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Ten tips for boosting club membership

Club development tips - group of girls in a huddle
Boosting memberships helps a clubs long-term viability.

23 Jun 2009

Beyond blanket statements along the lines of ‘a healthy membership leads to a vital organisation’, there are concrete reasons why sports clubs need a robust membership base.

With more people joining in, it becomes easier to find committee members and volunteers to help with special projects. There is also less pressure on members to be involved in too many activities, and a broader range of skills becomes available, which better equips a club to respond to societal changes. These changes can include decreasing numbers of children, increasing numbers of older people, the competition between clubs and commercial providers, and the rise of new activities for health and wellbeing.

Investing time and energy in club development and building membership can only help a club’s long-term viability, yet knowing where to start can be daunting. The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) Club Development unit is working to make this easier with ten top tips to help clubs move with the times:

1 Be flexible to your members’ needs. If your club has declining membership, it might be time to listen to what members and potential members want and start providing it. One way to achieve this is through a survey of current and potential members. It may mean changing how and when a sport is played. You could try running a midnight competition for teenagers or playing games with reduced-sides so players are more involved.

2 Check with state or national sporting organisations to see what club development information they have, or look at other sports’ resources. The Australian Football League has good resources available in their club management program, many of which are available online.

3 Utilise the ASC’s Club Development resource library, a collection of around 350 resources on many topics related to club management and membership.

4 Research any workshops run by state departments of sport and recreation that are held throughout the year as they can be very helpful — topics can range from club administration to applying for grants.

5 Look out for the free online course for first-time committee members in local sporting clubs, which is currently being developed by the ASC’s Club Development unit. The unit is also developing a club checklist — a quick health check — to help clubs evaluate their procedures.

6 The Active After-school Communities (AASC) program provides primary school children with access to sport and structured physical activity after school. It runs in more than 3200 schools and after-school centres across Australia. As a club, you can link with the AASC program in many ways. For example, you can run activity sessions in your sport at AASC sites. Research shows children involved in AASC activities are often motivated to join a sports club.

7 Run a ‘come and try’ day — this allows your club to provide a quick taste of your sport. These can be held in conjunction with AASC program providers or local schools, but need to be promoted widely and it is important that people are then able to immediately join a club or start a competitive season.

8 Your club should have a strong community presence so people are aware of what you have to offer. You can raise awareness by promoting fundraisers, writing articles for local newspapers or running clinics at schools.

9 Since club members will only keep coming back if they are enjoying what they are doing, it is important that accredited, experienced coaches are delivering activities. Each sport has its own suite of coaching courses, but if a course is not being run in your club’s area, it is worth considering the Australian Sports Commission’s Beginning Coaching General Principles course or the AASC program’s introductory coaching course: the Community Coach Training Program – both courses are the first step towards becoming an accredited coach.

10 Any club serious about building membership will need to have enough volunteers to cope with the increased workload. You should have plans in place to recruit volunteers, assign their roles, ensure they are not overloaded and to recognise and reward their input.

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Matt Cowdrey is Australia's winner of the most Paralympic medals, having won 23 Gold, 7 Silver and 3 Bronze medals.

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