Might as well throw another $0.02 into the pool...
I have attended a couple of rallies this year, just to try it out. My personal conclusion is that *everybody* who has posted on this thread has a legitimate point. The WBCCI is just too big and diverse across units to completely praise or condemn.
We've met with members from four different New England units. Some emphasized the diversity of their membership, while others frankly admitted that their unit was in danger of dying out.
Realistically, we have little in common with the folks in our local unit, many of whom are old enough to be our parents. They don't want to do the sorts of things we want to do on our vacation time, and they don't want to stay in the types of places we like to stay.
But it doesn't matter. We joined the local unit anyway. We'll probably never rally with them again, but we'll read the newsletters of all the units in our region and pick out the nearby
rallies and events that interest us, regardless of which unit is holding them. Sort of members-at-large but with a unit affiliation just to be supportive. That's all we have time to do.
Now the question is, "Will the local units hold enough events of interest to us -- a working family -- for us to renew next year?" That's a tougher challenge, and it is at the core of WBCCI's declining membership and poor first-year renewal rate.
Here's a few suggestions, based just on our three experiences with WBCCI rallies.
1) Stop holding rallies at boring locations when it's not strictly necessary. I see the need for using a dusty fairground for the International Rally, but when you're expecting just 30 attendees, how about a more inspiring location? And while private campgrounds are nice sometimes, they look like pretty much every other campground in existence. Let's visit more of the many great state and national parks -- where there's actually something unique to see and do. (Actually, I suspect I know why WBCCI rallies resist those parks. Most require boondocking for a weekend. And that means you can't watch TV every night!)
2) Recognize that us weekenders with kids have trouble traveling 200+ miles on a Friday night after work. Try to structure a few weekend events close to the unit's geographic center. It's actually quite easy, even if you think you've seen it all in your area. When I was a tour leader for a social club in Boston, I was surprised to discover how much people don't know about the things in their very backyards!
3) Organize more optional activities. I don't mean adding a Happy Hour. The Wash DC Unit and the Vintage Club are better at this than most others. At Acadia National Park, one of the big daily events for us was the diverse ranger talks (with slides) every night. Those events that are just chat'n'chew will NOT draw us again.
4) Streamline the bureaucracy. To join, I filled out a form on the website. Then, I got a package in the mail advising me I'd be contacted by the local unit. Then came the local unit's package in the mail. I filled out another form and sent in my check (finally!) Now I'm waiting for the unit treasurer to deposit my check, pass on my form and dues to HQ, after which HQ will send me my membership materials. Elapsed time: about 3-4 weeks.
Hello? I'm used to the Internet -- fill out the online form with credit card data and get an instant response. Joining the WBCCI is only slightly less convoluted than buying a house. (I can't wait to find out what's involved in getting a rally on the official calendar!)
5) Related to the point above, WBCCI needs to get with the program and build a good website. People in the working crowd use the Internet to streamline their lives, but the current WBCCI website doesn't allow that. It's just brochure-ware, and not even very convincing in that role.
For example, I cringed when I read the FAQ answer to the question, "Just what will I do at Club Rallies?"
You name it . . . we do it . . . fashion, pet and hobby shows . . . games and contests of every sort . . . square, round and ballroom dancing . . .
Wow, pet shows and square dancing! What was I thinking, spending my time hiking, swimming, diving, and bicycling?
The brochure the WBCCI uses to recruit members speaks only to the current members -- it doesn't address the needs of the very people the club claims it wants!
Now, will any of these suggestions be acted upon in the next year? Frankly, I'm pessimistic. There are a lot of thin-skinned members who immediately get defensive at legitimate criticism. For every person who says, "Come join the club and change it from within," I have found a person who says, "If you don't like the WBCCI [the way it is], don't join it." That sort of reaction precludes meaningful change. So before you fire off a defense "in support of WBCCI", recall three things:
1) I am also a member. Thoughtful criticism and suggestions are my way of supporting MY club.
2) Change by definition upsets the status quo.
3) The only wrong path is to continue without self-examination.