FMCA struggles to retain members and cope with lost income

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By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR
FMCA, the Family Motor Coach Association, is in the midst of a perfect storm — a troubling decline in memberships and an estimated loss of $700,000 in potential income from the cancellation of its two international rallies in 2020. The 57-year-old club informed members who pre-registered for the first event last month in Tucson that it could not afford to refund their registration fees, which ranged from a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars or more. FMCA had no event cancellation insurance (read FMCA’s explanation of why).

FMCA noted recently that it would rely more heavily on income from its international rallies than ever before due to revenue loss from its once highly profitable magazine. The next rally is scheduled for March 10-13, 2021, in Perry, Georgia.

“Being the nonprofit that we are, we simply do not have the money to refund the convention registration fees to the members who were looking forward to going to Tucson,” club president Jon Walker wrote this week in an email to members. “Your board of directors made the difficult decision to issue convention certificates” which he said are redeemable at future rallies. “These certificates are good for over three years, and they are transferable, which means they can be given to or sold to others.”

At the same time, membership renewals are down and sales of new memberships have slowed dramatically. “From September 2019 through March 2020, we have lost a net of 1,930 members,” Walker wrote in an email to his board of directors that was forwarded to RVtravel.com. “In the same time period a year ago, we gained a net of 1,731 members. In the same time period two years ago, we gained a net of 2,176 members. Our dues renewal rate is down 3.5% from a year ago, and down 5.5% from two years ago [during the same time periods]. What is even more disturbing is the fact that our new member acquisition is down 24.3% from last year and down 25.4% from two years ago.”

Currently, the club has roughly 70,000 member-families.

Membership growth has likely suffered from a recent increase in new membership dues from $65 to $85 a year. “Since then, we have seen a steep drop in the membership growth FMCA had been experiencing for two-plus years,” Walker explained.

“The current pandemic has also hit our membership numbers as it has hit our finances. We lost a net of 787 members in the month of March 2020 — the most we have lost in a single month since 2015. The trend for this month, April, is that we may experience a loss of more than 1,000 members. That is disheartening. I have not seen anything like this during my 30-year membership in FMCA,” Walker noted.

In recent years, FMCA has positioned itself as a resource for discounts on various products and services, most related to RVing. It also facilitates about 400 local, regional and special interest groups, which hold their own meetings. Many of these groups are struggling to survive due to issues related to members’ advanced ages, most 70 and older.

In his email to members, Walker wrote: “We have heard from many members who understand the difficult position these [rally] cancellations have created for our organization. Many have graciously offered to contribute financially to help ease the situation, which warms our hearts more than you can imagine.

* * *
THE OTHER MAJOR INDEPENDENT RV CLUB, Escapees, with dues of $39.95 a year, reports its membership continues to grow steadily. “Though each month brings a few non-renewals (most are due to coming off the road), they are quickly replaced by new memberships,” said Escapees Communication Director Georgianne Austin. “Though we’ve had to cancel most of our spring and summer events and issue refunds, our members have still come together through digital means to stay connected and enjoy the benefits of our community. I’ve also seen many express appreciation for our advocacy efforts, and express a desire to further support the RVing community through doing their part in reaching out to state and local officials, and sharing their actions with their peers.”

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LauraC
11 days ago

We belonged to FMCA for many years and valued their emphasis on clubs and events. Then they seemed to begin to cater to rich folks with million dollar rigs and their magazine, which used to be full of helpful and interesting info, became ad after ad after ad for stuff and places we mostly couldn’t afford. We think they’ve cut their own throats, so to speak, and could turn it around with a return to the earlier emphasis on helping and supporting the RV lifestyle at all income levels.

Tom Moeller
1 month ago

I dropped FMCA renewal and don’t need travel assist.They increased their roadside service to $159.00 a year.I joined Escappees at the Tampa RV show specia offer of $25.00.Their same roadside service as FMCA is $99.00.

Ken Knutson
2 months ago

We joined FMCA about a year ago and mainly because we were switching insurance providers and through a FMCA membership and Safeco Insurance we saved approximately $2500 off insurance for the year! We own two big Class A’s and that savings was great! Plus when we stayed at their FMCA RV park in Cincinnati OH in April we got a discount on our nights stay and were able to prolong our stay so we could visit family while there. The staff, even though we didn’t get to meet them personally as their offices were closed due to covid 19, were very friendly accommodating. The park was very nice and has a walking trail around a lake next to it. No amenities but the park was clean and quiet which was great because we full time and work virtually. It was only $20 a night with a one day free. We will definitely be staying there every fall and spring now when we head south for the winter. To me the $85 was well worth the money for all the money it saves us!! Not only for insurance but where can you find an rv park that isn’t run down and stay for $20 a night!!
Maybe if FMCA were to offer mail forwarding and add a stronger voice in Congress for the RV community that might help bring back some memberships? And also agree with one of the other writers here that they should have had event insurance (if that was even possible for this kind of thing?).

Ed Duke
2 months ago

Go back to $65 per year.

Don S
2 months ago

Just a few facts here.

FMCAssist costs a member nothing but their annual dues of $65 for the entire family.

MASA will cost you $720 a year plus the app fee of $60.

Skymed will cost you $499 a year plus the app fee of $75

So…. which is the better deal ?

Paul Doran
2 months ago
Reply to  Don S

When I joined FMCA last year this was the number one reason, and is also the reason I just renewed my membership. The savings on the cost of this one benefit more than pays for membership. The cancellation of the rallies was something very few could have foretold. I had not registered, nor had I planned to, but definitely feel for those that did.

wanderer
2 months ago

FMCA has been a huge help to me in getting health insurance as a full timer, and I appreciate that. But, I don’t relate to the other things they do, mass rallies are not of interest.

I am just sad that I am sitting here trapped indefinitely in an iffy trailer park, because all the state parks were closed, because RVers have literally no voice in this country. I don’t know if FMCA should have been the strong voice speaking for us all, they probably had the depth to do it, but didn’t. Right now we have piecemeal efforts by various groups, all urging us to all piecemeal write our legislators. Yes, I’ll whip out my imaginary printer and get right on that, and if I did it would be roundly ignored by government which responds only to professional lobbyists.

Escapees apparently was no voice for full timers speaking to government, too focused on running parks, putting out a magazine, rallies. Good Sam, the only one that actually helps with camping discounts in most places, is otherwise a joke. RVillage and Rootless Living are trying to ad-hoc put out lists of open campgrounds. And RV Travel keeps us up to date on news, though lately it is mostly bad. And I know Chuck has started the ball rolling regarding some issues.

But we have no unified voice advocating for things we can all agree on, government doesn’t see us as a pressure group of any kind, just a source of fees and warm bodies for their parks. We need a group pushing for campgrounds that can handle the weekend crowds, safer and more quality RV builds, public dump stations, etc. And in the current crisis, a voice to say, ‘don’t kick us out, we WERE sheltering in place’. I don’t think anyone cares at this point which organization takes it on, it’s crazy if we have to start a new one when there are big clubs which could do it.

Bill T
2 months ago
Reply to  wanderer

Agreed and well said. You hit the nail right on the head. I have owned several RV types over the last 12 years and watched a lot of videos, been part of forums and read countless news letters but in the end I haven’t seen any organization move beyond the talking stage, most of which is just complaining, to a structured lobbying stage for improvement in the total RV industry. If there is such an registered organization, please let me know. IMO, RV’ing still appears to be just a business for some, a hobby for others and regardless of the reasons, a day to day life for even less. We might be a demographic of millions, but in the grand scheme of things, when we are talking about and competing against a population of hundreds of millions, our piece of the legislative pie would be pretty small at best.

Linda C
2 months ago

When we first joined membership was around $40 +/-. They offer nothing that you can’t find somewhere else. We haven’t renewed in years.

Roy
2 months ago

Remember they went from being motor coach owners exclusively to any RV owner a few years back because of declining membership. I saw that as a red flag to their survival. I suspect this will prove to be the final nail in the coffin for them, especially if they end up a class action lawsuit. Who knows, maybe Camping World will buy them like they did Good Same club.

Reynald
2 months ago

Hi.
My view of FMCA’S situation is they kind of caused their own problems by making it very expensive to join their club when compared to other membership that offer just as much but for half the price. Not saying they are not good but money talks and even more so today.

Rory R
2 months ago

FMCA exec’s should not be surprised people tend to go where they feel they are getting some service and not just dumping their money into a bottomless pit…

Captn John
2 months ago

Hate to see them go under. Was a member when we had the DP and found it not the group for us. I didn’t care if a popup or TT was beside me, Now we have had 5ers for years I have a good idea what the reception would be.
Escapees would be at the top of my list if I traveled the west mostly, they don’t have much going for them in the east so one year was enough ~~ but their magazine is very good.

Jimmie W. Crawford
2 months ago

The Escapees value offered for the price is far superior to FMCA. I join and renewed FMCA for the medical evacuations, and tire sales program. I may order roadside assistance from them. I dropped Goodsam!

dave
2 months ago

FMCA has upped their membership fees to the point that is much too high for what we get out of it in Canada. We don’t travel to the USA due to health issues so when our membership expires we will not renew. I sent them a reply when I was told of the increase, but never got a reply.

Jo Webb
2 months ago

We joined FMCA on 2017 when we needed new tires for our class A and the tire shop told us we’d get a great rate if we joined. I called first to check out the discounts (of course) and was also impressed with all the other FMCA benefits, so we joined. We go to get the tires, and the price was only $30 less with FMCA!! Definitely not what I was told when I checked into them (yes, I had the tire info on the initial call). We did not use any of the other “benefits” while members. So, needless to say, we did not renew!! Now, we have had Good Sam Roadside Assistance for over 2 years and had to use them this past January for a tow on a lowboy for the motorhome, and they were AMAZING. They covered it 100% and were fast and customer service was outstanding… That’s my experience, for what it’s worth. 🙂 I don’t like to hear of rv related companies going out of business – especially as full-timers. So we hope FMCA can get back on its feet and service their members.

Carl Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Jo Webb

Good Sam Roadside assistance failed me twice! Never again!

Russ
2 months ago

Irrelevant to younger travelers. We found much better coverage and information services from online. After being members for a couple years and never seeing anyone in a picture that reflected our demographic we decided it was not for us. There was nothing about a rally that was appealing so we found other groups to join and having a great time.

Marcus
1 month ago
Reply to  Russ

Wondering what in the world a “picture that reflected our demographic” has to do with getting your rig home if someone is hurt or disabled?
As a matter of fact why would “a picture that reflected our demographic” ever enter into any decision?

Steve, Greta, Brie & Abbie
2 months ago

We are current FMCA members and value our membership greatly. However, with dues already higher than most other RV organizations, the increase in dues has kept us from renewing early. Our membership will expire later this year, but annual costs are a consideration now that we are finally retired.

Other RV-related organizations have encouraged ongoing memberships by continuing lower membership fees as a way of thanking members for their ongoing memberships. It is a shame FMCA did not offer a similar option. Especially considering there are so many RV organizations, old and new, clamoring for the same pool of membership dollars.

I should add that rallies, local or national, are not part of our reason for membership in FMCA. With work schedules in previous years it has been impossible for us to attend. This, being the first year we could have attended, we opted not to make such commitments in our travel schedule just yet simply because we don’t wish for our long-awaited, full-time travel retirement to be directed by anything other than the freedom to go where we want to go without working around dates and locations of any organizational rallies. Perhaps a silver lining of the ongoing Wuhan Caronavirus pandemic is that organizations are figuring out ways to host virtual meets. Perhaps, future rallies could add a virtual aspect to meets which would allow more members to participate in at least some of the events that can be shared online.

Like many others, we joined FMCA to be part of an organization that focused on the issues as they relate to motor homes since there are so many other organizations available to all RVs. When that policy changed we welcomed all, but that one thing that made FMCA unique among RV organizations no longer exists. It is also a consideration as we decide whether or not we will renew our membership later this year.

We would love to maintain membership and support all RV organizations, if only it were fiscally possible!

Phoenix62959
2 months ago

I have been having doubts about remaining a member of FMCA, especially after they opened it up to pretty much anyone who has an RV. I also find it incredulous that they failed to obtain event insurance which prevented them from refunding money to their cancelled events. That was a bonehead decision, in my opinion. Sadly, they’ve made their own (financial) bed and now they will have to lay in it….. at least until it collapses in on itself. Don’t get me wrong, I am not rooting for their failure but it will be no one’s fault but theirs if they do eventually go under.

John Whitney
2 months ago

I agree with all the comments below, but add another. For years, they had a major winter rally in the SE and a summer rally out west. Past 2 years they have all been out west. I’m simply not going to drive out west From FL to an overpriced rally. I don’t mind all RVers being allowed, but FMCA did a really poor job selling it, especially since they used the dollar sign as their big reason. Then they did absolutely nothing to integrate young families into a mostly senior organization. Recently I sent them an email requiring a single line answer, which I still haven’t received.
The only reason I maintain my membership is the “return home” insurance. If membership rates go up again, it will be cheaper to get the insurance directly.
I hope you will forward all these comments to FMCA. They really do need to rethink their actions. It appears they don’t realize all the other reasons members aren’t renewing.

Lee
2 months ago

We joined when we saw they had opened the membership to us TT owners in hopes we could expand our RVing experiences. What we found is the rallys and events are motorhome centric, there are few members who share our interests, and there are those members who want nothing to do with ‘our (TT owners) kind’
We won’t be renewing

Ed
2 months ago

I dropped my membership after my sister was in an accident on the way to the Perry, Ga
rally. No refunds, no vouchers, no response. Just our policy is no refunds. That tells me they are all about the money and not about the people. They can keep their money. They will get no more of mine or my sisters.