president-joe  President's Corner

Recently my thoughts turned to attracting and retaining new members. What is it about an organization that makes people want to be a part of it? What do we do? What contribution do we make that justifies their continued investment in our existence? Is it the Blue Beret? Is it out of loyalty to the history, and the mystic of the Airstream brand, where WBCCI membership is a historical part of the experience?  I believe all these and more are factors, but to lock people in as lifelong members, to keep them, to cause them to treasure their membership, there must be value for their dollar; something that they believe to be worth more than the $65 a year dues. For every member they may find that value in something a little different.

For me, the answer is clear. WBCCI is about, at least in part, community. Unit membership is belonging to a group of people with whom we share a common interest, a bond, a fellowship; built around the love of RVing in general, and Airstreaming in particular. We are held together by social interactions and exchanges, a sense of purpose, a desire to participate with friends in activities for which we share a love. We are united in a common cause, share common interests, and there is mutual respect, acceptance and common support.

Our club represents a powerful, diverse, and dynamic community. It gives us a platform to share our experience and to get to know one another. I am amazed at the strength of the bonds I find within our group where the shared experience and mutual respect have cemented incredibly powerful relationships. I consider myself to be a part of a big extended family. Isn’t that what WBCCI’s about– bringing together new and old members to create an enriching environment of learning, and sharing with one another? People join people, not clubs, relationships really do matter.

The truth is that we do have in WBCCI, what I call a community. I travel among our villages to events where we share food, listen to music, share a glass of wine. We participate. There is that within us all that craves a sense of community. It’s our native state, only with friends do we become our most fulfilled, only with friends are we at our best, and only with friends are we happiest.

For many years, until very recently, people in the USA saw an increase in personal wealth; they had more money, more things, and a more opulent lifestyle. Yet our self-described happiness has consistently declined. When we look at the countries with a high percentage of citizens who say they are happy; they are the ones where people identify with extended family. The happiest people are the ones with the most social interaction.

We absolutely must integrate our new members into our family if we are to thrive. As has been pointed out by some, part of our weakness in membership growth is created by the lack of retention. Members join and do not find a peer group. We must avoid developing a barrier of cliques that cannot be penetrated by new members, leaving them feeling alienated from the group.

No, it’s not about a program. Programs are useless where we do not have a welcoming and caring environment, people who avoid judgment, and accept all others regardless of their age, religion, views, origin, or station in life. It’s about respect, caring, supporting and welcoming. When we find common ground, and unconditionally accept every Airstream owner, we will have found our true power and retention will cease to be an issue or a concern. We have something really good to share, and the more we give, the more we have; the act of giving does not diminish the givers, it expands them. It’s just like the law of the harvest you will always reap what you sow!