Individual AFTCA Membership Summarized
ONCE in a while it’s a good thing to lift our heads from the passions of our sport and look around with a discerning eye. Who are we? Why are we? What will we become? These are questions that bear repeating each year and deserve sound answers.
We are the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America. The AFTCA, a near century old organization originating with the intent of creating amateur competition and contribution to the betterment of bird dogs and upland game bird habitat.
What initially was a sport dominated by professional handlers has evolved over time to a sport in which both professionals and amateurs breed, develop and compete for the betterment of bird dogs. The relationship of professionals and amateurs at the highest levels of our sport does not exist in other complex animal competitions in which the arena of competition is a rather substantial asset. If it’s a horse track or dog track it precludes almost any amateur from competing as big money is paid to professionals to breed, develop and compete with the animals. Amateurs play little to no active role in those pastimes other than to write the checks.
In field trialing, more specifically, pointing dog field trialing, amateurs play a significant role to the success of the entire sport and the end goal of breeding superior animals and improving upland game bird habitat.
Through the promotion of amateur stakes and events developed over nearly 100 years by the officers and trustees of the AFTCA, amateurs can involve themselves to their passion’s delight. The learning curve is more forgiving, the mistakes and errors less costly and the victories more personally gratifying. Amateur competition provides the platform to foster the passion to new and more intense levels. With few exceptions, every successful handler and breeder today, started as a green amateur handling that first dog in an amateur stake and things grew from there. Our organization exists not only to assure the first-time trialer a venue in which to start, but also to assure future generations that amateurs will always have everything from a beginner’s venue to National Championships on some of the finest game bird habitats in North America.
The AFTCA organization and mission has a narrow and unique focus. What may work for other more diverse organizations doesn’t necessarily work for ours. The relationship between the American Field/Field Dog Stud Book and the AFTCA is a critical one and goes back to the earliest days of this great American sport. Each provides valuable assets necessary to make things work. Working together amateur participants can play a significant part in advancing the field trial sport.
Although there have been discussions to implement individual memberships for decades, it has always been tabled because the “wolf wasn’t at the door”. It would be irresponsible for us to sit idle and not try to position our sport for future generations, but more importantly to grow the sport’s participation. We must be smart and use ALL of our resources to accomplish this. To not implement individual membership because some don’t like change was no longer the responsible answer. The use of data to promote and market our organization makes a difference. Quite honestly, club memberships won’t allow that to happen. Individual memberships hold our best option for moving forward as a single united organization working alongside the American Field and Field Dog Stud Book for the betterment of our sport.
Not being able to use our demographics in our current organizations format was one of two primary reasons the vote to implement the individual membership passed almost unanimously. The second reason is our operating finances. We have downplayed for decades the fact that our organization operates in the red without the monetary support made by sponsors. We don’t know how you can commit your organization and sport to be there for your children and grandchildren when you know the organization doesn’t have a financial plan to ensure its future.
Keep in mind the AFTCA is a grass roots organization that runs financially lean and mean. That doesn’t mean we don’t look for ways to save because that is a constant, but we can’t grow our organization by cutting its heart out. We have one employee whose job is to do most “everything” needed to run day to day operations. Trustees serve each region at their own expense and that includes every plane fare, hotel room, every meal, every gallon of gas, and every cup of coffee. We are not aware of any trustee who has ever submitted an expense, ever caused an expense or ever was paid for an expense by the AFTCA.
The 20th Century Fund has been grown substantially in the past 20 years because of sound management, generous donations and the successful implementation of the painting/print program. Since 2002 this fund has given back about $250,000 in grants for habitat improvement. The Trustees have been unanimously united that these trust funds cannot not be used for our annual operating expenses. As a 501(c)3 organization we accept funds into that trust with great commitment to secure the principle’s safety and use income earned for the purposes of fulfilling our mission of habitat improvement and the promotion of amateur sport. We make that promise to all contributors and intend to keep both that promise and our 501(c)3 filing.
Keep in mind that amateur stakes exist today because of the efforts over the years of the officers, trustees and participants. Our goal is to have amateur stakes exist tomorrow as well. Because the AFTCA has a responsibility to manage and oversee all amateur stakes, the $25 fee is a small part of the effort that each participating amateur pays in order to keep amateur stakes viable today into the future.
There are still legitimate unanswered challenges chief among them is how will this membership requirement, in its current state, affect participation with new trialers. Certainly we want the membership to work in a way that is positive for the sport in all aspects, most importantly, participation and perpetuation. This sport is for all of us, but to work best into the future it needs all of us.
There is no hidden agenda or secret motivation in implementing this membership. Our goals are to use the individual membership to better communicate with ourselves, better market ourselves, empower ourselves and position ourselves moving forward. The old structure can’t do these things. We know asking for additional money is never well received. We hope by laying out the truth of our finances it will help all amateurs to realize we can make things work if everyone does their small part. We must rely on ourselves and not continue to hope that others come to our rescue.
We wish all amateurs in this great sport and all who participate in all venues the best successes with your family and dogs.
David Williams, President
Rick Stallings, 1st Vice President
Frank LaNasa, 2nd Vice President
Tony King, 3rd Vice President