The Importance of "Member-Initiated Engagement"

As the economy continues to recover, albeit slowly, clubs are using creative methods to attract new members. It’s a difficult task - there is a lot of competition so your club needs to find a way to stand out from the crowd. A lot of time and energy is put into figuring out ways to bring in new members. But what happens once those members join? What’s the onboarding process? How do new members find other members who share their interests? What if they are interested in something that isn’t a standard activity at your club, or worse, what if other members share that same interest and there’s no way for them to connect with each other. The answer is rooted in something that is already happening at your club and you might not even be aware of it.
"Member-initiated engagement" (MIE) is when members form their own groups and activities and invite other members to join them. This happens all the time. It could be in the form of a 40-person golf group that plays weekly, or a 20-person card group that plays twice a week. These are the groups you already know. But MIE takes on many forms - it is also the two couples who decide to have dinner together, or the group of members that go to a movie, or the two men who meet for a game of chess.
The fact is your members have a wide and varied set of interests and passions. Providing members a way to set up their own groups based on their interests and then providing a way for other members to join should be a basic function at your club. It’s how you build the social foundation of the club. On one level this might sound like forming “clubs within the club", and in a way it is. However, many clubs I’ve talked with make a key distinction - one which I believe severely limits the effectiveness of the programs. They insist on the club staff being the ones to initiate and manage these groups. Let’s explore why that is not the best approach.
1. When club staff are in charge, it becomes a club function. Even though your club is great at organizing events and activities for members these “clubs within the club" tend to have smaller reach. It’s not going to be a top priority for the club and the members know that. It’s much better to let those with the interest and passion take the reigns and then come to the club when they need assistance.
2. The larger activities at the club will take precedence. Let’s say there’s a five-member photography group at your club and they want to organize a day to photograph migrating birds. But that day coincides with a major outing at the club. The staff will be reluctant to schedule both simultaneously and the photography group would likely suffer. However, if the members were left to schedule this activity on their own they would own the responsibility to not interfere with the outing - nor would they want to. Some of you might be thinking, “But I wouldn’t want the photography group there at the same time as the outing". That’s exactly the type of thinking that proves this point - the members have every right to be at the club and rather than restrict their use, it’s a much better option to let them find their own way to engage…. MIE at its finest.
3. “We can’t have members creating their own groups. What if they form a group to discuss how much they hate the club?" Believe it or not, I’ve actually heard this from more than one club. I’m always amazed by this answer, or ones similar. The level of paranoia is staggering but let’s go ahead and state the answers to this, obvious as they may be:
     a. If members want to get together to discuss how much they hate the club, they will do it whether you provide a platform for it or not.
     b. If you provide the platform, at least you’ll be aware of their concerns. Isn’t that better than having it done in secret?
     c. Maybe it’s this level of tight control to which the members are responding. Give them the freedom to do what they want and maybe things will actually get better.
The fact is there are members at your club who could be more engaged. If you found the activity that truly interests them, they will be at the club more. Allowing members to create their own groups and manage the activities for those groups means you don’t need to find out their interests - they will do it on their own. What better way to onboard a new member than showing them how to search for groups they are interested to join or how to create their own group.
GroupValet offers a full set of features for members to create their own groups and invite members. Plus our easy search feature will help members find groups that interest them. The club gets full exposure to the groups and can even use our communications platform to send targeted marketing emails to the groups.