Finding "Hidden" Engagement at your Club

We all know that an important focus at a club is to increase member engagement. After all, as more members become engaged, satisfaction (and revenue) increase. So how do we better engage our members? First we need to understand what we mean by engagement. Many people believe that finding ways of getting members to the club more often is engagement. It is true that having the members physically at the club is an important part of engagement but it’s not the end game. Would you consider a member who sits in the lounge reading the newspaper each day to be engaged? I wouldn’t. There’s something more to engagement - something that can sometimes be tough to define. In order for a member to be engaged with your club they need to be involved. This is the difficult part of engagement.
Members get involved in any number of ways from serving on committees, to taking part in tournaments, to participating on inter club teams. These are the “low hanging fruit" of member involvement because the members know to expect these types of activities at a club and often seek them out.
But there is a treasure trove of hidden involvement just waiting to be discovered in every club. There are members who would love to participate in some type of activity - they just don’t know it yet. How do you find out what activities they are interested in? There are options.
The most obvious option is to survey your membership. I don’t like this approach for two reasons. First, survey responses are often aspirational. Members like the idea of participating in a certain activity, but when the rubber meets the road they end up not participating.
The second reason I don’t like the survey approach is because people often don’t know what they really want. Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." And Steve Jobs once said “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them."
I recommend that you simply create a few clubs within your club, get the word out to the members and give these new clubs some time and room to grow. Choose 3-6 clubs that vary in their nature. For instance, a great one to start with is a monthly book club. There’s always members who are interested in reading and discussing books. Other nice options that tend to be popular are:
- Chess Club
- Photography Club
- Classic Movie Club
- Wine Tasting Club
- Cigar/Scotch Club
- Biking Club
- Running Club
Sometimes it makes sense to curate these clubs for, or with, the members. For some clubs it’s better to let the members handle it on their own. In all cases, you’ve now opened the door for members to become more involved at your club. You’ll be surprised at some of the members who typically only attend a few dinners each season might now join the Book Club or the Classic Movie Club.
Like all new programs, the key is to remain flexible. Don’t give up on a club after 1 or 2 meetings but also don’t be shy about adding new clubs. Once the members see that you’re open to trying new things they will start sharing more of their wish list with you.
Let us know your stories about clubs within your club.