Having a critical-mass of members is important for the sustainability of any member-based organisation. We need to refresh, have turnover of key volunteer roles and also have a constant stream of enthusiasm to maintain and grow the sport that we all love. Therefore having people become members is important for the long-term sustainability of orienteering throughout New Zealand.
Whilst membership isn’t a guarantee that people will necessarily volunteer, if people are not members and if they are just casual participants then we can almost guarantee that they won’t volunteer into the sport in an on-going and meaningful way. Therefore, having members is a pretty critical thing for us as orienteering clubs. It is also important for us to make sure we have good systems of encouraging volunteering and engaging with members in constructive ways to enable volunteering.
Think about the multitude of local sporting organisations or other clubs in your local area. Firstly, why do you do that sport, or not do that sport? Secondly, if you do the sport what would it take for you to join that organisation? Putting yourself into the shoes of others is a powerful tool for being able to understand why people do or don’t do orienteering and if they do, being able to understand drivers for or against membership.
For people to join clubs as members there has to be a sense of value created for that individual in joining the club. There needs to be an upside to joining – so we have to consider what the value proposition is for individuals to join a club. What are the main reasons for people to join clubs?
It makes economic sense to do so, the discount they get at events for being a member eventually pays off their membership fee.
They want to compete at a top level, potentially representing New Zealand and need to be affiliated to the NZOF to do this.
A sense of belonging to an organisation which has a strong culture.
People want to be coached and a number of our larger clubs run training as part of this
At a basic level, we as clubs need to make sure we run enough events that people want to come to so that we then make it financially viable for individuals to join the club. Orienteering does actually have a mix of products that we can deploy depending on what the local market wants, ranging from sprint distance orienteering, sprint/rogaine format through to the traditional forest/farm orienteering events. Each club has various geographic advantages or constraints, and therefore the types of events that can be offered vary significantly based upon these.
Making economic sense for people is simple – one just has to calculate what the ‘payoff rate’ is. This is the number of events it takes to payoff your membership. So say a member pays $5 for an event and a non-member pays $8, this is a differential of $3 per event. With a membership fee of $30 this would take 10 events to payoff ones membership. Ten events is probably too high for most people in most areas of New Zealand, so we should try to drive down the number of events it takes to payoff the cost of membership. To drive this number down we have two options: (1) increase the differential for events between what a member pays and what a non-member pays, or (2) reduce the cost of membership.
The lure of competing at a top level is one that isn’t as strong as it has been in the past, but it is an area that we need to develop with strong and clear selection processes. But at a national level, incentivising clubs to run A-grade events for area championships needs to be a focus too. The trouble with thinking about people joining clubs for competing purposes is that this is the ‘captured’ market – people who have been orienteering generally for a substantial period. We need to think about the people who are new to orienteering and how do we get these people to become members, whilst still satisfying our long-serving members.
Whilst doing our strategic planning process earlier this year I came across a good report about changing trends around memberships of organisations. A strong culture within any organisation can be the real difference for people, especially when society is generally moving away from wanting to commit to, or join, organisations. Many clubs around New Zealand have a strong culture, developed with the occasional club dinner, or other social functions. But most importantly culture is a difficult thing to measure and we need to make sure we have a really inclusive way about us. Overseas relay events are really good at bringing together members and we have seen this at our nationals relays and at other events such as the Katoa Po relays in Taupo in the past.
Once a club has critical mass, running coaching sessions has a real appeal and logistically the club can still run a core number of events per year that coaching sessions are held in addition to. There is an opportunity with the growth in adventure racing for orienteering clubs to sell themselves as places for people to up skill in navigation, but also most people do just want to get better and therefore want coaching. Generally clubs that hit 100 to 150 members are able to run coaching sessions sustainably and clubs should either consider making coaching members-only, or charge a good differential between members and non-members.
Overall there are a number of strategies to having good value for people to want to become members. Each club needs to tailor their value proposition based upon their size, their geographic location and the most important thing is for what their target audience wants. Good luck in growing your club.