ARRL needs new media tools for donations

I get mail. Real mail, not e-mail. Outside of bills, I get mail about ham radio from the ARRL wanting my hard earned dollars for various different funds the ARRL has set up. Whether it is spectrum defense or just supporting the ARRL, the request for dollars is there. I understand that.

So this weekend I took a trip over to the ARRL’s web site. I thought I would take a look around to see what was all there for all these different funds. After a quick look — it doesn’t take long — I can sum up the web presence for all of these funds easily: you read a letter to members to donate or are directly given a donation form to fill out.

Ho hum…

ARRL stories need telling

It is great that the ARRL has advanced to on-line transfer of funds. But there are no stories behind the need for the funds, just a dry, one-time request to donate. What happens to the funds? How are they being used? What successes have we had with their use?

The only instance of what was done with the funds was from the ARRL Foundation where scholarships and grants were given. A picture, name and an amount. What happened with those people? How did the grant help expand and support ham radio?

People don’t just give money because you ask them to. Instead, they want to be involved in movement, a success story in the making. Without the ongoing stories, the web pages are static requests made a long time ago that generates zero interest.

Why just ARRL members?

All of the funding requests start out with “Dear Member…” Why? I’m sure it is because the letter that was sent out — to members — was just reprinted on the web page asking for funds.

Yet, the specific purpose of these funds resonate across the ham radio spectrum of licenses. The purposes support more than ARRL members alone. Despite that, starting a page out with “Dear Member” immediately shuts out any other ham from contributing to the particular fund. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Sure, not many hams that are not ARRL members will contribute, but discerning hams who have a legitimate reason for not belonging to the ARRL could very well support single purpose funds. But they are shut out, undoubtably reinforcing the very reasons for not being a member in the first place.

The ARRL needs new media methods

The ARRL is dipping into blogs, twittering and other technology areas. That’s good. But these specific funds — from spectrum defense, education, to the ARRL Foundation — are perfect opportunities to build blogs around to get the stories these funds are creating out to the ham radio community. It is a classic “blogging for business” application that begs being used.

Sure, news around these funds get published on the web site somewhere. But there is no followthrough to the fund areas on the web site.

What the ARRL doesn’t get about blogs is that they build communities around specific subjects. The ARRL is thinking that “ham radio” is the community when, in fact, there are many communities within ham radio. There is an education community, a scholarship and grants community to build outreach, and communities that see threats to our hobby through taking away spectrum. Yet all of that is treated the same.

Building communities takes effort

Yes, this means resources need focus on building out this area. But resources are needed for every part of a web site. The static, unchanging, untold stories of these specific areas on the ARRL web site don’t cut it in a world of social media.

And, I’d bet, don’t produce much in donations either.

If you want donations from ham radio operators in the cause of your fund, there needs to be engagement, community, and activism shown to the contributors. Snail mail alone doesn’t cut it anymore.