By Chuck Woodbury
FMCA, the Family Motor Coach Association, is in the midst of a perfect storm â€” a troubling decline in memberships and an estimated loss of $700,000 in potential income from the cancellation of its two international rallies in 2020. The 57-year-old club informed members who pre-registered for the first event last month in Tucson that it could not afford to refund their registration fees, which ranged from a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars or more. FMCA had no event cancellation insurance (read FMCAâ€™s explanation of why).
FMCA noted recently that it would rely more heavily on income from its international rallies than ever before due to revenue loss from its once highly profitable magazine. The next rally is scheduled for March 10-13, 2021, in Perry, Georgia.
â€śBeing the nonprofit that we are, we simply do not have the money to refund the convention registration fees to the members who were looking forward to going to Tucson,â€ť club president Jon Walker wrote this week in an email to members. â€śYour board of directors made the difficult decision to issue convention certificatesâ€ť which he said are redeemable at future rallies. â€śThese certificates are good for over three years, and they are transferable, which means they can be given to or sold to others.â€ť
At the same time, membership renewals are down and sales of new memberships have slowed dramatically. â€śFrom September 2019 through March 2020, we have lost a net of 1,930 members,â€ť Walker wrote in an email to his board of directors that was forwarded to RVtravel.com. â€śIn the same time period a year ago, we gained a net of 1,731 members. In the same time period two years ago, we gained a net of 2,176 members. Our dues renewal rate is down 3.5% from a year ago, and down 5.5% from two years ago [during the same time periods]. What is even more disturbing is the fact that our new member acquisition is down 24.3% from last year and down 25.4% from two years ago.â€ť
Currently, the club has roughly 70,000 member-families.
Membership growthÂ has likely suffered from a recent increase in new membership dues from $65 to $85 a year. â€śSince then, we have seen a steep drop in the membership growth FMCA had been experiencing for two-plus years,â€ť Walker explained.
â€śThe current pandemic has also hit our membership numbers as it has hit our finances. We lost a net of 787 members in the month of March 2020 â€” the most we have lost in a single month since 2015. The trend for this month, April, is that we may experience a loss of more than 1,000 members. That is disheartening. I have not seen anything like this during my 30-year membership in FMCA,â€ť Walker noted.
In recent years, FMCA has positioned itself as a resource for discounts on various products and services, most related to RVing. It also facilitates about 400 local, regional and special interest groups, which hold their own meetings. Many of these groups are struggling to survive due to issues related to membersâ€™ advanced ages, most 70 and older.
In his email to members, Walker wrote: â€śWe have heard from many members who understand the difficult position these [rally] cancellations have created for our organization. Many have graciously offered to contribute financially to help ease the situation, which warms our hearts more than you can imagine.
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THE OTHER MAJOR INDEPENDENT RV CLUB, Escapees, with dues of $39.95 a year,Â reports its membership continues to grow steadily. â€śThough each month brings a few non-renewals (most are due to coming off the road), they are quickly replaced by new memberships,â€ť said Escapees Communication Director Georgianne Austin. â€śThough weâ€™ve had to cancel most of our spring and summer events and issue refunds, our members have still come together through digital means to stay connected and enjoy the benefits of our community. Iâ€™ve also seen many express appreciation for our advocacy efforts, and express a desire to further support the RVing community through doing their part in reaching out to state and local officials, and sharing their actions with their peers.â€ť