How Can We Attract New Hams? Try “All of the Above”
Attracting new hams is critical to maintaining a ham radio club. This year our club had success with an “All of the Above” approach. Instead of doing only a couple of things to attract students, we used many different approaches. I was surprised to discover that most of the things we tried resulted in at least 1 or 2 students. By using a variety of methods, we ended up with significantly more students than if we had used only the 2 or 3 most ‘successful’ approaches.
Our club has a website with current information. Phone numbers and email addresses for the club officers are updated when needed. Information about our club activities is shown. We also have information on our open house and our new ham’s class. Numerous people contact us each month with requests about ham radio. If your club has no website, or if the information is not current, your club will miss the opportunity to interact with these people. About 20% of our class this year learned about our lessons from an internet search.
We prepare flyers for our open house and lessons. These flyers are posted on our club website, the regional website, and the ARRL website. We have these flyers at our club activities and we take them to other clubs. I email them to our club members multiple times asking that they distribute them. We also print our own business cards with general club information and lesson information. Members can carry these in their wallets and distribute them when they talk to people about our club. They’re also convenient for distributing at demos. About 10% of this year’s class came because they received a flyer.
Our club members are very involved in recruiting new hams. We encourage them to invite their friends to our open house and lessons. We ask them to distribute our flyers and business cards. About a month before our open house and lessons, we encourage them to wear our club polo shirts as they run errands; this sometimes generates questions about the club. About 40% of the students in our class this year had a personal contact with a ham. They are current or former hams, or they know someone who is a ham. Having your entire club involved increases the number of people who are aware of your lessons.
Some of our club members are also members of various internet meetup groups. Meetup groups are internet groups that people with common interests join. Meetup members post activities that other members might find interesting. Meetup groups provide a way for people to meet other people by attending activities in their area. Club members posted our open house and lessons as activities on their meetup sites and invited other meetup members to come. About 15% of this year’s class learned about our club through meetup groups you can search for meetup groups in your area at www.meetup.com.
We post our open house and class information in many different locations. I submitted the information to the community calendar for each of our local TV and radio stations. Each station has information on its website stating how to submit events for its community calendar. Luckily, we were invited to appear on a local TV morning show to talk about ham radio 2 weeks before our lessons started. I suspect our invitation was a direct result of our lesson being listed on that station’s calendar. I also contacted our local cable TV provider to see if it had a station that ran free information on community events. Ours did not, but it’s easy to contact your provider to see if it does. I also submitted our information to all of the community newspapers I was aware of. These are free newspapers that are mailed to county and city residents or are available for free at local grocery stores. Some of these papers published both our open house and our lessons, some published one but not the other, and some didn’t publish either. About 10% of this year’s class learned about us from TV or a newspaper. I also posted our events on Craig’s List and Eventful, which are internet sites that have local activity calendars. None of our students found us from these sites, but it’s easy to post the information.
We look for businesses that offer free advertising for community events. One of the Panera restaurants in our area has a bulletin board where a member posted a flyer. One of the local McDonald’s franchises has a monthly community calendar on its tray covers. I submitted our open house and lesson information to the franchise, and they included our open house on the calendar. This is another area where club participation is important. If you have everyone looking for places to advertise, you will cover a larger area than if only one “publicity” person is looking.
I arranged a couple of demos at community events. This year, none of our students found us from demos. However, I think demos are a good opportunity to make the general public aware of ham radio. I plan to arrange more of these in the future, and hopefully over time they will result in some additional students.
There are a few additional things that we’d like to add next year. We hope to create a club Facebook page to increase our exposure to younger adults. I’ve been told that people in the 20 — 50 age bracket are more likely to search for a group using Facebook than a generic internet search. ‘We hope to have our open house and lesson information available on our new meetup site. We hope to participate in a local exposition and schedule additional demos at local festivals etc. to try and reach people who aren’t familiar with ham radio. We hope to have a yard sign on display with class information. I was very surprised to learn that one couple in our 2013 class learned about us from a 2012 yard sign — which taught me that advertising early is not a waste of time and that signs do work.
I’ve learned that there’s not a single magic tactic to attract new hams. It takes everyone brainstorming ways to spread the word about our classes. Everyone needs to do what they can to bring in new hams. Your club has to use “All of the Above” if you want to attract as many hams as possible.
Please contact me if you have any questions about what we’ve done. I’d also love to hear what you tried that we aren’t using.
This is a article that was re-posted by one of the local clubs, the original club was in Florida. One of the things I think they left out that have worked for us is checking into the area nets and advertising our open house and lessons. We are unique in being able to advertise our classes on our 985 machine in the ID message.