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Building our "store" of membership, membership, membership

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BY TONY DOLLE
Businesses that depend on a high volume of foot traffic build their stores based on the old adage of “location, location, location.” The more people that see your store, the more people who might come in your store and the more people who might make purchases at your store.
Simple. Solid. Effective. It’s their key to success.
But location isn’t the answer for OWAA. It really doesn’t matter where we house headquarters, our “store.” To that end, Missoula, Mont., works just fine.
But what’s not working so fine is OWAA’s own key to success: membership. It’s stagnant or falling or both, depending on your perspective.
A shrinking membership is the result of many things. Today, OWAA’s attrition rate is higher than normal, but then, we as a country are facing some tough economic times that aren’t normal, which are putting a strain on our traditional membership avenues. Our membership numbers are shrinking faster than we seem to be able to replace them. We have a problem building on the horizon.
We aren’t in this alone. Presidents of other media organizations – outdoor and traditional media – tell me they face the exact same thing, citing the same reason for shrinking membership as just I did.
While the new digital media market is wreaking havoc with the traditional print side of things, it is also opening up new venues for thousands of potential new members to media groups. OWAA cannot ignore these new venues, nor can we ignore these hundreds of potential new members who are utilizing digital media, many who are making a handsome living from it.
A committee headed by OWAA board member Matt Miller is putting together membership criteria for those whose work appears in digital form. Once the board and membership approve (and I’m pretty sure they will), we’ll begin focusing on this new category.
Remember, membership is the key to OWAA’s continued success.
During an April evening conference call with OWAA’s executive committee, membership was a major part of the discussion. Your officers have some pretty good ideas on halting the falling member numbers and building them back to a level that insures sustainability for OWAA.
One of those ideas is to bring back Outdoors Unlimited in a printed form and mail it to all members each month. The quarterly print version may not be enough. Even some of the staunchest supporters of a digital OU agree that having OU in their hands is a connection OWAA needs to make to keep members coming back, and as a resource for attracting new members.
Granted, there is a cost, but the executive committee feels it is worth investigating the feasibility of fitting the monthly print version of OU back into OWAA’s budget.
I promised the board I would concentrate on building OWAA’s membership base during the second half of my term and that’s what’s taking place. We are making membership a major focus of the executive committee, the board of directors and the staff.
The missing element is you. We need your help doing this. In fact, we can’t do it without you.
We’re counting on you to help us build our “store” of membership, membership, membership.♦
— Tony Dolle, OWAA President tdolle@ducks.org
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