Reinventing the United States Power Squadrons® as
Background: Our 102-year-old organization, the United States Power Squadrons (USPS), is dying of declining membership and a changing society, and soon will be dead. Younger generations of boaters have different values than earlier generations, and although boating continues to be a hobby and avocation for many Americans, as well as a professional activity for some, joining organizations is not a priority for many boaters, and the USPS’s stodgy paramilitary approach to boating is viewed as in the dark ages.
However, the USPS has a unique function in its emphasis on boating education by fellow boaters, and has additional valued functions in performance of civic activities (such as performing Vessel Safety Checks and Cooperative Charting) as well as providing camaraderie with other boaters. A reinvented organization can continue to serve its members and the boating public.
The following observations and recommendations are made in the hopes of successfully reinventing the USPS to continue, and indeed to expand, its activities.
Observation 1: No one recognizes what a “Power Squadron” is. Use of ranks and grades (e.g., “P/Lt/C Joe Blow, SN”) are not understandable by non-members, and are obfuscating jargon.
Recommendation 1a: Change the organization’s name to “America’s Boating Club” (ABC). This name appropriately describes the organization, and is already trademarked by USPS.
Recommendation 1b: Uniforms and other paramilitary regalia and lingo should be phased out.
Recommendation 1c: Change the nomenclature of local Squadrons to Boating Clubs. Example: Charleston Sail and Power Squadron would be renamed Charleston Boating Club.
Recommendation 1d: Use of pre- and post-nominal initials) should be discouraged unless there is a specific need for the title.
Observation 2: The present organization is primarily focused on needs of owners of private power and sail boats, and frequently excludes needs of other boaters including owners of human-powered watercraft, of fisherman, of professional boaters, of Sea Scouts, of boat builders and dealers, and of other special-interest watercraft owners (e.g., sailboat racers).
Recommendation 2a: Maintain present mission (boating education, civic activities, and fellowship) but enlarge scope of activities to encompass all boaters of all ages.
Recommendation 2b: The ABC should add to its mission the responsibility of education for all boaters, and encourage coordination with other boating organizations, such as Sea Scouts, USCGA, yacht clubs, sailboat racing clubs, fishing clubs, State and local agencies and law enforcement. Joint membership should be encouraged of ABC members and members of other boating organizations.
Observation 3: The organization’s structure is outdated and is unwieldy for its declining membership.
Recommendation 3a: Develop a job description for a full-time aggressive paid Executive Director and recruit such a person post-haste.
Recommendation 3b: Replace the 30+ Districts with 4-6 Regions to streamline the organization (and decrease costs associated with Districts)
Observation 4: The national USPS organization competes with the local clubs.
Recommendation 4a: Dues for the national organization should be lowered in favor of allowing reasonable dues for local clubs.
Recommendation 4b: Educational activities that can be managed at the local club level should not be duplicated by the national organization.
Observation 5: It is urgent to develop a transition plan from USPS to ABC. USPS has been steadily losing members at the national, district, and local levels for years.
Recommendation 5a: Establish a working group to flesh out proposal for reinvention. Review recent report about the USPS by the R+M Agency and incorporate appropriate concepts.
Recommendation 5b: Set a timetable for transition.
Recommendation 5c: Immediately upon approval of these concepts, revise the present Operations Manual, and Brand Standards Manual.
Recommendation 5d: Immediately upon approval of these concepts, activate the AmericasBoatingClub.com website. This name, and AmericasBoatingClub.org, are already registered to USPS, but currently are not used. This new website should be focused on the reinvented organization, and not merely link to the present USPS.org website. [A new website, AmericasBoatingClub.us , has been launched to discuss the reinvention process.]
Recommendation 5e: Immediately upon approval of these concepts, activate social media such as Facebook as a primary means of publicizing the change of approach. [This recommendation has already been activated at Facebook; see https://www.facebook.com/ReinventingUSPS/.]
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