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Last updated: Nov 11, 2000
Site hosted courtesy of the
Minnesota Rocketry Network
Alan Estenson, Webmaster

Apathy killed the rocket club (10/15/2000)

A Webmaster Editorial

I remember attending the first public organizational meeting for MASA.  As Russ talked to us about his ideas for a club, I was excited; here was the potential for a group of people that loved model rocketry just as much as I did!  I quickly became one of the first members (#104) of MASA, and I have been active in it ever since.  I have watched as the club membership swelled and grew - rapidly surpassing everyone's wildest expectations.  It has become an exciting group full of interesting people with diverse interests, and I am proud to be a member.

Oh, sweet nostalgia.  Anyway, we are now arriving at a crucial turning point for the club.  Our three founding members, who have served as club officers since the first days, have decided to retire before they "burn out".  They have served admirably and capably (for longer than my sanity would have survived) and allowed all of us to enjoy the benefits of belonging to a great rocket club.  Next month, we will be nominating people to fill their shoes.  The burning questions that arise in my mind are, "Who will be nominated, Who will lead the club (Who will be willing to yield some of their precious rocket building & flying time to serve the greater good), Will the club thrive, Will the club survive?"

This past Tuesday, we held the October club meeting.  Seven people (including myself) attended.  This may just represent a record low turnout (at least since the early days of the club).  I acknowledge that the topic (photo night) wasn't the most thrilling, but still, the numbers were disappointing.  Unfortunately, my informal observation is that a good 50 percent of the club membership HAS NEVER ATTENDED A SINGLE MEETING!  There are many club members who I see every month at the launch whom I've never seen at a meeting.  Now, I realize that personal circumstances may not make it possible for you to attend every meeting, or even half of them per year, but still, this is ridiculous!  However, I'm not suggesting that going to meetings will cure all ills; after all, it's participation that counts and not merely attendance.

Absentee, non-participatory, membership is what kills an organization.  For far too many MASA members, the only concern seems to be to show up once a month, launch their rockets, and then disappear for another 30 days.  Evidently, all of the planning, coordinating, phone calls, equipment work, range setup, range tear down, paperwork, contest and theme organization, FAA and landowner liaison work, (and on, and on) happens "magically" or is just "somebody else's problem".  Perhaps they feel that their $10 membership fee "buys them off" from such activities.  If everyone felt like this, the club would disappear tomorrow.  Fortunately, just enough dedicated people have devoted themselves (thus far) to keep things from plummeting into the abyss.  I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to these people (you know who you are!)

Keeping this club from disappearing is an ongoing battle, and it requires good people.  I think that every MASA member needs to ask his or herself, every month, "What did I do for the club, this month?"  You should be able to list at least one or several things.  For example:

Launches - did you help setup, help teardown, do LCO, do RSO, clean launch rods, clean alligator clips, organize a contest, set up a theme, care for the equipment, do the FAA notification, police the grounds for trash, help a new member, help a visitor...
Meetings - did you contribute to the discussions, do a presentation, organize a tour, make suggestions (and volunteer to carry them out?)...
Newsletter / Website - did you contribute an article, trip report, photos, rocket plans...
And this just scratches the surface.

After that, ask yourself the question "What can I do to make this a better club/experience for everyone involved?"  You have to care.  You have to "pay forward".  You have to act.

Next Sunday's editorial will propose ideas, solicit volunteers, and look for ways to get people involved.  I sincerely hope that apathy will not kill this rocket club!

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the MASA organization or its current officers.  They're all mine, mine, MINE! (but I'm willing to share).  If they've made you mad, perhaps mad enough to do something, GOOD!  If you wish to discuss this topic by email.  Don't bother to send me your excuses, if they're truly valid, you already know it.  If they're trivial, I don't have time to read them.

IMHO, Alan Estenson

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