Grow the Hobby (part one): Benchmarking

To survive, and thrive, in Canada, Radio Amateurs are going to have to look seriously at how we grow the hobby.

The first thing we are going to have to muddle thru is "where are we?" - and that means we need to benchmark our numbers against other organizations such as the ARRL and the RSGB.

Folks get uptight when we compare RAC to the ARRL, mostly because it's intimidating to compare Canada to our mighty friend to the south. But you have to start somewhere!

US Population:   317,297,938,    700,000 licenced Amateurs.  161,000 ARRL members

The ARRL numbers translate to about 2,430 Amateurs per million population and  507 members per million population. You could also argue that ARRL has 23% market share.

So, for a Canadian population of 35,295,770,  we should expect about 85.700 licenced Amateurs and 18,000 RAC Members.

Not surprisingly, this is not true - in actuality we have (at best, refined guess, eliminating duplicate calls and a swag at silent keys) about 40,000 Licenced hams in Canada (Feel free to send me your math - I'm very interested). We have about 4,326 full members including life, electronic etc, so thats about  11% marketshare.

Clearly we have two big jobs here:

      1) Grow the Pie (Make more Amateurs= EDUCATION))

      2)  Gain their confidence and stimulate their desire to become part of the National Organization (RAC Value Proposition)

Bottom line, we have some work to do and it needs to have a scorecard. This may be a good start

I am ALWAYS interested in your thoughts on this








How do you like to learn?

After the Oakville ARC breakfast, I spent Saturday at PodCamp Toronto 2014, an "unconference" for...well... anyone associated with communicating on the web.

There were some excellent sessions I attended, with topics ranging from engaging with your audience to the depths of Google Analytics. 

i learned a great deal in a short time, and, as I do at unconferences, never in a way I expected to. 

This got me thinking about how I learn and about how other hams learn. Two conclusions: 

1) Personality is as important as content when conveying technical information to a semi technical audience. A big personality opens my mind to absorbing more. 

I think this rule is particularly important in distance education, as I am proposing as one of our Southern Ontario "Moonshots". We need to attract the best instructors, armed with the best content we can lay our hands on. 

I just received additional materials this week from our good friends at Coax Publications to enhance their wonderful Basic Qualification book. We can be very proud of this excellent Ontario publishing team. There are further discussions to be had, but I believe the Coax materials are a great foundation for an Ontario hosted remote learning Basic Qualification course.  

2) I'm beginning to think we should host an unconference for Amateur Radio. Our community is so varied and so talented that the unconference model is a natural. I'll write some additional thoughts on this soon.


In my discussions with amateur radio operators in Southern Ontario, one of the themes that is developing regarding their national organization, Radio Amateurs of Canada, is concern about transparency. It's pretty simple, If they pay money, they want to know what's going on with their organization.

Last night I put forward a motion to the RAC Board (which was accepted) to post the minutes of our meetings earlier. Prior to this motion, minutes could only be posted to the RAC website after they had been accepted at the next meeting of the Board, which means that members of RAC could be reading about what's going on two months later. It's a common problem with organizations that meet monthly.

In our new method, following a board meeting we will quickly circulate the meeting minutes electronically and the directors will respond (while it's fresh in our minds) with any corrections. These "tentative" minutes will then be posted on the RAC website. At the next meeting they will be accepted, as is common practice, and the "tentative" label removed.

The point of the motion is that I'd like to see the membership better engage with their regional director. This allows my constituency in Southern Ontario to reach out to me as their director before the next meeting if an issue they are concerned with is being discussed. 

Another area that is opening up is discussion of membership numbers.  In the last three years the organization is doing a better job of categorization of members and tracking those numbers. At the last AGM there was open discussion of the current numbers and since then I've seen a month by month summary of the various categories. 

These sorts of numbers are critical in understanding how well RAC is engaged in the community, the authenticity of our claim to represent Amateur Radion in Canada and the general health of the organization.  The numbers can be thought of as our "marketshare" and should be represented in terms of RAC membership as a percentage of active licenced amateurs - more on this in a future post.

I also believe we need to benchmark RAC performance against both the ARRL and the Radio Society of Great Britain.  Clearly the ARRL is in excellent health, which may be intimidating here in Canada but if we don't aim to continuously improve, what's the point?

These are small steps towards improved transparency, but I believe they are in the right direction. What's next? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 


Ask Questions, Listen Hard...

Three conversations in 48 hours have led me to reframe my approach to our journey towards a better Radio Amateurs of Canada.

As you have read in previous posts, I care deeply about a national organization for amateur radio in Canada. RAC needs to serve all amateurs and represent the many, many aspects on this hobby.

So with that in mind I'm going to start asking two simple (and very complex) questions of the constituency:

1) What would YOU like RAC to be in 5 years? What kind of organization? What kind of services? What is RAC's place in the the world around it? 

2) What would have to happen to bring about this ideal?

It's important not to mistake this as a theoretical exercise - This sets the very practical compass bearing for where we want to go. It is a journey (It might just be a quest!). I have some ideas, but it is not about "Me" it is about "Us". I need your help as we map this journey out.

Question number one is the heart and soul of our effort. RAC must evolve to provide value to Canadian Amateurs - or it has no reason to exist. That value must be defined in practical terms. (Let's even consider defining value in concrete terms. Let's deliver $200 of solid value for $50-$100 of membership fees, answering the member's question, "what's in it for me?")

Question number two defines some very practical steps along the way. I want to build out a shared view of what we need to do to get to the RAC we envision. Don't worry about who does what, the "who" is not as important and the "what" for the moment.  

I'd love to hear from you individually, but I particularly want to hear from you collectively, at the Club level. I find that there is a certain magic in setting these goals and action plans is small groups. So here is my Challenge to the Southern Ontario club Presidents and Executive - As a club, within the next 60 days, discuss & debate these two questions.

Please Involve me in the discussion and PLEASE involve me in the results.