Hitting the mark on membership
As social trends and traditions change, maintaining a steady membership can be tricky for any local sporting club. More often than not, it’s the clubs that are willing to adapt and move with the times that thrive.
In country Victoria, Buninyong Bowling Club is hitting the mark with a suite of inclusive programs run by passionate volunteers.
Over the past four years, membership at the club has increased by around thirty per cent, directly contrasting with national trends which show a twenty-five per cent drop in participation rates in the sport.
“We’ve just been really proactive in trying to increase our membership,” explains Club President Wayne Morgan.
Proactive is putting it lightly, with the club implementing numerous strategies each aimed at connecting with a different group in the local community.
It’s all about getting people on to the green and giving them a chance to experience bowls in a safe, friendly and inclusive environment.
‘The Corporate Cup’ is one such initiative. Aimed at non-members and the local business community, the barefoot bowls tournament is marketed as a networking opportunity for community groups and businesses.
The annual ‘Giggles on the Grass’ event is popular with women who haven’t played bowls before, while regular ‘Come and Try’ days invite locals to have a bowl using free equipment and coaching.
And then there is the ‘Junior Coaching Program’ which partners with the local primary school to introduce kids to the game of bowls.
“It’s just sort of what we do, it’s just the culture of the club. But when I list it like that, it does sound like a lot!” Wayne says.
A Level 3 Good Sports club, Buninyong Bowling Club lives the Good Sports philosophy, championing inclusivity and creating a safe environment for members and guests.
“It’s a good thing to be able to promote to the community that we’re doing things like Responsible Service of Alcohol, free taxi calls and providing water and snacks.
“We really try and aim for a friendly and inclusive culture in the club.” Wayne explains.
It’s an approach that is proven to work, and a philosophy that is certainly paying off for Buninyong. Not only has the positive club culture supported the growth of membership, it has also contributed to a strong volunteering culture.
The club is run almost completely by volunteers, and according to Wayne any one of the 135 club members would be willing to help if asked.
Moving forward, the plan is to continue to grow.
“We’re looking in any way to get more people on the greens and just coming and trying it and enjoying the atmosphere.
“It’s a beautiful club and setting and we’re very lucky. We’re very proud of it.”
Three Key PLAYS TO INCREASE CLUB MEMBERSHIP
Use these practical tips to kick-start membership growth at your club. You might even like to print off this page and bring it to your next committee meeting.
- Identify key community groups
Have a think about your members, are there any gaps that you can identify in terms or community demographics (whether age, culture, gender or even people from different business sectors). If so, this might be an opportunity for your club to connect with new community groups.
- Engage with the community
Once you’ve identified the best groups to connect with, consider some of the ways you could encourage these people to give the club a go. Consult with local community groups or relevant club members who can give expert advice. Find inspiration from clubs like Buninyong Bowling Club who have had success offering different programs and events.
- Provide members with support
Getting people to sign up as members is just the beginning. Providing support to new members is an important part of the process and will help to ensure your members stick around. At Buninyong Bowling Club, a Membership Officer is appointed every year with the task of ensuring new members feel welcome and are provided with an induction kit. For older members, a Welfare Officer is also appointed to check in on people who may be ill or sick.