Membership trends

Discussion in 'Horological Misc' started by Richard Watkins, Sep 4, 2017.

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  1. Richard Watkins

    Richard Watkins Registered User
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    Out of curiosity I searched back issues of the Bulletin looking for membership data. The earliest concrete figures that I found were for 2002. See attachment.

    In 15 years the NAWCC membership has fallen by 57.8%, from 30,601 in 2002 to 12,915 this year. Annual differences are erratic, but there has been a decline in every year, varying from 3.38% to 9.17%.

    Apparently the new head quarters were built in 1999 at a cost of $5.9 million.

    The average decline in membership has been 1,179 per year, and if this continued there would be no members in 11 years time.

    What then happens to the buildings and the contents of the library and the museum? 315153.jpg
     
  2. Richard Watkins

    Richard Watkins Registered User
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    Regarding the building development in 1999: Wikipedia notes that this was the time when eBay was developing into a major auction site.

    I suspect the decline in membership since then is because many (most?) members were (and still are?) either dealers or amateur dealers and eBay provides a better way to buy and sell.

    It seems that the NAWCC may not have been able to foresee the future.
     
  3. ClipClock

    ClipClock Registered User
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    A decent For Sale area might help, for members to post clocks, watches and parts for sale but open for non members to view and buy. The old one could never work, it was impossible to find it and only members could see it anyway
     
  4. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Under the assumption you are making that the trend will continue, what will happen depends on what the income of the organization is at that time.

    I have been a member since 1971 and I have no intention of dropping my membership. I believe there are at least a few thousand who feel the same and we represent a "core" membership.

    Our current membership is about the same as it was when I joined in 1971. The growth spurt that took us from 14,000 to 38,000 was largely due to a burst in commercial activity in what had been a somewhat cloistered group of collectors and a relatively small number of specialists in horology. The organization did away with a requirement for new members to be sponsored and approved by the membership and Roy Ehrhardt and others began a campaign across all the flea markets in the U.S. to organize the "antique" watch & clock collectors.

    Perhaps a little drunk with success, the organization undertook to expand the small telephone building that housed headquarters into the rather impressive museum structure we have today. They also bought the state licensed beer distributor across the street to build a school of horology. During this period, there were actually two organizations. The National Watch & Clock Museum was governed by a self appointed Board of Trustees and the NAWCC Board of Directors provided policy and vision for the membership organization and supervised the Executive Director.

    At the end of the 20th century, we were targeted for review by the local IRS office. There was a growing backlash to the cost over runs of the museum building project. eBay appeared on the scene and the commercial promise of the NAWCC Mart room began to dissipate.

    The organizations responded to this sequence of events by merging the NAWCC and the NWCM, consolidating the governance, giving the Executive Director a formal Delegation of Authority, and initiating a major volunteer based effort to grow on the Internet.

    From my perspective, it seems like we have now brought the NAWCC back to where it was at about the time I joined but with much better communications and a better understanding of what we are about and why people might want to support what we, as an organization, do. There is still a lot of confusion about us being a trader's club or being an educational charity like any distributed on-line university with our fine museum and research center as our anchor point.

    Our current development campaign is bringing this dichotomy into sharper focus. I hope and trust we will be able get through this phase and develop a community of people who love horology more than they do making a profit while still embracing a healthy commerce in horological artifacts and information.

    In examining trends, the other trend worth considering is the growth of donor level memberships and donations in general. The NAWCC has not been publishing that information as long as we have the membership statistics, but I think it is important in understanding where we are now and where we may be going.

    In direct answer to your "what if" question, some other organization with similar goals to ours would inherit our remainder assets after all debts had been paid. As I said, I do not expect that to happen.
     
  5. FDelGreco

    FDelGreco Registered User
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    One must remember that the NAWCC's mission is education, not a place for members to make money by buying and selling. IMO we have lost a lot of members who joined primarily to make money and found that eBay was more efficient for that purpose. Also, many recent members thought we were a money-making opportunity but then backed out for the same reason.

    It is interesting to note that although the NAWCC wants to promote its mission of education, we often do a poor job of it. Most recently, I was at the Mid-South regional. At the banquet, the chair of the 2018 national convention got up and gave a short presentation about that convention. The first thing she mentioned was "800 tables." The second was a party and the third was an auction. She never mentioned ANY educational opportunities that will be offered. With talk like that, we can't expect our mission to be widely understood.

    Frank
     
  6. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    #6 rmarkowitz1_cee4a1, Sep 4, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
    What are the trends re: visitor numbers to the museum and headquarters?? What would make sense in terms of the future ongoing existence of the museum and continuing to support a headquarters building of that size?? The museum might do well with a merger with another museum??

    What makes sense in terms of the current picture and what seems to be predicted by current trends?

    There may be some hard choices to be made in the coming years.

    Some major barriers to consider.

    The reality is that the advancing age of the membership has sapped much of its vitality and contributed greatly to its shrinking numbers through natural attrition. Sorry if that ruffles feathers.

    Of course, "younger" people (like 30-50 year olds?) need to be attracted.

    However, the interest in joining organizations is not what it once was. For example, fraternal organizations like the Masons, Shriners, Elks, etc., were once considered an essential part of life and a way of networking. Need I say that this is no longer the case and that's true of interest based organizations like the NAWCC. I would bet this is a similar experience for many collector based organizations. Go on Facebook and you don't need to wear a fez.

    RE: the fading of the "commercial promise" of the NAWCC and how that has contributed to a decline in membership. I think that's true. There are other more broad based factors to consider. Many people < 40 - 50 just don't care about what I would have considered when I was younger and still consider "real antiques". This is reflected in several ways, including declining visits to museums, declining memberships in collector based organizations and a significant decline in sales and prices at shops, shows and auctions. Few people want the stuff and many fewer have any understanding of what they're looking at and why a clock or watch or other antique is worthwhile. One shop owner I know that allows access to a bathroom and keeps a candy bowl at the main desk commented that the result of many visits to the shop are "to take a piss and eat candy". Also, another byproduct of a significantly aging membership. When I do general antique shows, there are lots of older folks who are basically there for a day out and to price things. Many are looking to down size, not add to their collections. Furthermore, they are now on fixed incomes and don't have the same disposable income. Last but not least many find their kids don't give a hoot about the antiques they own (see above) and so there's no one to give them to.

    Some things can be changed. Others will probably not be.

    The paradigm has shifted and it's not coming back.

    I do think both at the national and local chapter level there needs to be a better easier access and a more vital presence on the internet.

    Just as an example, I wanted to check the dates of upcoming meetings of Chapter 87. No new info, pictures, etc. C'mon. Dead website to many indicates dead organization.

    Finally, I have no problem with a smaller leaner organization with people who are genuinely interested in horology.

    RM
     
  7. Tom McIntyre

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    I don't mean to make excuses for my friends, but Micah has been on the grand flea market tour all summer. The best place to look for information is actually the site that Ron Price runs for the New England chapters http://pricelessads.com/nawcc087/index.htm. The next meeting is not posted there, but the last one is with pictures.
     
  8. Dick C

    Dick C Registered User

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    The photos make for an interesting story.
     
  9. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    Not sure you needed to name names.

    That's my point.

    RM
     

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