FMCA membership declining, financial losses a concern

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Woes continue for the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) which is experiencing a dramatic loss of members. The club’s recently passed budget for 2021 shows a deficit of $230,310, and that’s after 15 employee terminations and other cuts.

“The Executive Board gave no solution about how to pay for this huge deficit except to say we would have to ‘just pull it out of our investment account,'” FMCA president Jon Walker wrote recently to board members.

In the first five months of this year, club memberships have declined sharply. After gaining a net 28 members in January, the club lost a net 331 members in February; 787 in March, 1,177 in April and 490 in May. “In June we are trending to lose between 600 to 700 members,” Walker explained.

Club membership was at 80,384 last August.

Walker also noted that the member renewal rate is down 5.5 percent from this time last year and its member join rate down 32.5 percent. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact in the last two months, but our huge loss started when the dues increase took effect in September, 2019,” he said.

The club raised the price of a new membership then from $60 a year to $85 to help cover the $800,000 annual cost of the FMAssist emergency medical evacuation and repatriation program. By comparison, the Escapees RV club, with a stable membership, charges $39.95. At its recent meeting, Walker urged the executive board to discontinue the costly member benefit to balance the budget, but board members voted to keep it.

FMCA President Jon Walker

“With the forced cancellation of our winter convention in Tucson, Arizona, and the cancellation of our summer convention/Governing Board meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska, your association has gone from a financially positive state to a very negative financial state,” he wrote.

“Please keep in mind that the financial advisors who manage our investments tell us that FMCA should have a minimum of two times our annual budget in our investments. In our case that should be somewhere near $16 million. Our current audit report tells us that we have to earmark over $5.5 million to cover prepaid dues, loans, and Tucson/Lincoln refund certificates. With our investment account of only $7.8 million at the time of this writing, we are in a very, very precarious position.

“It is my position as your President to tell you that as much as I love the FMCAssist benefit and what it means to the members who need to use it, we simply cannot afford to pay for it this coming year. That benefit has been a good recruiting tool for us, but we frankly cannot afford it at this time. We also learned a couple of days ago that the FMCAssist administrator and insurance company is now selling a similar program to individuals on the open market for less than your current FMCA dues. That fact makes it very difficult to use FMCAssist as the main reason to join FMCA.”

FMCA RELIES ON INCOME from its two international rallies to earn a major part of its income. But both have been cancelled for this year, and next year’s gathering in March is not even assured, but dependent on the Pandemic.

The club’s monthly magazine Family RVing, once hugely profitable, is losing money. In 2005, the periodical averaged 288 advertising-packed pages per issue. Its just-published July edition is 108 pages with little advertising.

FMCA’s Forums, have been closed to new posts and comments. “This was necessitated by the FMCA Executive Board essentially eliminating funding for Forums monitoring,” a message says on the forum front page. The forum has been a popular member benefit, and has been where members discussed the club’s financial situation.

Although RVtravel.com was not able to obtain profit and loss figures for 2019, public records show the club lost $606,302 in 2018 and $1,587,853 in 2017. “Those years were with two events. Imagine how bad this year will be with zero event income to offset the cancellation of both events,” CEO Chris Smith wrote to one member who had requested a refund on his registration prepayment for the Tucson rally, which the club denied. FMCA offered members vouchers instead, good for future events.

FMCA was founded as a non-profit organization in 1963 in Hinckley, Maine, by a contingent of “house car” owners. Through the years, the average age of a member has gradually crept higher and is now about 70.

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Fred Deffinbaugh
9 days ago

I think people don’t understand that FMCA is an organization owned and ran by the members. Unlike Good Sams, Escapees, and many manufacturer sponsored clubs, We have seen these clubs at the mercy of owners who decide to make changes or take political stances. Members of FMCA elect representatives that determine policy. When FMAassist was adopted, it was a great bargain for the membership and when the price of the service increased, it is difficult to terminate since some people joined primarily for this benefit. Democracy is often messy but I’m sure that any changes will be in the best interest of the membership. Also like minded members can create their own chapter to have a voice in the organization and direct the activities and criteria for joining their club.

Brian Lutz
10 days ago

Sorry to hear the news about the cash flow for FMCA and the CoronaVirus has done a number on this country and feel their pain.

Betty
12 days ago

Very challenging world we live in right now. I am thankful I have never needed to use FMCA Assist. This certainly is an eye opener for me as to what will happen to me if “Medicare for all” ever passes. There will be no coming back or ability to cancel out from that.

Sheri Hewitt
12 days ago

I just bought my older used 21′ motorhome and am still looking around at what’s available. I ran across a mention of FCMA and I’m here looking around. Having read most of the comments I know I’ll not be joining this group. Really don’t like those who are “better” than the rest. Small, large, new or old we’re all out for much the same experience. Some want it posh and some don’t but we’re all just folks. So, I won’t be joining this organization either. I’m out to find friends and share experiences and I don’t cate how much money you have or how big or expensive your rig is, I want fun, friends and great memories.

Larry smith
13 days ago

Poor management, poor service, will not renew!

Carson Axtell
14 days ago

This story sounds so much like that of other organizations that start out as service and advocacy representatives for its paying members but then morph into an outlet for marketeers while under the steerage of growth and income oriented management. I’m fed up with signing onto such groups, only to then be inundated with advertisements for unwanted and unneeded services and gizmos once my name and address are on their mailing list. Even AAA and AARP have gone this route, and I have suspended my membership to at least one of them permanently, and tolerate the other just for their rather lean emergency roadside service.

greg
13 days ago
Reply to  Carson Axtell

AMEN !! Agree 100%. Will really have to think about renewing next year.

Greg Giese
14 days ago

Ignore the young and you suffer the consequences. FMCA, service clubs, etc. Pretty soon everyone is old and no one to pass the torch. And besides young people keep these organizations YOUNG! Escapees added X-scapers. Brilliant move! Why? They listened.

Gene Bjerke
14 days ago

The FMCA dues are a bit rich for me, but I joined in order to join the Roadtrek International Chapter. That group has been most useful (as most brand clubs are). If it were not for that I would drop out.

rick krough
15 days ago

I’m sure FMCA was once a valuable resource. but now they don’t offer anything that can’t be found elsewhere for free or less cost. The travel assistance is a nice benefit to those members who are aging. But the rest of us who are not likely to need it at this stage of our lives are expected to subsidize a program for the people many of whom incessantly complain about the younger membership and make it near impossible for any of them to get representation on the boards and committees.
I let my membership lapse a couple months ago. Have no need or desire to rejoin.

David Allen
15 days ago

I read the decision not to refund rally tickets and felt that it was gonna cause many people to be upset. That is a healthy amount of money to give away. Many who feel jilted by the decision will not renew so a voucher for another year is still a loss. I love FMCA and have used many of it’s benefits and programs However, I joined for the various benefits and to stop them, FMCA Assist included, would be a breach of contract to me. They took my money, they should honor our agreement. I do not agree that $85.00 a year is extreme. I pay over half that for membership to a shopping club I go to once a year. If one considers everything that comes with the membership, it is not that bad. Yeah we are kind of heavy on “leadership” and folks that get special treatment but overall, I have enjoyed it.

Cushman W Phillips
15 days ago

I am at a loss why FMCA is so wedded to FMCA Assist!

We are experienced RVers and have selected SkyMed, CoachNet, and TSD/EFS Fuel Card for their superior benefits. As FMCA members we pay for a benefit we do not need and will not use, we would prefer a lower membership cost with a menu of fee-based choices. We have attended 3 Conventions/Rallies at Perry, GA and they were very well organized and informative – we had a great time!

Alvin
15 days ago

Some clubs like this, and other situations in life need a strategy that spells DEAL.

Example. My wife and I are life long garage sale sleuths. We love the deal, and we love saving money, re-purposing, stuff, saving it from the landfill. etc.

One of the things we’ve noticed through, is that many people holding yard/garage sales, price their crap way beyond the value of it (value being determined by whether or not somebody will buy that article) so after the tables are folded and the articles that didn’t sell are either dumped, given to a thrift store or stored in boxes again in the shed, the bottom line is that you still have something you didn’t need and because you over priced it – you had NO SALE.
You priced yourself out of the game.

We formed a strategy. At our last garage sale we gathered in the order of 400 items from our collections of crap we hadn’t looked at in years, from the propane fitting I bought, lost the bill ($25.99) for and never returned, to the kids rusty old Tonka dump truck. Gathered it all together, priced every single item at $1.00 (ONE DOLLAR) threw out the garage sale shingle and let nature run its course.

We sold out in two hours -save five worthless (at least on this day) items. $350.00 in the bank, and the remaining five non-saleable items went over to the thrift store we volunteer at. A great day.

This wasn’t our first garage sale rodeo either. We’ve had lots of them. What made this one different, is we didn’t get greedy, we priced our product (stuff we had no use for) at a price that was irresistible, (Like the price spread between Escapees (growing ) and FMCA, (failing) -both outfits servicing the same crowd) and the rest is history.

There is a lesson to be learned and it could apply to RVtravel, or anyone else in business.

Just think if everyone reading this, on this wonderful sunny Sunday morning, were to send one dollar ($1.00 each month) to Chuck Woodbury and crew at RVtravel.

Just think how painless that would be (everyone who RV’s can afford ONE DOLLAR/month) and how much more wonderful Chuck Woodbury’s Sunday (and future) would be too.

David Allen
15 days ago
Reply to  Alvin

Could not agree more. We often give tons of stuff to our grand kids to sell. We set a price that allows people to buy them. Not what they are worth to us, but what a person can afford and we get rid of it. We have given vehicles to them t sell at half the market price, tools, household goods, and all sorts of stuff. Once they sell it, we give them the money. Many times we have people tell them they are selling it way to low. I always explain that we used it, we got our enjoyment out of it, and now we want someone else to get to use it. We have finally made them understand that giving people a good deal makes good sense. It also puts money in their pockets, and we get rid of stuff we don’t need.

Alvin
14 days ago
Reply to  David Allen

Thanks for the endorsement David. A bonus also is how many pals you make when you treat people like you want to be treated yourself. Sometimes it starts with a simple good old fashioned deal. Folks remember things like that.

Cheryl Bacon
14 days ago
Reply to  Alvin

I will never have a garage sale again. We used to have one every few years, especially as the kids grew and we no longer needed all the younger set stuff. That stuff sold out first thing and we could get close to 50% of what we paid for it. Then the type of people that started coming started changing and it was too much work to make a few dollars. Then a year and a half ago, our youngest child best friend was murdered in her own driveway over the garage sale money. People are crazy and mean.

Richard
15 days ago

We joined the FMCA and The Escapee’s in 2013 just after we bought our Motor home and by coincidence they were both holding their annual rallies at Gillette WY so we attended the FMCA rally first and thought, OMG what have we done ! Have we just spent half of our retirement money so we can be like all the people here. It was too much like “are you a new member, OK go park down there no not there, way down there” but keep away from the president’s parking area and the past president parking area and the past, past used to be president area, and no you cannot park there that’s for the Newmar owners only and no not there either, your RV cost less than $500K so don’t park there.

Thankfully for us the Escapee’s rally was at the same place two weeks later. What a difference , it was just so friendly and welcoming.

We are still members of the FMCA and we have been to one other rally, West Springfield MA and I have to say it was even more stand off’ish than before. We paid way too much to park in an open field, no water, no sewer and a massive generator two rows away that they wouldn’t turn on till exactly the minute the rally started and turned off the same minute as the rally officially ended. Did I feel sorry for all of the “officers” of the FMCA along with the past, past, and once had been on the committee at sometime who had parked their RV’s where they had full hook ups and were within walking distance of everything, you bet I did.

We will not be renewing our FMCA membership again, I don’t need to pay to subsidise the committee members so they can have a free get you home service and I don’t join clubs just for the discounts I can get out of it.

It’s not too late for the FMCA to turn itself into a very exclusive RV club. There are enough RV’ers out there who would be willing to pay for the exclusivity. We have stayed at RV parks ( Motor coach resorts) who charge $200 per night and they have waiting lists of people who want to stay there.

The FMCA doesn’t need to fold but it does need to change.

Richard.

Alvin
14 days ago
Reply to  Richard

$200 a night!!! -, at $75 I’ll throw In the towel.

Sink Jaxon
15 days ago

Yeah, how much do the board members pocket from dues?

Paul S Goldberg
12 days ago
Reply to  Sink Jaxon

To the best of my knowledge they officers gave up their travel expense reimbursements even though they must go to many events scattered over the country. They get no benefit from FMCA other than reserved parking at conventions. since they are attending many committee meetings during conventions that convenience seems appropriate. As for FMCAssist I have MASA for similar service (also a couple of son’s if we need a driver). As a former insurance salesman I have never depended on association group policies because too often the insurer and the association disagree and the coverage is no longer available. I value my membership since 2004 for the friendships and fun it has brought us and the opportunity to gather either in Conventions or in Chapter events. However, these days we are far more active in Escapees, no Escapee officer would be caught wearing a jacket and tie to an event.

Steve
15 days ago

FMCA not giving back deposits for their rally could be a big reason their membership dropped. This was NOT a good decision. I know if they would not give me back my deposit, I would never pay them dues again!

Cousin Eddie
15 days ago
Reply to  Steve

very bad business decision to not buy cancellation insurance

Carl
15 days ago

As I see it, the FMCA has always been somewhat restrictive as to who is eligible to join. While I am not a fan of “self powered RVs, AKA motor coaches, perhaps years of exclusion is now haunting the organization. It is my understanding that conversion van owners, etc., were not allowed to join. Those who conduct themselves and portray an attitude that their excrement doesn’t have any aroma and cannot accept members unless their motor home is larger than 30 feet, doesn’t have any purple in its graphics, is less than 10 years old, or any other ridiculous requirement do not promote healthy membership rolls or good will. But now the shoe is on the other foot. Not that it would matter to me; I tend to avoid organizations with goals that include providing huge salaries to a few executives. I can meet and share experiences in any campground without having to attend a rally in a specific location.
Declining membership really cannot be attributed to COVID-19 or members no longer being able to afford the dues; if one owns a motor coach FMCA’s dues are a piddling amount. Really, FMCA needs to look in the mirror and determine if the “benefits” provided are really beneficial to its members. Do I care? Not really. Sears is going out of business because the company was unable to adapt to changing times. But I do feel sorry for the members who care about the organization and love to attend FMCA rallies; they are the real losers here.

Alvin
15 days ago
Reply to  Carl

Sears – ha. When we moved about 6 years ago we gave all our furniture to a good cause and at the new location attended the local Sears outlet to buy the essentials. We are cautious consumers and travelled the circuit to get the best deal. After attending the Sears store for the umpteenth time, we over heard the idle sales bunch at the back of the store holler to the lady who’d been serving us “THEY’RE BACKKK).

That was the last that a Sears outlet ever seen of us ever, and my prediction this outfit wasn’t long for this world was spot on.

You must conduct business in a business like fashion or risk losing the confidence of the consumer! SEARS is the best example of it I know of.
Good take Carl enjoyed your explanation -spot on.

Gene Bjerke
14 days ago
Reply to  Carl

Actually, one of the biggest chapters of FMCA is the one for van campers: Roadtreks.

Joseph Mueller
15 days ago

I’ve had major battles within myself every year whether to renew my membership with FMCA or not. After much internal angst, I decide to renew b/c the monthly magazine usually has had one article of interest. But I always regret my decision to renew b/c I’m repulsed by what I see of the membership: a bunch of old dinosaurs just like me: lily white, completely heterosexual, everyone locked in marriage, everyone old. Very old. Like me. IMO, FMCA overall = a throw-back to the 1950’s. When my current membership runs out, this time I will NOT renew; in fact, this article prompts me to just cancel my current membership and cut the tie … now! And when I leave the group, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that I’ll feel immense relief and freedom from a close-minded “ball and chain”.

Martin Nadelman
15 days ago

Even before the pandemic hit, I told Jon Walker that FMCA was dead, and that they should let it go. This was about a year ago. They failed to speak for their members, instead catering to their advertisers. I have been a member since the late 1980s, and I have watched the dues escalate from $35/yr to the current $85/yr. The only item keeping me as a member was the ability to purchase tires for basically fleet prices. Now that all three of my vehicles have new rubber, I won’t be using that benefit for a few years.

While I will hate to see it disappear, because I still have two years left on my 5-yr membership, I think its time as a viable organization dedicated to motorhome owners has vanished. Rest in peace.

tom
15 days ago

We enjoy FMCA. Perhaps the magazine is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we do look at every page. I have found several items that really worked for us at FMCA rallies. Having attended Perry twice, we intend to return. Sorry that Tucson had to be cancelled. Weather can be bad anywhere, plan around it.

Joe Testa
15 days ago

What I find interesting is I’m a 13 yr RV owner and never even heard of this organization.

Bob p
15 days ago
Reply to  Joe Testa

I heard of it 25 years ago by word of mouth from one of our Good Sam local chapter members who had a FMCA placard on his motorhome and I asked about it. It has been an exclusive club for motorhome owners until a couple years ago when they started hurting for money and voted to let even the lower class RVs join. Back then I had what I thought was fairly expensive 5th wheel but I could not join, as their older motorhome members died off they started losing their members and finally pushed the panic button. 4 years ago when I bought a Class A and Good Sam was going to hell in a hand basket I joined FMCA now it’s about to fold up.

Big Daddy
14 days ago
Reply to  Joe Testa

Where have you been with your RV? The dark side of the moon?