27th May, 2021 — Membership and management

Hitting the mark on membership

As social trends and traditions change, maintaining a steady membership can be tricky for any local sporting club. Usually the clubs that thrive are the ones that are willing to adapt and move with the times.

In country Victoria, Buninyong Bowling Club is hitting the mark with a range of inclusive programs run by passionate volunteers.

Buninyong Bowling club creatively defies expectations

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 bowls participation rates.

“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 many 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’ event does just that. Aimed at non-members and the local business community, the barefoot bowls tournament is promoted 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’s 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.

Growing with Good Sports

Sitting at the highest level of the Good Sports program, 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’s proven to work, and a philosophy that’s 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 ways 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.

  1. Identify key community groups
    Have a think about your members. Are there any gaps in terms of community demographics (like 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.
  2. Engage with the community
    Once you’ve identified the best groups to connect with, think of ways to 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.
  3. 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 keep members around. At Buninyong Bowling Club, a Membership Officer is chosen every year who makes sure new members feel welcome and are provided with an induction kit. For older members, a Welfare Officer is also chosen to check in on people who may be ill or sick.

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Membership and management