It Takes a Club by K1ZZ
- It Takes a Club
By David Sumner, K1ZZ, ARRL Chief Executive Officer
May 01, 2008
"Looking at variations in Amateur Radio licensing activity and new ARRL
membership around the country, it's apparent that there are "hot spots"
where newcomers are joining our ranks in relatively large numbers
compared to other areas."
What does it take to make such a "hot spot"? One answer is that it takes
a local radio club -- but not just any club. It takes a club that has
made a commitment to reach out to the community or communities that it
serves, with a program to bring friends and neighbors from a vague
awareness of Amateur Radio all the way to being active radio amateurs.
Such clubs don't just happen. It takes vision, leadership and a lot of
hard work. It takes club officers and members who are willing to venture
beyond their normal comfort zone. It takes a welcoming, supportive and
non-judgmental attitude on the part of everyone in the club that a
newcomer is likely to encounter.
The good news is that once you have such a club it becomes -- almost --
a perpetual motion machine. Here's how it works.
Assuming that your community has a radio club and that you're a member,
the first step is to develop a culture of outreach and welcome within
the club. This takes conscious effort, especially if your members are in
the comfortable rut of talking to the same group of friends all the
Imagine that you're listening to the club's repeater for the first time,
as an amateur who is either new to the community or a new licensee.
Would you feel welcome to join in the conversation, or would you feel
that you would be regarded as an intruder? Now, imagine that you're
attending a club meeting for the first time. You walk in and see knots
of people talking among themselves. Would anyone greet you and introduce
them-selves or would you be left standing by yourself? Before you're
ready to make a serious outreach effort you must be able to answer these
Being friendly and welcoming is necessary, but not sufficient. Does your
club offer licensing classes? Do you help new licensees get over the
many other hurdles -- selecting and installing antennas, learning how to
use equipment, debugging interference to and from consumer electronic
devices, and so on -- that stand in the way of aspiring operators? Do
you make sure that their first on-the-air contact is a positive
experience, and offer nets and roundtables that they will want to join?
Do you expose them to the wide variety of activities that they can
pursue as radio amateurs? Do you encourage ARRL membership, so they will
enjoy full access to membership benefits and will receive the monthly
stimulus of QST?
If you have all of these bases covered, congratulations! Your club is
ready to promote itself to the community. Most clubs already have some
experience doing this, with varying degrees of success. While a full
discussion of the do's and don'ts is more than this page can
accommodate, here are a couple of thoughts.
There are many amateur licensees in your community who are not presently
active. With the caveat that some are Silent Keys and others have not
kept their addresses current in the FCC data base, it's easy to compile
a mailing list for an invitation to an Open House or other special
event. If you succeed in reactivating them, their renewed enthusiasm may
infect their friends and family members.
If you invite the general public to come and see your club, make sure
there's something for them to look at. Even a static display with some
QSL cards and photos of past club events can be an ice-breaker, giving
your greeters something to talk and invite questions about.
Field Day is just around the corner. With proper planning it can be an
ideal event for introducing Amateur Radio to your community, and your
club to existing and prospective licensees. This year there is a new,
easy-to-use tool for publicizing your club's Field Day site: the ARRL
Field Day Station Locator Web Site:
But remember -- an invitation to visit your site carries with it the
responsibility to ensure that visitors (including children) are safe and
that they have a positive, informative experience. If your Field Day
operation is open to the public, the proper greeting of visitors cannot
be left to chance -- it's as important a part of Field Day planning as
the antennas, equipment, operators and food.
Every club has its ups and downs. If yours has been in the downward part
of the cycle, now is a good time to take stock -- to capitalize on the
strengths and overcome the weaknesses. The opportunities for club
growth, in quality as well as quantity, have never been greater.
Oh, about that "perpetual motion machine." Have you ever attended a club
meeting where there was to be an election of officers, but there were
more offices than candidates? If not, you're fortunate. Many clubs with
static or shrinking membership lists find that it's difficult to fill
club offices or undertake new projects. Once a club finds the formula
for attracting and nurturing new members, maintaining the club's
vibrancy and activity becomes much easier.
The best local clubs provide a logical path for identifying and
developing their future leaders, from student to new member and in
succession to greeter, committee member, committee chairman, and
officer. Your club's president for 2012 may be someone who sees Amateur
Radio in action for the first time on Field Day -- or may be sitting in
your licensing class right now!
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