Volume 1, Issue 36
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
It's no secret that ABC and WIBC have been losing membership for years. Someone's actually done a Ph.D. thesis on the trend. And while ABC and WIBC theorize and finger point, the problem isn't going away.
As a WIBC director, I've been hearing about Tiered Membership for some time. The current concept will have the organizations offering three levels of benefits, each level adding additional benefits to the previous level. Bowling, Inc. has been test marketing the concept in about ten major cities this year. There's only one problem. Despite the support and man-hours from local associations and Bowling, Inc., ranging from informational mailers sent to each bowler before leagues began to local directors attending every league meeting, only 2 percent bought the "Gold" level, and 5% chose Platinum. A full 93% joined at the minimum level. That's an incredible amount of effort for a 7% return.
Tiered membership is clearly in trouble. They're now proposing revising the tiers--there will be only two tiers, basic and platinum. But the basic membership will be even more expensive, with $9 going to the national offices. That's a $3 increase in sanction dues. Suddenly, WIBC directors are being called out to a "whistle stop" tour where delegates and association members are going to be told why they should vote for this program at the national convention in Indianapolis this spring and told why bowlers are going to be thrilled to pay more for their membership.
What are they going to tell me I get for the additional fees? A magazine I keep hearing is worth $16 for four issues a year. They're claiming a little glossy rag is worth $4? I can get both Bowling This Month and Bowler's Journal International, every month, for about $4. Heck, Bowling Digest comes out every other month, and that's less than $16 a year.
Now I am not a skeptic, I'll pay more for my membership, even the full $25. But this is what I'd like to see. A national database of averages. No more going to the secretary for verification before I jet off to nationals. Each member would have a permanent card with a bar code, and while I am at it, make it a picture ID. No more people using someone else's name to become a low-average bowler for big tournaments. And what about linking that to a web site for ALL tournament directors, bowling centers, and league secretaries to verify? It would save the local associations time and money printing out the average books each summer.
Here are some ideas I'm sure are not new, but I've never heard mentioned by ABC or WIBC. What about a "trial" membership? Short season leagues are often a mere 10-15 weeks. The participants are often new bowlers. Why alienate them with a complicated and costly membership, when for say $5 they could be sanctioned in that one league only. It would acquaint new bowlers with ABC/WIBC rules while not frightening them away. Leagues that are not sanctioning right now might be apt to spend $5, see the benefit of membership, and be more likely to join again. Somehow, asking them to drop $15-25 without understanding the organizations is presumptuous.
I'd really rather see a single, lifetime award for the 300 and 800 rings. When people have so many they're giving them to their barbers and butchers, it says they don't quite mean so much. PBA 300 rings have small diamond (no doubt industrial grade) chips that can be placed around the colored stone, why not do something like that for ABC?
Why not offer a bare bones membership for less? If someone qualifies for an award, and they decide that membership has its privileges, let them pay the difference when they shoot the award. Actually, I'd be happy if they just asked me what I wanted. Because so far, they're telling me what I want, and yet people still leave this sport. I have to wonder what would they learn if they'd just ask us.