The new CEO of the ARRL, Howard Michel /WB2ITX spoke at the Ham Radio University event on January 5, 2019. The video below is worth watching to hear Howard’s thoughts on the role of the ARRL. The first 26 minutes are good, but the Q&A session that follows suffers from no audio coverage of the audience.
I think Howard has a tough job ahead of him, leading the ARRL through the start of its Second Century, including some long overdue reinvention. He stated that the ARRL has three roles that must remain in balance: A Membership Association, a Business and a 501c3 Charity. This is an important point that not everyone understands.
Howard also talked about the need for a three-way partnership between ARRL members, local clubs and ARRL staff. This partnership is currently weak and needs an overhaul. Lots of opportunity to improve here and tap into the power of volunteer members and clubs.
The slide below shows the lack of success in attracting new hams to become ARRL members. Howard said “something is wrong with the value proposition.”
This next slide drives the point home that the makeup of ARRL members is very different than the general ham population. The slide is hard to see in my graphic but ARRL members are mostly Extra class and General Class licensees and only a small slice of Technicians. The non-members are dominated by Technician licensees. In some ways, this shouldn’t be a surprise…you’d expect ARRL members to more active in the hobby with a tendency toward obtaining higher class licenses. I don’t recall ever seeing this data before.
Howard talked briefly about some work that is being done to analyze the “Spectrum of Hams.” This seems like a clumsy name to me, but it’s really just classic market segmentation work aimed at understanding groups of users. You clump together users or customers that have similar needs so you can do a better job of serving them. Done correctly, this is important and fundamental work required to enable a customer-driven strategy. OK, I said customer driven, in the ARRL context I should probably say member driven. Same idea. Very important and very fundamental.
Now, the resulting model may be wrong. Someone once said: All models are wrong, some are useful. You build this kind of model, test it, fix it, make it better. Sometimes the insight you get doing the work is actually more important than the model produced. I believe the ARRL has been missing this kind of strategic analysis.
I am quite encouraged about what Howard is saying. I think he is poking in the right areas and applying the right set of tools. This will be difficult change management for the ARRL, so I don’t expect it will come easy or quickly. But it’s a start.
What do you think?
73 Bob K0NR