Ham Clubbing

This week, the RSGB President G3RWF asked for details on how us Hams are getting the most from our hobby in terms of clubs, groups and social activities.  I note, with some amusement, that he has “Board support” for this exercise – and quite rightly so.  Nobody likes forward-thinking free-radicals who go against the grain and stick two fingers up to the stuffy nature of most things “Ham”.  I like to think that this didn’t require 3 meetings, a round-robin of 12 e-mails and a risk assessment like some ideas tried at local clubs in recent years.

Anyhoo, hopefully some good will come of this: Ideas for club nights, activities, build-a-thons, DF’ing, operating assistance, aerial vs small-garden clinic and so on.  Simple ideas often work best, and there are no doubt a few good ones hiding among the RSGB Regions that others can benefit from.  There’s nothing worse than getting people through the licensing system and having them stop at “Foundation” only to lose interest in the hobby – Why did they lose interest?  Excluding personal circumstances, let’s assume that getting the licence was the easy part: Their problem was not having any guidance on where to go next – It’s a common scenario: Here’s a licence, now foxtrot oscar…

There’s a saying in business that turnover is vanity, profit is sanity – and this translates well to our hobby: It doesn’t matter that you’ve helped 500+ people gain their Amateur Radio licence.  What matters is how you helped them afterwards: Did you help them further their interest in the hobby – it’s in your constitution, and you did persuade them to join, didn’t you? – Were you able to give them operating experience, advice on aerials, buying a transceiver etc?  There are those that complain maintain that clubs should not run like a business, but to some extent they should: Statistics are bloody useful in ascertaining who is visiting the club, how they found you (website hits, search terms etc), what their interests are and where you are failing – An ideal Amateur Radio club should cater for both ends of the spectrum: It should care as much about newbies, digital modes, operating confidence and encouragement as much as it does about those who enjoy a monthly natter+biscuit after winning a battle with narcolepsy during a 60-minute slideshow of 20th-century telegraph poles.

So that’s keeping them interested/motivated – But how do you drag the b*****ds into the hobby in the first place?

In a related subject on Southgate News courtesy of Dom M0BLF, he writes about “attracting newcomers to Amateur Radio” via his involvement with the Camb-Hams and Cambridge University Wireless Society.  His comments about getting good numbers of people interested, and quite a few through Foundation+Intermediate plus a few Advanced are quite common – However, it was this particular sentence that piqued my interest:

“unlike other local clubs, as a registered University society, we can rent University rooms for free, and our shack is available for the Practicals 24 hours a day, so other local clubs will refer interested people to CUWS.” (my emphasis)

The first is a common issue and it can be tricky to find a suitable venue at a respectable rate.  Oh, and you can get into the room for free AND do them at 2am?  What is student life for if not inhaling solder-fumes during the small-hours?!  Lastly, the fact that other clubs so near to Essex actually talk to one another nearly made me fall off my chair.  Bugger me, with that sort of mentality, there’ll be inter-Club QSOs on 2m FM and not the usual half a hall’s length between their tables at the local rally.

In some cases, a few clubs really need to promote their own activities before we can reach the stage where we can enjoy news of Club A’s activities courtesy of Club B.  Actually, we do have that here in Essex: The Essex Ham site/twitter frequently informs us of things that the host club hasn’t/can’t/won’t… Baby steps, eh?

The Camb-Ham’s assistance to their local community radio station, Cambridge 105, reaches me on a personal level – Broadcast radio.  Originally presenting, but now scheduling and software engineering part of my day job.  As Hams, being able to provide logistical support for outside broadcasts where our RF background (radio mics, studio links etc) are much appreciated.  I’m sure the well-kitted-out van and its pump-up mast come a close second!

Let’s make Ham Radio great again…
(sorry, couldn’t resist!)