Organising a Recruitment Campaign
By Jeff Dawson
This paper is intended to correlate in a brief form all the different threads which may be involved in a recruitment campaign, to provide an overview and checklist of things to consider. It assumes an established club, and that preliminary thought has already been given to target numbers and groups that you may want to recruit.
Ongoing Recruitment Activities
Most clubs will require some form of ongoing recruitment activity, even if it is low-key. This is essential to a healthy club, because numbers will always be lost as people move away from the area, get involved in other activities and do not wish to continue playing croquet, or simply cannot continue for one reason or another.
How to Publicise the Club
One of the most effective ways of finding new members is through personal contacts, and this should not be underestimated. Mindful of the importance of personal contacts the CA's booklet 'Anyone for Croquet' was designed to be handed to a friend. Your club has some copies but more can be ordered from the CA Office. Regularly remind your members that new members are wanted, and ask them to introduce their friends and neighbours. Have a policy of encouragement for them to do so (perhaps a free lunch if they bring a new friend to try the game!). Often an open day is a good means of encouraging this to happen (see below). Make sure everyone knows about suitable beginner's coaching so that they can encourage friends to give it a go. Have a contacts list available of other new members to encourage contact within this group and friendly games.
The power of a good website should not be underestimated. If you have someone able to put together and maintain a website, this can be a valuable resource both for recruitment and existing members.
Links. Make sure your website has links from as many likely sites as possible. This makes it easier to find both because of the links themselves, and because the search engines (such as Google) give greater priority to sites with lots of incoming links. Make sure you have links from the Croquet Association, local croquet federation, local borough council site and so on.
Search hits. Make sure someone who is searching for a club in your area finds it! Think what are the most likely words someone would use to search (obviously 'croquet', but also perhaps your town name, county name, nearby major catchment areas). Having identified your key search words, make sure they appear clearly on your home page, with limited repetition if possible, while still making the page look good.
Contact information. Obviously you will need to identify a contact to call for further information. However, be aware that this is a widely available resource, and open to potential abuse. Phone numbers are usually reasonably safe, but email addresses listed will eventually attract lots of 'Spam', as websites are routinely scanned for such information.
Posters and Leaflets
Putting up posters and placing leaflets in appropriate places is low-cost and effective. Places to consider are:
- Libraries - usually very helpful and particularly effective. A poster on the notice board and a few leaflets in the local information folder is the ideal.
- Sports Centres
- Doctors'/Dentists' surgeries
- Village halls
Make sure the posters and leaflet gives contact details for someone who is going to be available most of the time, and will be enthusiastic and welcoming. If your club has a website it is essential to quote its address clearly, wherever and whenever you can. If the person reading the poster takes in no other detail than the website address then you have succeeded.
Don't forget to make sure all your local directories have an entry for your club, and that it is listed in the most appropriate category.
"What's On" Magazines
Many local borough councils periodically publish "What's On" magazines. These will usually have a section listing sports clubs, and entries generally cost nothing.
How to Handle Enquiries
This first contact is very important, as it sets the impression of the club from the outset. Choose someone who will be available most of the time, enthusiastic and helpful. Suggest that you meet the caller at the club at a specific time, so that you can show them around, tell them all about it, and give them information on joining, etc.
Beginners Coaching/Membership Deals
It is generally a good idea to have a beginner's package worked out. This should preferably include temporary membership of the club, together with some introductory lessons. See the 'Follow up' section for more details..
One of the problems with an ongoing recruitment campaign is that it can be difficult to lay on appropriate coaching when people are joining in ones or twos. One way around this is to have a 'buddy' system, whereby a number of volunteers are available to take newcomers under their wing on a one-to-one basis, and provide individual tuition and introductions to other members.
Running Open Days
Open days can have a big advantage for a recruitment campaign over and above the obvious one of providing an easy way for potential new members to see the club. For one thing they focus the effort, making it easier to get volunteers to help. The resulting intake can also be easier to handle, as you will hopefully have a group of recruits all needing similar tuition and all being able to identify peers they can practice with.
Advertising for the Day
Far and away the best way to advertise is on the back of a press release. If you can find a good story about a local player, the local papers may well be prepared to run it, and this will be free of charge. Please see Liz William's excellent articles on writing press releases. The story can then also mention your open day, and interested readers may well be drawn in.
It is, of course, also possible to pay for advertising in the local press, and this may also be effective, especially if you can couple this with a press release. However, this is relatively expensive, and of course has no guaranteed results.
Posters and Leaflets
These can be very effective on local notice boards (see above). Having a poster aimed at a specific date often makes it easier to get permission to display the notice. Sports halls in particular often seem to be limited for space, but will put up a poster with a clearly limited time span.
If you are prepared to put in the manpower, distributing leaflets door to door can also be effective. If you cannot do this yourselves see if a local youth movement will help. This can be especially useful for start-up clubs, to let all the near neighbours know what is happening, and to encourage them to join in. It is often surprising even for established clubs how many of your near neighbours may not know the club exists, or assume it is not suitable for them.
Running the Day
If possible, it is usually a good idea to set up two short lawns on one of your full-sized courts. The easiest way to do this is simply by dividing the lawn in half with a string boundary, to leave two lawns side-on to the original, and then space the hoops proportionately to the dimensions. Short lawns are much less daunting to the newcomer, and they will feel they can achieve more in their visit than they would on a full sized lawn. It also allows more playing space for the beginners, leaving more of your other lawns free for your club members!
Needless to say, you should make sure you have adequate equipment - especially mallets. Get your club members to bring along any old mallets they may have, and beg, steal or borrow (well perhaps not steal) from other clubs nearby. Visitors will not stay long if they have to wait before being able to have a go!
Make sure you have information to hand out. There are some excellent general information leaflets on both Association and Golf croquet, and of course 'Anyone for Croquet', all available from the CA office. Add to this a leaflet giving details of your club, membership costs, and any joining package you are prepared to offer (temporary membership, coaching for beginners, etc.).
Gymkhana Type Events
There are several ways to run an open day. One way is to lay on a number of 'challenges'. Punters can have a go at tasks such as getting as near to the peg as possible, running a hoop from a set distance, roqueting a ball into a target area, etc. This type of event encourages the casual passer-by to have a go, and can be very effective in multi-discipline clubs having a general open day, clubs in public areas, and for charity fund-raising events. However, it tends not to provide the visitor with any real idea of what the game is about, unless you can couple this with a more serious introduction for those who are interested.
Another approach is to stick with demonstrations and coaching of the basic skills. It can be very effective taking each group of newcomers as a small unit of two or three to a club member who will show them the skills involved. Each group is given an introduction to association croquet, and try basic croquet strokes as well as running hoops, etc., for no more than 45 minutes to an hour (sometimes less), and then the session is concluded with a game of golf croquet. The idea is to ensure they have fun, but also to go away with a view of how much more there is to the game than they may have imagined. Having a bar available afterwards for a chat over a drink can help the welcoming atmosphere, and make sure all their questions are answered.
Targeting Specific Groups
U3A and Adult Education Courses
U3A and adult education offers an excellent way of introducing new players to the game, who may not otherwise have heard of the club. Adult education will be run through the local education authority, and will generally attract younger players than U3A, which is of course targeted at the retired. Both organisations are usually very willing to include any new course on their curriculum, but of course whether the course will be feasible will depend on how many sign up to do it.
This approach will involve planning and running a beginners course (4 lessons are usually enough). Any competent player should be able to run such a course, but make sure there is plenty of emphasis on having fun and socialising, as well as serious learning.
The Woking club found that as well as providing an income for the club, these courses have resulted in over 50% of attendees going on to join the club. Michael Hague has written up his experiences in a separate paper included in the folder.
There are many organisations which are constantly organising some form of activity day - organisations such as the WI, Round Table, etc., many of which are listed on the contacts page later in this folder. If you contact the organisation and suggest an activity you can lay on for them, you are likely to be greeted with open arms. In this case, you cannot expect to provide serious coaching, but must be prepared to provide some food and to entertain your guests. Generally most suitable will be to organise a doubles golf croquet competition, as this is something most newcomers can get to grips with very quickly, and requires minimal tuition. Keep as many people playing on the lawn as possible by using a flexible system such as an Egyptian format, but make sure there is a winner (of a bottle of wine?). After they have had enough play and have had their food, however simple, use the opportunity to talk about the Club and what it has to offer to its members. Give a leaflet to each participant and deal with any questions.
One of the difficulties with such a day is that a large number of mallets will be needed - one per person is best to avoid having to share, so you may need 20 or 30 mallets to be available.
Days such as this will help to raise awareness of the game in your area, but are less likely to result in immediate members than an 'education' course.
Corporate Entertainment Days
Similarly to the organisations mentioned above, many companies are looking for interesting corporate entertainment days for their staff and clients. You can try writing to the office manager of your local larger organisations to see if any may be interested. Remember with this approach not to undervalue the day - companies will expect to pay £100 plus for a good afternoon's entertainment, not including food or drink. Your success rate in finding companies that are interested will probably be low, but if an event is successful, a company may want to repeat a visit year after year, Organise the day on a similar basis to the above - a golf croquet competition is ideal. End the day's play with a nice meal. Use an outside caterer if the Club's members can't provide this themselves, or if you don't have a kitchen.
This approach is likely to attract the young professionals, and take-up to become members will be low because of other demands on their time. However, any players you succeed in attracting to the club are likely to be particularly useful, both because they may improve quickly, and because they are more likely to take an active role in the running of the club than many retired members seem to want.
Once you have introduced people to your club, it is vital that you capitalise on your success by converting them into members. At this stage it is worth investing extra time and effort to make sure this process goes smoothly, and yet it is often an area which receives insufficient attention.
Introductory Membership Periods
It is essential to have a beginner's package worked out. Ideally to include temporary membership of the club, together with some introductory lessons. Don't be afraid to make a reasonable charge for this - paying for an introductory package often ensures a degree of commitment to completing the course, which may not be there if everything is free. At the same time, such a package allows a potential member to try a sport which they are almost always unfamiliar with, before forking out for a whole season's fees.
Avoid charging joining fees on top of the membership fee. Such fees may be suitable for tennis clubs and the like, where everyone knows exactly what to expect once they have joined. They are not suitable for croquet when most prospective members will not know just what to expect.
As most recruits will be attracted into the club well after the start of the season (and remember the first month will ideally be an introductory period before they need to join as full members), make sure you have a membership package which offers good value to them. Perhaps it would be suitable to offer members joining after the mid-year point membership which will take them through to the end of the next season, or a half-price deal for the remainder of this season.
Beginners coaching sessions are needed for most players to learn the basic skills, and they are also an ideal way for newcomers to meet others in the same position, and to start to build friendships. Clubs should always try to provide coaching for association croquet, even if your club is predominately a golf croquet club, so that players can see what is involved. The CA coaching committee have produced details of a six session beginners' course which is ideal.
The Two Codes - Association and Golf Croquet
Whether or not your club is primarily an association croquet club, golf croquet must be acknowledged as attractive to many new members. Some who are attracted by your recruitment campaigns will never take to association croquet, but will enjoy the opportunity for social mornings (or afternoons) just playing golf croquet. Others may be daunted by association croquet at first, but by 'hooking' them with golf croquet they remain involved in the club, pay their subs, and may be weaned to association croquet at a later date. Of course, every club will have its own views of the relative merits of association versus golf croquet, and the balance must be something the club as a whole is comfortable with. Neither should be allowed to predominate to the exclusion of the other. Club members pay their subs and expect to play the code of croquet they prefer.