By Michael Hague
Two of the biggest challenges facing most clubs are recruiting and fund-raising. At Woking, we addressed both in one experiment. The results are worth passing on to other clubs as although our idea was not an original one, many may not be aware of the opportunities available.
All County Councils participate in the adult and community learning scheme. At the Woking Adult Learning Centre, contact was made with the Lifelong Learning Development coordinator for Woking who welcomed the offer of a Croquet Course for Beginners to add to her extensive portfolio of adult learning courses published each term. It was agreed to run one course during the day for those not working and another in the evening for those who were. Each course consisted of four two hour sessions over May/early June. The club would receive £3 per head for the hire of equipment and facilities and £25 per session for the instruction. Later we learnt that the students each paid £46.50 discounted to £39.60 for the over 60's for the four sessions.
All this was arranged in the autumn for the following season. Nothing was heard in the intervening months. In fact the course programme for the summer months was not available until the end of March but anyway, it was a bit of a long shot and one did not really expect sufficient response to make the course financially viable for the County. Thus it was that the club coach faced with having to change the dates of his sailing holiday to the end of May, did so with no fear of causing undue complications. He was a little nonplussed to receive the day prior to the published date of the first session the otherwise welcome news that two couples had signed up for each of the daytime and evening courses, making four students per course - the ideal size of class for one coach.
The courses went well with students keen to attend all sessions having paid up front for them. The club was able to offer them time to practise between sessions for the standard club visitor's fee of £3 per session. Most importantly they were invited after the first coaching session to join in the club Golf Croquet mornings to meet members and appreciate the social aspects and the friendly playing environment. Further free coaching was offered for those who wished to continue with the sport when the Adult and Community Learning courses were completed by joining the club. The net result was £298 in the club account and five new members plus two more possibly starting next season.
It was interesting that when asked why they had paid Surrey County Council for a course which they could have had for the minimal visitors' fee of £3 per session, three couples replied that although they lived in Woking, they did not know the club existed and the fourth pair said that they did not think that they were good enough players to apply to join! I would imagine that any club in an urban environment could reach out to a wide potential membership through the local community services. It is certainly worth giving it a go and Woking LTCC will be working in partnership with Surrey County Council to offer this learning opportunity for next season.