRW ARC

There is no substitute for staying active whether in life or in a ham club. A monthly meeting is no substitute for other events that your club can and should do. Things like special event stations, camping trips, picnics, antenna parties, breakfast or lunch get togethers, etc.

Your club should provide many different avenues for your membership to get involved. This like Field Day is a great example of this. Field day and other special events like this allows your members to work together for a common goal, spend time together outside of the meeting, and most importantly have fun! This also allows new hams that only have a Technician License to get on the HF frequencies and get their feet wet. This could even lead to a testing exam or class that your club could put on.

Events like this also give the hobby and your club exposure to the public which could potentially lead to new members getting their license and joining your club.

So there are my top 8 things to help your club keep from dying. Do you have a tip that you can share, write it in the comment below.

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Until next time…

73 de Curtis, K5CLM





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