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Advice and Resources for Private Club Management and Board Members

Best Practice Audit Survey: Membership Engagement - #2 in a series

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Membership Engagement For Private Club and Association Board Members

Analysis From Our Best Practice Audit For Board Members

Our Best Practices Audit Survey includes a section on membership engagement. The vast majority of respondents reported that they had or were developing:

  • active membership committees,

  • new member orientations,

  • effective membership development plans,

  • efforts to effectively engage membership in activities,

  • steps to understand each member resignation.

In keeping with our plan to highlight areas that generally appear to require more attention, there are two that stand out.

Meeting with the Membership

78% of respondents said that their president regularly updates the membership on Board initiatives and actions. However, in only 48% of all responses do the president and GM periodically meet with the membership (in addition to the annual meeting).

We’ve both been presidents & treasurers and very long-term board members of our respective clubs. If we learned anything, it’s the value of direct and regular communication with the members. The greatest benefit is credibility. If members feel they are “in the know” about the strategy, finances and inner workings of the club and initiatives of the board, they are much more likely to be supportive.

In addition to written communications, we recommend the president hold periodic “open meetings” with the membership to discuss areas such as:

  • The club’s Long-Term Financial Plan.

  • Status of strategic or facilities master plans.

  • Results of membership surveys.

  • Progress of major capital projects.

  • Operating performance to date and expectations for full year.

  • Other areas of interest.

Rather than letting the “pub chatter” control the dialogue, give the membership the facts and promote open dialogue. Transparency builds credibility. Communication is a two-way street. This approach has served our clubs very well.

Independent Membership Surveys

55% of respondents reported that their club conducts periodic membership surveys.

A healthy and vibrant membership is critical to the financial health of a private club. This means both retaining existing members as well attracting new members. Members who are very satisfied will be frequent users of a club’s amenities and will be the primary source of new members.

We believe independent member surveys of members and spouses conducted periodically are an important element in assisting boards of directors address the service expectations and amenity needs of their members. Surveys routinely address management and Board effectiveness and communications, quality of facilities and programming, usage of various amenities, overall satisfaction and important demographic information.

The survey should allow members to provide both quantitative and qualitative (comments) responses. The survey should also ask members to prioritize and comment on future amenities under consideration or that they may want to see in the future and thoughts on payment options.

The results of a member survey should guide the board, committees and management team in planning for facility, service and programming improvements. Surveys are also a useful tool in goal setting for management.

With respect to future amenities, the board needs to pay particular attention to the demographic breakdown of responses. Driven by younger members and prospects, club offerings are rapidly expanding beyond golf to focus on family, wellness and longevity at a long list of athletic and social activities. Needs and expectations are changing. Each club has unique characteristics that need to be understood.

Communicating the results of surveys to the membership is a necessity. Transparency in acknowledging and addressing issues that arise in surveys itself will increase member satisfaction with the club, its board and management team. There’s no more important outcome of the survey than to build consensus around capital planning efforts and increasing member support for a wide array of projects that will be undertaken in future years. Developing early support is critically important to consistent implementation of capital spending plans.

Dave Duval and Joe Abely, the founders of Club Board Professionals, LLC, are both CPA/MBAs with more than a dozen years each of private club board experience as directors, treasurers, and presidents. They successfully honed their skills while guiding highly-successful transformations of their clubs during challenging markets and economic times before forming Club Board Professionals in 2016. They’ve quickly become speakers, consultants, coaches and contributing authors to the industry.

For further information please reach out to Joe Abely at jabely@cbpros.com or 781-953-9333, or Dave Duval at dduval@cbpros.com or 617-519-6281.