Driving with Dreifort

The State of the Club is great

I’ve been hearing a lot of negative talk lately about the state of automobile clubs in general and our club in particular.  There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that clubs like ours are declining in membership and failing to attract the younger generation to our hobby.  I haven’t done a scientific analysis; but I suspect the average age of our own club is increasing and unfortunately our older members are dying off.  It is difficult to find members, who are willing to assume leadership positions and volunteers to help plan and implement programs.  Don’t get me wrong.  We have a dedicated core group of members, who work very hard to make the club successful.  But a typical complaint I hear from them is that they are getting burned out and wonder where all the other members are when work needs to be done.

A friend and fellow club member, John Shapiro, recently wrote a scathing editorial about this problem in his respected publication, “Cruisin Times”.  His article quoted members of several car clubs including ours making the same complaints about declining membership and failure to find volunteers to help with club activities.  John’s article painted a very gloomy picture and was short on solutions.  However it did get my attention and, since his magazine is widely read, the attention of many other car buffs as well.

In spite of what John said in his article and what I said in my first paragraph above, I have a much more positive outlook concerning the future of car clubs in general and of the Northern Chapter particularly.  For one thing, our membership is not declining.  Membership can be described as stable after experiencing a significant growth spurt in the past few years.  We do have a core of active and hardworking individuals, who make our programs and activities successful.  That group of core volunteers changes from year to year; but as people drop out they are usually replaced by new volunteers.  A lot of folks, who are now the backbone of our club, were not members, when I joined eight years ago.

People join clubs for many different reasons.  Therefore the challenge to club leadership is to identify those reasons and manage the club in a way that maximizes the interests of all the members.  Some of those reasons include: reading the club magazines and newsletters, attending car shows and tours, enjoying social events with fellow car buffs and preserving the history of the automobile.  If someone pays his dues, he deserves to select the interests that are important for him or her.  The member who receives and reads the magazine is just as important as the one who spends hours and days planning and implementing club programs and events.

The car hobby becomes more diverse every year.  The cars which I consider antiques or classics are no longer the entire focus of car buffs.  Watch the Velocity Channel on cable TV.  The cars which interest the viewers of that channel were built in the 1970s and later.  They are called classics and to many folks they are classic.  Our club needs to reach out to those folks, because they are the future.  One way we do that is to include cars 25 years or older in the annual car show.

The Northern Chapter needs to be a big tent in several ways.  One is to include a range of cars of every age.  The other is to give attention and respect to a variety of makes and styles of motor vehicle.  Many of the clubs devoted to a particular make of car are having more trouble than us in remaining viable.  For example, I belong to the Chandler Club, because of my lifelong interest in the Chandler automobile.  Unfortunately there are fewer and fewer of us left.  I will keep up my membership as long as I live and there are others willing to keep the club going.  Northern Chapter should reach out to the clubs in our area, which are devoted to a specific make or model of car.  We should urge them to join us as the big tent car club.  We should also coordinate our activities with those other clubs to help increase their viability as well as our own.

I see a good future for our club.  I also see a place in that club for all current and future members regardless of their interests and needs.  I urge you all to do as much as possible to support the club and its activities.  It has been my experience that someone always steps forward to help if you let them know what is needed.  Thank you for your membership and support and keep on driving.

Robert Dreifort, President