A not so brief look across the board
All associations depend on membership dollars to finance their programs and initiatives. These days, membership dollars are harder to get, due to the incredible impact our stricken economy in the United States has had on general- recreational – and business aviation. People have tightened their belts even in areas previously unexpected – such as their dreams and passions for flying. That’s normal and makes sense. All three sectors of aviation are under combined and strong attack from all directions. Environmentalists & wilderness programs cause remote & private airstrips to be closed at alarming rates, countless small airports and flight schools are already or just about to come under attack by citizen initiatives. Lakes used by seaplanes for decades suddenly present a safety risk, or are portrayed a a risk-factor in environmental pollution. Even invasive species are often wrongfully named as causal and closely connected to seaplane activity, even though such claims are largely unsubstantiated. Local ordinances prohibit or prevent our flying activities without much public fanfare and sometimes, fighting town-hall on such issues comes at large financial expense for litigation. The amount of trouble is truly staggering, when the pink sunglasses come off. Lets add to this another important factor, which does a lot of damage – sometimes irreparable in nature- and bare all recourse. Transport Security Administration and FAA seek to control, monitor and change how Americans perceive aviation safety and security. Feeling depressed or discouraged? That’s not the intent of this article, so please keep reading.
What do we need?
When we select which association to belong to, be it the NRA, AOPA, EAA, SPA or even our local cucumber growing club, we must have a reason for it. Many associations come with amazing magazines, online and in print, weekly newsletters, interactive websites, message boards, some even tweet, blog & facebook to share in the joys and enjoyments of our industry. You sure get 10% off your insurance policy with a monopoly insurance company, rent cars at a discount and sometimes you can even destroy your credit, while pumping 20% interest into some credit card scam, available only to members. While the selection and printing/ publication of many magazine and blog articles and news reports are driven by how well they fit into the magazines purpose and agenda, much is also dictated by advertising customers who have spent astronomical fees to have their adverts displayed. Ask yourself the following questions, when trying to evaluate something’s community value: Would your honest and factual review of Garmin’s customer service be printed in a magazine heavily subsidized by Garmin? Could you talk about Cessna or Beechcraft in a magazine that depends upon advertising revenue from just these companies? How about the discussion board? Word travels fast online, hence a single vent or rant can reach hundreds of members almost instantly. Consequently, association message boards are kept squeaky clean when it comes to discussions between members about certain practices or problems. Heavily moderated under the premise of “must be aviation related” all association MUST constantly monitor and censor things. Some say that it isn’t so, but after ~ 2 years as an association message board administrator (volunteer service, by the way!) I can attest to this fact. Message boards are intended and provided for PR purposes and positive news only. All else is perceived as a liability and risk to advertising revenue. Discussion boards can reveal a lot of things never printed and make painfully clear if your association leaders or representatives are up to par with what their members think. Sometimes there are challenges in reacting and responding to concerns and trouble, too. Communication skills and skin thickness can be tested, often with amazing results. But most of the time, management and leadership remain largely absent and non responsive to anything for fear of actually having to answer to their members. Being accessible and having to provide specific answers in a transparent/ public setting is perceived as dangerous. It is safe to assume that I could prove this statement to be true and factual in a court of law. Even in the independent discussion board arena, litigation sometimes sets the ultimate tone and direction as I have learned.
To be continued in Part II…