Our current organizational structure of squadrons, districts, and national leadership was created decades ago when we were a much larger organization and needed a hierarchical configuration for communication and coordination. Today, however, total membership is much smaller, there are fewer squadrons, clubs and districts, and telecommunications is far more advanced. Some districts are no larger than squadrons, districts are consolidating, and too many squadrons and clubs dissolve each year. Commensurately, the number of educational courses completed continues to erode. A contributing factor is that our modus operandi has not kept pace with how today’s boater learns, interacts with others, and depends on technology. As a result, we are challenged to recruit and retain members.
The Board of Directors has created a geographically diverse ad hoc group* under the leadership of National Executive Officer Craig Fraser, including David Allen, Allan Bombard, John Crawford, Bob David, Dave Fine, Myles Gee, Paul Mermelstein, Tracy Simpson and Ralph Ziegler. This committee presented ideas for restructuring America’s Boating Club at the 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting, the 2021 Governing Board meeting, the District Executive Officer’s online meeting, and at various District conferences this fall. As this is a work in progress, the ad hoc committee solicited feedback, which continues to roll in.
Predictably, there is some concern from members who enjoy participating in district or national activities and worry that we will lose that social interaction. Committee members understand; we have the same experiences and have made friends in our own districts and at national events. It pains us to contemplate major organizational change, but we also recognize the following facts:
- Over 90% of our members have no relationship with, or interest in, district or national activities. They are served by their squadrons and club and want localized education, boating activities, and social interaction.
- It is from this 90%-plus that we continue to lose most members. In fact, over half of all new squadron and club members leave within two years of joining.
- Every district has seen significant declines in both membership and courses taught.
- Very few districts have the resources to help squadrons and clubs stem the losses.
- Over 25% of squadrons and clubs have less than 25 members and do not have robust programs.
We are carefully considering a range of major organizational and functional changes to improve the delivery of services to attract and keep members. We recognize that changing the organizational structure alone will not suffice. We also need to increase the volume, efficiency, quality, and communication of educational, boating, and social programs that we provide to our members. Our goals are to
- Increase the attraction of America’s Boating Club for both member recruitment and retention.
- Meet the needs of members to keep them satisfied and engaged.
- Preserve and strengthen squadron and club capabilities to serve members.
- Bolster the capabilities of local squadrons and clubs to market and teach boating education.
- Where necessary, directly provide education to individual members such as cyber-members and squadron and club members who do not get adequate education locally.
- Increase opportunities for members to participate in boating events and social activities.
- Reduce red-tape and bureaucracy to streamline services, administration, and coordination.
- Improve communication to squadrons and clubs and to all members.
We recognize that, by definition, boating events and social activities must be localized. Active squadrons and clubs should be free to offer what they and their members want. However, many squadrons and clubs do not boat much anymore, and social activities are often limited to dinners and other gatherings. From our market research, member exit surveys, and common sense, we know that we need to have a much higher level of boating events and social activities to attract and keep members satisfied. Consequently, any organizational change must supplement local squadron and club event planning and the conduct of boating and social activities in locales that conveniently interest participants.
There is a range of options for addressing reorganization potentials, each with pros and cons:
- Do nothing.
- Rely on districts but allow more freedom.
- Eliminate districts and provide services directly from national to local squadrons and clubs and to individual members.
- Consolidate districts into about a half dozen regions with new systems and procedures that will integrate and synergize both national resources and local squadron and club leadership.
- Some combination of the above.
The ad hoc Reorganization Committee continues to work on this challenge and evaluate options. We have prepared a needs assessment survey that will be sent to all members in order to obtain direct input and better evaluate where we need to improve and what we need to change. We will incorporate this data along with feedback and suggestions, which continue to arrive. Additionally, we will examine how we do business, current processes and systems, resources, and organizational functionality. Subsequently, we will determine and recommend the most appropriate course of action for review by the Board of Directors and appropriate committees before presenting to the Governing Board for approval. The work continues; stay tuned.
*Edited 3/22/2022 to include Dave Fine and Tracy Simpson as committee members.