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Planning for Recruitment and Retention

By Brian Kitching

Just where does one start? The need to recruit is a given for any organisation, as there will always be natural wastage, but is your club losing members for reasons other than natural wastage? Do you have the resources available to grow the club to everyone's benefit? How do you plan to keep your members, new and old? What are their needs from the club?

Recruitment

To begin with all clubs are different, so their needs will be different. Let's look at some of the questions you must address before planning any recruitment drive. These are not in any particular order - you should make your own list and your own order - the following has been prepared simply to give you a start.

  1. you recruiting for a brand new club, or for one that has been in existence for some time and just needs some extra members?
  2. If you are a new club then personal contacts of the initial member enthusiasts could be even more important - beg, bribe, cajole, whatever, but get a few friends along. Give them the CA booklet 'Anyone for Croquet' to look at, to whet their appetite.
  3. Existing clubs needing more members should first to do the following: determine what is the age pattern of club members. Do you want more of the same age, or do you want a different spread of ages? Is the club predominately male or predominately female? Do you want this to continue as you are or are you going to make an effort to attract some members of the opposite sex? Is your club in an area where there are different ethnic groups, if so how can you set out about broadening the ethnicity of your membership?
  4. What is most important for the club? If you are fighting for survival then perhaps what you need most is some extra income. Look not just for prospective croquet players but include your search for 'social' members too - apart from contributing to the organisation and the general social atmosphere of the club they help to provide the income you desperately need for survival.
  5. If you are not fighting for survival then just how many members do you need? How many members can you accommodate on the club's lawns? What is the sum of your club's overheads? How much do you need to raise from subscriptions? How much can you charge for membership? How much do other croquet clubs charge their members? Can you raise money in other ways, or reduce your costs?
  6. What does your croquet club want to be? One where Association croquet predominates, or one where Golf croquet predominates, or one where both codes are played? Your club has the choice but experience would suggest that a 'balanced 'club is the ideal. Certainly the Croquet Association strongly supports both codes, Golf and Association.
  7. Is your club one where croquet is regarded only as a sport or one where those who enjoy the game as a recreation can feel welcomed, too?
  8. Is your club a croquet club, or is it a club where croquet is played. Where is the emphasis? Where do think it should be?

Preparing a list like this is not a job to be done by just one person. Ideally your club will have a recruitment sub - committee, or better still one that addresses Marketing and Publicity issues, to include recruitment. Choosing the membership of the sub - committee is important: approach club members with business or management experience, particularly in marketing or public relations. They are likely to be experienced in matters concerned with planning and be willing to contribute to these difficult discussions

An early task for the committee, once it has deliberated on the above numbered paragraphs, or rather its own versions of them, will be to agree on a Statement of its Purpose. Agreeing the wording of this will really focus the collective mind. An example might be:

  1. identify and pursue opportunities for recruitment and retention of sufficient members at the croquet club.
  2. To find ways to promote croquet as a sport and as a recreation.

Once this has been done look again at the list. Do you need to change it?

Only now are you ready to plan your approach. Just where will you find your new members?

Decide which planning technique your committee prefers. If one or more of its members have practical experience you may prefer to make use of that. One well known technique uses the SWOT approach - looking at the internal Strengths and Weaknesses of your club and the external Opportunities and Threats of the environment outside of your club, as described in Don Beck's 'Recruiting for Croquet', prepared originally the South East Federation. If you don't fancy that then devise your own approach, perhaps along the lines of the following:

Age range Where do we find them? What do we offer? The approach to use.
12 to 18 Schools, Youth movements (like Scouts), through local authority Sports Development Officers, Recreation Centres, Sports Halls and the like. Something 'different', quirky, a non -sweaty fresh air game, extreme fitness not required, low expense, competitive yet intellectual.
18+ to 30 Universities and Further Education Colleges, Pubs, the non-sweaty Clubs (Chess, Computer, Snooker, etc.) , Rotaract, through local authority Sports Development Officers, Recreation Centres, Sports Halls and the like. All the above. Opportunities for meeting people.
30+ to 40

Spin off from the above,
Rotary clubs, Round Table, Lions, Ladies Circle, 41 Club, Probus, Women's Institute, Soroptimist, U3A, Inner Wheel, Townswomen's Guild.

All the above.
A game for Husbands and Wives (and their older children)

40+ to 50

All the above.
Tennis and Cricket Clubs

All the above. A not too active sport yet as competitive as you want to make it.
50+ to 60 All the above A game for those no longer able to play a vigorous sport. Opportunities for single women to make friends in a safe environment.
61+ All the above Residential developments for retired older persons. All the above

A list of all these organisations together with initial contact details is provided elsewhere in this folder.

Try always for maximum exposure in local newspapers, particularly the free delivered ones. Write brief articles and always give contact addresses, phone numbers and website addresses.

Standardise your advertising with A4 sized posters and get permission to put them anywhere there are Notice Boards and Local Information Folders in places like Libraries, Town Halls and Community Centres.

Similarly, design three folded A4 leaflets and get permission to place them anywhere there are receptacles for such leaflets.

Emphasise the healthy open air aspect of the sport and approach Doctors and Hospitals for permission to use their notice boards for A4 posters and leaflets.

Wherever possible establish a club website and refer to its address (URL) in every form of your advertising.

Retention

OK, so you have managed to recruit a number of new members into your club. Well Done! However, the thought should not stop there. The first year of their membership will be the critical period when the new members will be deciding whether croquet and indeed the club is for them. Once past the first year, they will probably become more likely to remain, and hopefully become the new club stalwarts!

During their initial season, it is important to get them involved with the club, and that means giving them plenty of opportunity to mix in with other players both of similar ability and of more experience. Coaching is vital, and this not only helps them to master the initial skills, but also to meet other players in a similar situation.

Club afternoons, where everyone turns up to play without any pre-booked games are an excellent way of giving everyone a chance of friendly games. However, there can be a potential issue, particularly with Association croquet - new members will not have enough experience to play a sensible game on their own, and experienced members may feel they came to play, rather than coach. Make sure you consider the needs of both groups. Perhaps an answer may be to have sessions which are specifically aimed at the newer players, where they can be partnered by their mentor, someone of more experience to teach them the ropes. For those wanting to play Association croquet alternate stroke doubles can work very well in this environment as a teaching tool.

Is your club providing enough for its members, new and old? People want to feel valued - to use their skills, to be asked for their opinions on club matters, to be used as mentors for newer members. All of these things are important, as are the social aspects of croquet clubs which cannot be over emphasised.

During the closed season, particularly, keep member volunteers involved with working parties and organise any of a variety of social activities. Even for clubs without there own clubhouse, quizzes, whist drives, bridge, tea and coffee gatherings are not difficult to arrange. The larger clubs with catering facilities can even have luncheons. Everything must be done to keep members meeting each other, constantly nourishing friendships and generally maintaining a feeling of belonging. The first winter is a particularly vulnerable time for new recruits, and indeed any long closed period will potentially result in a loss of members new and old. It is therefore important to try to keep all members involved over the winter months. Ideally the club will be able to keep one or two lawns open through the winter, so that enthusiastic players can brave the elements!

Finally, when you do lose members, which is inevitable for any club, make sure you know the reasons why. Ask them - they are very important people. Someone representing the club's committee should be responsible for finding out. The best approach is a telephone call to the person who has left, a few weeks after the event. You are more likely then to have an honest reply to your questions. If things are not quite right in your club you need to find out. You may not be able to find a remedy but at least you will have a chance. Getting new members for a croquet club is difficult enough without losing members through neglect.

 

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