I recently bought some gear from an online site, and it turns out the person I bought from was involved in Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC). in the course of the business exchange, he encouraged me to join RAC and I had to explain I once was a member and let it drop. He asked me to comment on why I chose to not renew, with the idea of bringing the information to RAC for consideration. I’ll post it here, so I have something to point to when someone asks why I didn’t renew my RAC membership..
As for comments, I’ve no problem sharing my views, though as a relative newcomer to both amateur radio and RAC I understand that my expectations may not have been accurate, and my desire isn’t to judge or offend. I offer this since you asked, and only from the point of view that RAC didn’t end up meeting my needs.
For me, the disconnect happened as I was under the impression (right or wrong) that I was joining a community. Having been involved in building/maintaining online and “real-life” communities, I was expecting more interaction with and within RAC. The first interaction after payment was an envelope with a certificate in it. Nothing else. It felt rather empty. Then, TCA showed up in my mailbox every few months. Then, an email saying “Time to renew, pay here”. No why, nothing. I even blogged about it I was so surprised ( http://www.bobgoyetche.com/
To be honest, it didn’t leave me feeling like a “cherished member” of an organization or community, but much more like a magazine subscriber. Please don’t misunderstand, I think TCA is a great magazine, and I think more people should be reading it, but it’s not worth the price of admission to RAC on its own.
On the other hand, my first QSO with an American ham resulted in the ARRL sending me (at his request) a “First Contact” certificate, highlighting my first HF QSO. That was a thrill and made me want to do more. Even as a non-resident or member, the ARRL did more to welcome me to Amateur radio than my own national organization to which I’d paid a membership fee.
As a highly-connected guy in his early 40’s, I realize that my expectations wouldn’t line up with someone who spends less time online, but I do think that to thrive (survive?) RAC needs reach out to members, and ideally become something that makes members connect to each other as well. It’s 2013, new hams like myself will likely never use a QSL bureau. This can’t be the compelling reason to join. The tools today are online, and need to be embraced, and maintained. A quick look at the main social tools available today –
Facebook – the RAC presence is minimal, and consists mostly of other areas of the world announcing their stations.
Blog – The RAC blog is really a summary of announcements.. No interaction there either.
Twitter – Doesn’t seem to be much there either.
Website – it’s a dated design, but the information seems to be there.. the main problem here is that it’s an administrative page more than anything. There’s no compelling reason to spend any time there.
Discussion Forum – Never found one, don’t think there is one is there? Why not have a place online where members (and elected execs) can discuss issues?
TCA – great magazine, but a wasted opportunity. There are always 2 ways to get TCA, join RAC, or pick it up for free at a hamfest. Since it’s already being given away, why not make the PDF of it freely available online? That would be a nice set of numbers to show advertisers. The readership would expand beyond Canada, but the links and clicks would still land on Canadian advertisers.. Not to mention a higher profile for the authors, which is a nice perk among others.
Online is where things happen now, my buying the [..item..] from you is another confirmation of that – Online is where RAC needs to be. Hams are spread far and wide in this country, we now have something that makes the distances smaller — the internet, RAC needs to jump in with both feet or become irrelevant.
There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get information back into RAC. In fact, I was never asked why I didn’t renew. That’s important information! It should be much easier to get a renewal than a new membership. Someone should care about this. I didn’t see it.
I realize there are some good people who volunteer their time for RAC. I’m equally sure there are more others who would be glad to help a thriving community. That’s the tricky part, a thriving community builds a thriving community… but there needs to be time spent on building/maintaining even moderating the online community. Having done this a few times, I know the effort required, but the alternative is nothing, and that’s not much use to anyone.
Sorry if this sounds like a bit of a rant, I don’t mean it to sound negative, but you asked for my comments! At the end of the day, I think Canada needs a national organization for amateur radio, but equally as important, this organization needs Canadian hams – Canadian hams who want to build and be a part of a community.
I’ll stop there, but I do have more thoughts and ideas and would be fine sharing them if that can be helpful. At the end of the day, I wish for RAC to be not only successful, but useful. Feel free to attribute these comments to me, I see no reason to not stand by my thoughts.
So there it is, anyone else feel this way?