OP-ED: Why Clubs Fail - My Opinion
Overlander62 recently posted an excellent tongue-in-cheek" posting which I really enjoyed. Clubs and other common-interest organizations are a very good thing but many suffer from the same malady - human nature - which is often detrimental to the overall enjoyment of the group by its membership.
Just so no one will get the wrong idea I am not, not have I ever been a member of the WBCCI and have only very limited heresay knowledge of the internal politics of the organization and the clubs, divisions and units that comprise it. I draw my experience from other areas of interest but they are common to the majority of such associations.
The main problem as I see it is what I refer to as the "cult of personality" and the inevitable clashes and battles that come with it. Everybody wants to be the boss. But, it doesn't work. Too much politics and not enough fun really ruins a lot of great groups and drives a lot of people away.
Then, there's apathy. Everybody wants activities and stuff to do but how many step up to the plate and actually make it happen? We all know there's a core group that do 99% of the work, unheralded and for the most part, unthanked. When they burn out how many put their hands up and take over?
Another factor that is detrimental is elitism. "Mine is better than yours"! One hobby group with which I am very familiar is dedicated to preserving and restoring a specific make of vacuum-tube based radio communications equipment. In it's time they were the "Airstreams of radios" but that was in the 1950-1975 timeframe. Today they are antiques (albeit wonderful ones) and technologically speaking, and performance-wise, they were left in the dust long ago.
I found it particularly interesting to note that in the past Argosy owners were not allowed to join the WBCC yet they owned bona fide Airstream products. Does that mean if I painted my Airstream purple I would be ineligible to join? This elitist philosophy was designed to exclude people instead of welcoming them. Fortunately that has changed.
And then there's the money collected from members - there's always a lot of bickering and arguing over how it is spent. Frankly I don't know any way around this except to open the books and publish the financials.
I have not seen any WBCCI membership stats and how they're changed over the years over the years but I do know one thing. Any group, club or hobby needs a constant flow of newcomers or they will wither and surely perish. Make too many rules or conditions and you will not get many newcomers who will stay. How many young people (under 30) are in our midst? Is there any genuine attempt to attract and interest them in the wonders of Airstreams? The unique style and "cool factor" should transcend all age barriers. Or are we still perceived as a bunch of retired military white people?
If you want to see graphic proof of this just look at Amateur Radio - a hobby with which I am very familiar.
Amateur or "ham" radio is a hobby that allows those duly licenced to operate radio transmitters up to 1000 Watts and talk to other similarly licenced stations all over the world. It exists for two reasons: To allow for "experimentation and self-training in the radio art" and to provide a "pool" of licenced stations that can be activated in time of emergency or national need. Today the average age of the amateur radio licensee is mid fifties. Radio amateurs operate their radios on a number of bands of frequencies located in various parts of the radio spectrum as licenced by the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.). Some of these bands and frequencies are eagerly sought-after by commercial interests who are prepated to pay big bucks for more radio spectrum because it is a commodity that can be sold. The F.C.C. administers who gets to use these bands and for what purpose. If radio amateurs don't use their allotted spectrum they run the risk of losing it. Many of the bands are not used. In the early 1980s UPS was able to grab a chunk of spectrum from the Amateur Service because they were able to prove that the hams were not using it. They spent a fortune on legal fees but they were successful. Ironically they don't even use it.
Without spectrum radio amateurs have nothing. They cannot transmit. Thus, in order to survive, it is paramount that this hobby attracts and retains newcomers. It is important to note this and apply it to all such organizations.
It's very important to keep things in perspective. Remember, it's a hobby. It's supposed to be relaxing and fun, not raise the blood pressure and elevate stress levels. That's what makes coronaries happen. Thre are situations where people in hobby groups have disliked each other for decades but, when asked, cannot remember why.
I have found through experience in running a hobby-related organization there's a successful formula for making things happen:
1: Everybody has to want the same thing - "a common goal".
2. Individual egos must be "checked at the door".
3. No one should cares who gets the credit.
4. It is the volunteers who make it happen. Treat them like kings.
Think about it.
"Mister Mike", Chief Engineer, Amateur Radio Station W1RC
Founder and Benevolent Dictator, New England Amateur Radio Festival, (aka NEAR-Fest),
At the Beautiful Deerfield NH Fairgrounds (Next one October 11th and 12th 2013)
"Best #@! Hamfest on the Planet!"