The Waxing & Waning of Radio Clubs

The radio club is an interesting social affiliation. Fellowship, mutual aid, local political presence, teamsmenship, special events, attraction & support of hobby newcomers, repeater support…. these are but a few of the reasons – the “existence purpose” – for a club to originally be formed, and if the good original reasons are sustained the reasons for the club’s continuance over time.

Some clubs come into existence for singular reasons – a repeater club, a DX club, and the local contesting club are typical focus groups.

Some came into existence for geographical reasons – the XYZ County or City radio club.

Some have a special event, or special site – the USS XYZ Museum Club, or the XYZ Special Event Club.

Many add reasons over time, becoming one of the “Big Tent” radio clubs where many activities are reasons for existence.

Locally our clubs are in flux. Sharp focuses and interests that have drifted over time have led to new centers of activity and temporary disarray.

This sort of Waxing & Waning I’ve been told by very old time radio amateurs is normal, and they have seen it over and over.

Embracing change as a chance to rejuvenate both personal and group radio activities is easier said than done, especially when emotions, egos and checkbooks get into the mix.

Doing that full embracement of the inevitable changes of time, personal interests and the complexion of the community has its rewards.

As just one example of the changes a club faces, Geographical limitations are so changed from even my childhood days – everything from improved inexpensive travel options to “virtual travel” through VoIP, Video Conferencing, Webinars, and other distance technology techniques. If things work out tomorrow I’ll participate in another of several Web-Lectures on Amateur Radio with fellow amateurs from around the world!

It seems the trick for a continuing small club is to keep its focus, or maintain an altered focus engaging to enough members to be sustainable.

And it is important to recognize when one’s own personal interests have moved to a different aspect of Amateur Radio. In my case I do not have all that much interest in Repeaters and Emcomm. Nor is my present interest in building projects like the Rb-Frequency Source or chasing DX a huge overlap in interest for many of the members. I imagine my describing chasing the Togo DXpedition waiting for a break in the pile-up doesn’t exactly sound a lot better than a description of “paint drying” to 2m repeater focused member.

When a club looses its focus, like a car that rusts out and blows its engine, it needs to be overhauled or scrapped. Which is more appropriate is a local situationally dependent evaluation with no pat answer.

The only “for sure” is that doing the same club things and somehow expecting a different result doesn’t seem to make much sense, especially when the “different result” is somehow always imagined as only a “positive different result.” The same routine will usually result in exactly the same results, at least until the last member leaves turning out the lights…..

For the record I belong to a few groups, whether they be waxing or waning. ARRL, Society of Midwestern Contesters, W9DK Mancorad, NEWDXA North East Wisconsin DX Association, NCDXF Northern California DX Foundation, Feld Hell Club, PODXS 070 CLub, OMISS, Century Club and so on….. though I have become pretty passive in most of these groups.




3 thoughts on “The Waxing & Waning of Radio Clubs

  1. Declan says:

    Well written and I totally agree. Some of our local clubs amount to no more than a “social” club. Meet once a week for tea and biscuits and do very little “actual” radio. The same people attend the special events and help set up and operate. SUffice to say I have not bothered renewing my membership this year.

    There are one or two very active clubs around, but they are geographically too far away from me to get actively involved, but they are good examples of how a club should be run.

    It looks like ” we’ve always done it that way” is how it will remain here and there is a long road ahead to change attitudes for the better.


  2. Jeff, KE9V says:


    One thing that I’ve observed about radio clubs is that they are almost always powered by the zeal of an individual. One guy gets all fired up about something in particular and his enthusiasm becomes infectious and the club grows. Eventually he begins to burn out and the entire enterprise starts to wane. Unless or until the next fellow steps up and burns bright enough to provide a rekindling spark.

    Discovering how to stoke the next fire before the previous one burns completely out seems to be in the best interest of local clubs but that’s a tall order.

    73, Jeff

  3. Kuby, N6JSX-EN70 says:

    What you must do is look at the purpose of the club, then understand that 90% of the members will be do-nothing complaining procrastinators while a hand full are the real do’ers. Then which one do you want to be?

    The worst of all purpose clubs are “repeater” clubs that always seem to get into power/control grabbing by a few. Followed up with Emergency support groups and big event groups i.e. Dayton or Rose Bowl Parade.

    Most of the issues rise around the control of money that gives some the power they crave. Often there personal lives never gave them authority so they see an avenue to explore, then realize they got in over their head, and to save face become tyrants. Or their GREED for power and money keeps them seeking more.

    The most outgoing/homogeneous type of groups are RDF/T-Hunters and DX-peditions, they may have their personalities but when it gets to doing the activity they put their differences aside and meet the goal/challenge together!

    I have written/posted an article “How to Kill a HAM” and it all centers around HAM Group/Club involvement. I’ve seen more than one HAM fade away from radio due to the vicious personal attacks upon them for merely for voicing a difference of opinion or challenging the status quo. Some Clubs get down right ugly especially if there is money involved, DARA, TORA, ManCoRad.

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