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Virtual Chapters?

Discussion in 'Mark Doran' started by djlucas, Dec 8, 2010.

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    djlucas

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    Can you give me more information about exactly what a 'virtual chapter' is. I remember the issue was visited many years ago and the membership voted against it. Since it seems to have been revived, what changes have been made to the original idea?
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    CRKrieger

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    I think the closest you'd find to that today might be MyE28.com. This is a seriously cohesive and surprisingly active group (a bunch of us are also here) for being 'cloud-based'. :D You might recall there were a bunch of us at Oktoberfest since I managed to 'piggyback' our annual 5er Fest onto it. I can tell you one thing: the daily activity there far exceeds anything there is here.

    Mdoran guest

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    Delight

    Years ago the club by-laws were changed to allow non-geographic chapters or what has been referred to as virtual chapters. As C.R. pointed out the MyE28.com group, as well as, many other groups of like minded folks with similar interests, all are principally internet based and socialize online. We are pulling together the structure to allow these groups to form a chapter.

    As we change the ops manual to specify how to form a new chapter not based on the geographic chapter structure and the requirements of maintaining these new chapters, I believe we need to be very careful not to undermine the face to face social nature of the organization. If not done carefully it is likely that a large number of the new members that join annually, as well as, current members will simply choose to be associated with say the "BMW 3 series owners chapter", "west coast DE instructors chapter" or "national autocross chapter". In particular I am concerned that new members may never be exposed to the local BMW CCA "boots on the ground", and the possible unintended consequences of this.

    We must at least consider what the loss of chapter rebates and access to "new blood" will have on our current chapters.

    The nature of a "virtual" chapter being primarily online with most all communication electronic makes the issue of allowing and or encouraging digital chapter newsletters part and parcel of this discussion.

    From my point of view this becomes a bit complicated. Truth is many chapters struggle to assemble and distribute newsletters and there may be a benefit to making this easier. I see the benefit to National of being able to reduce or eliminate much of the chapter rebate $$ sent to the chapters in exchange for not requiring printed and mailed newsletters. This will certainly help resolve some budget issues at National.

    This move to digital communication is more problematic than it might first appears. I am not a dinosaur and understand the desire to go digital.

    I have a folder full of digital "should read this" material on multiple machines. Reality is much of this is over a year old and still unread, I resist taking the laptop to the throne, but expect (and studies by the print advertizing experts confirm) this is normal. Contrast this with the printed documents that are often shared, distributed, left with sponsors, displayed in dealerships, and more likely read even if just to clean up the coffee table.

    I understand any move to digital newsletters will be voluntary, I also understand the business reality. While my experience with generating advertizing revenue through the Rocky Mtn Chapter newsletter may be unique it has allowed me to understand the "value" difference in advertizing in printed versus electronic medium. Fact is the value of advertizing pages decreases dramatically when you go digital (and this applies to the push for a digital Roundel). Study many first adopters of digital magazines and the astounding failure rates of these efforts should lead us to move forward with a great deal of caution and perhaps more importantly with a well thought out long term plan.
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    mwmills

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    In 2006 the members did approve a bylaw change that removed geographic boundaries from chapters (Article 10, Section 1). The Jan 2006 Roundel which is available online details the changes that were proposed.

    However, the Operations Manual procedures for forming a chapter and minimum chapter requirements were not revised to accommodate the non-geographic definition of a chapter.

    In 2007 when I ran for Pacific VP, I wrote the following, which I believe is still correct today:

    "Virtual Chapters

    I think being inclusive is great and the 'virtual' chapter is a great solution given today's technologically oriented society.

    The club needs to develop a strategic and tactical plan to include the 'virtual' societies that exist today and will continue to blossom in the future.

    However, this plan must not be at the expense of the existing 'traditional' chapters. Care must be taken to construct a mechanism where overlapping between a geographic based chapter and a virtual chapter does not create 'competition' for the members the two chapters share.

    I am concerned that the bylaw change passed in 2006 does not have the implementation planning necessary to address this issue, and is a two-edged sword that benefits overall membership numbers but leaves the existing chapters exposed to financial loss.

    I hope a solution can be found somewhere between our current geographically based chapters and the full swing of the pendulum to organizationally based (virtual) chapters. The solution cannot disenfranchise the existing chapters, cannot simply shuffle members from one chapter to another and should grow our membership overall"

    It is my hope and understanding that the current undertaking is to actually implement the change approved by the members in 2006.
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    CRKrieger

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    I overlooked what I know is an important point this morning in discussing MyE28 as a virtual chapter. That is, it's totally free. While there are a great many BMW CCA members in it, there are also a great many who are not. Our mantra to them is, "Join the club." but that doesn't mean they will. In fact, some are downright adamant that they will not, for whatever their various reasons may be.* Absent some significant changes in philosophy, I doubt that MyE28 even wants to be a virtual chapter - and we certainly don't want to become a dues-paying organization at this time. I think that would erode both our appeal and some of our knowledge base. We are an 'affiliated organization' for now and, given our somewhat anarchic bent, I expect that's what we'll continue to be for the foreseeable future.


    * The most obvious is our foreign correspondents throughout the world. The only geographic regions from where I do not recall ever seeing a post are China, northern Asia, and Africa. We do have Cambodian, Thai, Australian, Israeli, Lithuanian, Polish, English, Irish, Central American, Scandinavian, and many Canadian members. Then, there's an ACA guy who won't join on principle ...

    Mdoran guest

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    I believe many overestimate the upside of virtual chapters for exactly the reasons you state. There exist zero barriers to these folks becoming members today. It is not clear to me that aside from gaining access to our insurance, that there is a reason the internet based groups will choose to pay dues to BMW CCA. But we shall see, growth and inclusiveness is the goal.
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    Satch SoSoCalifortified

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    Let's not revise too much of our history. . .

    Somebody needs to wake Scott Blazey up, since he was president during most of the discussion leading up to the by-law change that allows the establishment of BMW CCA chapters based on criteria other than geographical location.

    It is unfortunate that the term "virtual chapter" crept into the vocabulary, because that term implies an online community with no particular reason to become anything else. Actually, the possibility of awarding chapter status to like-minded enthusiasts who didn't live in the same place came about as a way to serve groups who are genuinely involved in Club activities; chapter status makes insurance cheaper, for one thing.

    If I remember correctly, one argument against non-geographical chapters was that they would "rob" our geographical chapters of X number of members; in fact, one chapter president insisted-at quite some volume!-that his chapter was a franchise, and that National had no right to interfere with its ability to make money.

    The money in question, of course, is the third of each member's dues that goes to the chapter. That's nice for the big chapters surrounded by BMW owners and dealers, because it guarantees a nice source of income whether the chapter serves its members or not.

    Now, I hold chapter affiliation with one large chapter, one medium-sized outfit, and one small chapter-and they all serve their members quite well, I believe. I can't imagine any chapter putting together more diverse activities than Golden Gate; the San Diego Chapter allows me to burn up my tires in the Qualcomm parking lot; and the Sierra Chapter is filled with old friends who come up with a surprising number of reasons to drive.

    If the Z Club were to become a chapter, I would join that one, too-in addition to my other affiliations, not in place of them.
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    Zeichen311

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    From what I'm reading here the concept of a "virtual chapter" seems to be an attempt to address two unrelated problems with a single entity: (1) support and recognition for non-geographic communities of members, and (2) incorporation of electronic/social media into Club structures and communications required by the bylaws.

    In both cases, what purpose or benefit does a "virtual chapter" provide that a "Special Interest Group" does not? A member should always belong to a geographic chapter to preserve and strengthen the face-to-face activities and benefits of membership. SIG membership supplements that without supplanting it.

    If memory serves, at present membership in a SIG incurs an incremental annual membership fee. Am I correct in supposing those fees fund SIG-specific newsletters and little else? Electronic media and "virtual communities" seem to me a perfect fit for the SIG concept. Pure virtual (Internet-based) SIGs might have little need to charge membership fees, which in turn would encourage members to form and join more SIGs. An alternative would be for National to host the Web presence of SIGs (i.e., here) and retain SIG fees to defray the cost.

    So given that we seem to already have something that could serve the purpose (with some minor restructuring), isn't a "virtual chapter" a bit of a confusing redundancy?
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    steven s

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    There are no fees collected by BMW CCA except for E30 M3 and Club Racing SIGs which are $15.00/year.
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    mwmills

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    Zeichen311

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    CRKrieger

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    And, even more refreshed, I now recall that MyE28.com is currently considered a 'registry':

    Current ROUNDEL listing page.

    Strangely, though, it is not listed here on the website as such. Steven? :confused:
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    BMWCCA1

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    This should also serve as a reminder that most by-law-change proposals are effectively self-fulfilling prophecies in that no attempt is made by the sitting board to solicit or entertain--much less publish--opposing opinions. A good pro-and-con argument at that time, published alongside the amendment and campaign rhetoric, could very well have changed the outcome. None was allowed or offered.

    Instead the proposals are written in such a way that the uninformed would never oppose them or even think there was any reason to consider opposing them. Like the amendments to the Clean Air Act of the past decades, using a benign title for an amendment tends to diffuse opposition. Even if the end result is (in the case of the Clear Skies Act of 2003) to actually allow more pollution and toxins from smokestacks, and other pollution sources. A favor to industries at the expense of the health of our citizens, gift-wrapped in a title no one could possibly oppose.

    Even in a Club election with a record turnout, our decisions in such matters are made by that tiny fraction of the membership who actually vote. The sitting representatives assume no one really cares and the board can simply do what they think is best.

    I think it's just bad communication.
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    BMWCCA1

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    And as the person responsible for moving those listings from the old mailing wrapper to the inside of the magazine, I can tell you, of course, that is the responsibility of the Executive VP to update, implement, and police--not Steven. ;)
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    CRKrieger

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    I passed it off to Steven because I figured he was the website guy and that it was a mere oversight.

    Now, back to stuff about Mark ...
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    steven s

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    For the record, I'm not the website guy. I just help if I know what to do.
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    lcjhnsn

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    I agree with N-T-S, I think the geographical Chapter is absolutely the backbone of the Club.

    Personally, the only reason I'm even a member is because of the camaraderie and relationships I've built through my local Chapter.

    I can't foresee a long and healthy life for the Club if we were to reduce the priority of the local Chapters.
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    CRKrieger

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    While I understand your concern, I don't see it that way. I see the possibility of a virtual chapter (of which there are none yet) as including people who might not otherwise participate in BMW CCA, not replacing the local geographical chapter for those who are already in it.

    1996 328ti guest

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    Fact of the matter is, those interested at the local level are the smallest share of CCA members. I'd be a member regardless of membership rewards or Roundel magazine.
    My guess is that people join the club for these reasons and in this order,
    1. membership reward rebate
    2. Roundel
    3. discounts
    4. camaraderie/events
    There are some that join for multiple reasons.
    We can have a whole discussion about geographic chapters. If they are not doing anything that interests their members, there really isn't any reason to belong to a local chapter.
    Plus regions are huge. You may have members who live 3 hours from most of your events.
    Bu this all falls under another topic.
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    funfunfer

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    what he said!

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