AERC gains about 1,000 new members every year. These are riders who have decided to try our sport because they've read about it or seen our webpage and it seems like an interesting thing to try.
With a membership level of about 6,500, this would seem like a phenomenal growth rate for AERC. What actually happens is that within three years, only 40% of these new members are still with AERC.
This could be due to a number of reasons. It could be that our sport isn't what they enjoy once they try it. More often though it has to do with how they get started in their first year. As a part of the Membership Marketing Committee, I've polled those who did not renew in the past several years.
The most common reasons I received included:
-- I could never find a way to get started. No one to condition with, no one to ask questions of, no one to do my first ride with.
-- The people at the rides I went to were not friendly. Very competitive and looked down on newcomers.
-- Limited distance vs. endurance attitudes since most newcomers start with LD
In order to remedy some of these reasons, AERC has provided a mentors list online, a new members resource page, a mentor liaison in almost every region, new rider meetings at some rides, more introductory rides, and additional educational material. Some ride managers ask new riders to identify themselves at the ride meetings and say something about themselves. Some offer to find experienced riding partners at the ride. The last ride I attended provided a green ribbon to be tied to the tails of new riders' horses so that others could help them or just be friendly. Providing the rider with something to identify them as new is also helpful.
All of this can help but it depends a lot on how you -- as riders and ride managers -- use it. At your next ride, look for new riders. Ask if they have questions or could use help. Be friendly. Offer to ride with them if you can.
The other part of the problem is how to get new members to their first ride. I've provided lists of new members to regional organizations with the intent that the regional or local organizations contact the new members. The organizations can gain new members this way and they can be the important factor of finding someone to condition or ride with through the local group. The local group can let new members know about nearby rides and connect them with the ride manager to either ride or volunteer. In areas without a regional or local organization, volunteers are contacting new members.
The financial part is something we can't do much about. Fuel prices are up for all of us. My major cost in going to rides today is fuel, not the cost of the ride. I drive slower now to get better mileage.
Our goal is to grow AERC membership with people who enjoy the many aspects of endurance whether it's limited distance, 50 or 100 mile rides, multi-days, or FEI. Conventional business practice is that it's always better to keep a customer you have than to get a new one.
Let's all work to welcome our new members and keep them with us for many years. Personal contact is very important in getting our new members started and you are the best way to provide this.
New members: join online by clicking here or phone the office toll-free, 866-271-2372.
Renewing? Click here, or give the office staff a call at 866-271-2372.
How far will you ride this year? Join AERC and we'll help you count the miles!