Status Quo

ARRL finally realizes status quo isn’t going to cut it

By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

An item in the July 2017 ARRL board meeting caught my attention. It notes that a committee of staff members was tasked with identifying the challenges facing ARRL and possible solutions. The August 3, 2017 issue of the ARRL Letter ran the following report:

“ARRL Chief Executive Officer Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, presented the report of six Headquarters staffers who had been tasked with identifying the challenges facing ARRL and devising feasible solutions. Specifically, the committee addressed market research findings that have continued to reveal that only a small percentage of new hams join the League, and only about one-half of new hams actually get on the air.

“The committee began with the premise that ARRL must act in order to remain relevant going forward. It proposed instituting a Lifelong Learning Program to focus on developing a clear developmental path for all radio amateurs, from newcomers to established radio amateurs. The committee recommended the creation of new programs and services to increase the knowledge base of newcomers in order to get them active, as well as programs to keep experienced amateurs up to date with changing technology and practice.”

The board meeting minutes were a little more detailed:

“Mr. Roderick yielded the floor to CEO Gallagher who presented the report of a committee of staff members tasked with identifying the challenges facing ARRL and possible solutions. The members of the committee – Diane Petrilli, KB1RNF; Norm Fusaro, W3IZ; Becky Schoenfeld, W1BXY; Debra Jahnke, K1DAJ; Steve Ford, WB8IMY; and Sean Kutzko, KX9X, joined the meeting at 9:20 AM, to present this report. Their findings show the importance to ARRL of getting newly licensed hams actively on the air and how that relates to continued growth of the organization. In order to achieve that goal, the committee proposed developing a lifelong learning department, which would address the needs of all amateurs with the focus being on developing a clear knowledge path for all amateurs. They proposed creating straightforward programs and services to enhance the knowledge base of new amateurs as well as to enhance their sense of community within the hobby.

“Another recommendation involved refocusing the priorities of the emergency preparedness department to address the current trends in public service.

“A third recommendation was to improve the value proposition of membership. The committee proposed doing a survey, which would include test material that is targeted to the interests of newer hams. The content would include a strong emphasis on serving communities, agencies, and partners; digital communications, and human interest. Projects would be simple. The survey would obtain information on new ham’s interests and needs in the hobby. The survey would also try to determine the delivery system that might best meet the newcomer’s desire for receiving this type information (print, digital, messaging, etc). The test material is proposed to be delivered to recipients in fall 2017.

“From the committee’s vantage point, the status quo is no longer adequate: we need to have a vision of the future and convey it to our current membership. If we do not convey the need to change the paradigm, the ARRL’s relevancy will not move forward.”

The good thing here is that the ARRL finally realizes that there are some serious problems. I’ve written about these in the past. I’ve challenged the ARRL to set a membership goal of 25% of the licensed amateurs in the U.S ( I’ve also encouraged the ARRL to play a bigger part in emergency communications research (

Unfortunately, it appears that the ARRL is approaching this issue in typical ARRL fashion. That is, working on these issues in their little cocoon in Newington and then issuing these statements as if they expect everyone to just fall in line. I quote, “From the committee’s vantage point, the status quo is no longer adequate: we need to have a vision of the future and convey it to our current membership.” That approach is doomed to failure. Any “visioning” or strategic planning that doesn’t get the membership involved right from the start just isn’t going to work.

The ARRL HQ staff just doesn’t have the horsepower to pull this off properly. The staff is already pretty bare bones, and they still have to publish QST every month, keep Logbook of the World running, process thousands of license applications, etc., etc. The only way this is going to be a fruitful effort is if they get members—and lots of them—involved in this process.

If you agree with me, please let your director know. Contact your director and tell him that you want to be involved. The status quo of having the HQ staff not working with the membership “is no longer adequate.” That’s how we got here in the first place.

Dan, KB6NU, is the author of the “No Nonsense” amateur radio license study guides and blogs about amateur radio at KB6NU.Com. You can email him at