Monday, July 5, 2004
4:04:00 PM EDT

Adult Members



What do you intend to do or believe should be done to halt the decline of USCF adult regular members? 


[Note USCF adult membership began declining after the 1995 dues increase and has also declined an additional 10.7% in the last year. The USCF currently has around 20K regular adult members. I doubt it can go much lower than 20K. If the USCF does its job right, the only place from here is up.]


We believe the USCF has been focusing on OTB tournament play. We hear scholastic tournaments are more profitable than adult tournaments. Perhaps our outcomes are related to our focus. Regardless, there is no silver bullet here -- just marketing 101.


In a nutshell and dealing with experience, the first thing we need to do is ASK THE ADULT MEMBERS! Ultimately asking adult non members what would interest them to become members will lend us additional insights. That is why I advocate proper market analysis.


Demographics can be revealing. For example at one time we were told fully one-third of our membership was made up of adults who do not have a rating of any sort. If I understood correctly currently somewhere around one-quarter of new adult members never play a tournament game.  This percentage has dropped over the last two years. In any given year, about half of the regular adult members will play in a tournament, a number which has gone up a little in the last two years, probably because the percentage of adults that never played has decreased.  Over the course of several years somewhere between 60 and 70% of regular adult players will compete in rated chess activity.  We really don't have a good idea of how many parents of scholastic members are also members.


The key will be to determine what is of value to each segment of this target market.  Perhaps some join to help advance chess in schools, some for the magazine, some for online chess, many for rated play, some because their children are participating in chess etc. Knowing why they left is useful also. Understanding all this we can hone our offerings to the largest potential target markets to provide more diversity, stabilize, and even grow this membership base. Lower dues may need to be part of the equation since it was higher dues that appeared to have stimulated the membership decline.


If we do nothing we will end up with in a small tent inhabited only with those adults who regularly play rated OTB tournament chess and would never join if it was not required to get a rating. If one's primary obligation is to the membership than you ask or confirm with the membership what you should do on their behalf. To personally decide what is best for the membership is nothing but demagoguery.