People who need people
The last year has seen a marked reversal in our long struggle with membership flight, and while it is not fair to credit a single reason or to say the battle is over, it is instructive to look at some of the numbers, as well as the policies in place, to keep the trend going.
From June through January we attracted 44 new regular members, 25 professional/journalist associates and 28 non-Japanese associates.
Obviously, these figures do not indicate the number leaving the club and are but a subset of our more than 2,100 members overall, but this does reflect a solid performance and net increase in targeted areas. Of new regular members, nearly half are from wire services, with newspapers and television/radio following.
Our membership marketing manager, Cindy Mullins, and committee chair, Monzurul Huq, have been on the case with Welcome Mat Nights, Meet the Press/Happy Hours and untold tours and telephone calls. For many years the club would make piecemeal efforts on this front, but we now have in place much needed accountability that is vital to our future. The intent is not only to bring folks in, but also keep them, and that means more than just introductions and a bottle of wine.
We in the media talk ratings, circulation or page hits, so I would also like to think that part of the reason our numbers are improving is that we have something to offer at a price commensurate with value.
Paraphrasing the line from the film Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will indeed come, and that means a great PAC speakers series, a variety of entertainment and social events ranging from national nights to a 60th anniversary film series with commentary by our own life member Donald Richie, and round-the-clock services and facilities that our members need.
One such facility is our interview room, under construction as this column goes to print. First Vice President Khaldon Azhari has overseen this project from blueprint to drywall, and if the room ever is named — hopefully not posthumously
— I would suggest that K.A. be the first choice.
The Location Committee, under Khaldon and Miki Tanikawa, is eyeing our long-term housing requirements as well as the relationship with current landlord Mitsubishi Estate. One immediate issue is the Penta Hotel, rising right outside our window and soon to block what has been a very nice view of Hibiya Park.
But let’s go back to the numbers and the potential impact if these results find further traction. We have an occasionally crowded working room on the 19th floor with real space limitations; what happens if more regular members need usage? We learned recently that about 40 percent of our associate members pay dues but do not utilize the club: what if they did? And our banquet bookings are so strong that we are turning away reservations; how can we exploit this demand but not affect other activities or services?
Basically, these are questions that this and future boards will be happy to face as they indicate improving FCCJ fortunes. Nonetheless, if we answer them badly, we may undermine our success and find ourselves back at square one. Thus, I encourage you to offer your opinions and energies to our fine organization to ensure that those joining continue to have the best club money can buy.