Sitting in more than 60 Private Club Board rooms every year, while performing our Membership Strategic Planning Workshops, allows us to peek behind the curtains as to what issues Club officials continue to face throughout the industry.

One of the most relevant issues in today’s private club continues to focus on the involvement, or lack thereof, in defining and understanding what role current members play in the club’s membership growth efforts.  A common theme we hear from club officials is that a number of members are apathetic and indifferent when it comes to participating in the club’s membership growth efforts.  They either are too busy, or simply have no interest in participating.  Or, worse yet, for some peculiar reason simply do not feel that is in, in fact, their responsibility to participate in the membership growth efforts of their club.

While most private clubs are keenly aware of how important member involvement is to the membership growth process, they struggle with how to engage and educate their members regarding the importance of their efforts and how they can play a key role in the continuing success of their club

Clubs need to be aware of the mindset their members have with regard to this question, and be prepared to react accordingly. If a club truly feels that the current members are no longer advocates and therefore unwilling to help the club grow and flourish, communication and education are a great place to start.

Members Need to Know Your Goals

Goals are good. Clearly defined goals are better. Sharing those defined goals with your membership is great. Goals aside, the mere fact that you take time to share the direction of the club, provide details, update progress, and keep in touch with your membership, all these tiny actions will create a connection.

A club should emphasize how achieving new member growth goals will positively impact each and every member of the club.  We all know about the strategy of the “carrot and the stick”.  The “stick” is seldom very successful in discussing what cannot be done without membership growth.  But, the “carrot” can be very successful in simply outlining the continued and specific benefits the members will enjoy if certain specific new member goals are achieved.

Town Hall Meetings

Most private club officials are terrified of Town Hall meetings.  They are afraid of how negative the meeting could get as members tend to play the “blame game” rather than the “solution game”.  As a good rule of thumb, do not call a Town Hall meeting unless you can identify both the problems currently facing the club and the solutions for which the club wants to share with the membership. 

As a company, Creative Golf Marketing facilitated 56 Town Hall meetings in 2016 alone, in front of over 6,000 members of those 56 private clubs.  The primary message at each of those Town Hall meetings centered on how important their involvement was in furthering the club’s membership growth efforts. Club culture, if properly embraced and practiced, will eventually become second nature.

Board Enthusiasm and Involvement

The Board of Directors and management team have a responsibility to create enthusiasm and pride. Also, remember that the Board is made up of individual members as well. The Board of Directors should be out there promoting the club just as much as they are telling the other members to invite their friends.  If members don’t see their own leadership helping out, why would they feel obligated or motivated to get involved? This heightened level of interest coming straight from the Board and Membership Committee will be portrayed to the membership and help promote this new culture.

No longer can private club leaders simply be involved and engaged at their “once a month” Board meeting.  They must consistently and constantly be encouraging their members to support the club, the board, the committees and the staff as efforts are put in place to further the continued success of the club.  Leaders need to be leaders and sometimes “cheerleaders” when it comes to providing enthusiasm and support for the continued improvement and growth of the club.

Establishing a culture where members understand and embrace their role in the club’s membership growth efforts will have far reaching benefits far beyond the scope of a single membership referral campaign.  To be successful in club life there needs to be sustained efforts at both the club leadership and membership level to maintain long term membership growth and financial success.  But, it is all very well worth the effort.