How Ski Clubs Attract and Retain New Members
By: Jo Simpson – public affairs chair for the National Ski Council Federation
Recruiting efforts these days focus on transfusions of young blood
When the Charlotte (North Carolina) Ski and Snowboard Club wanted to focus on attracting younger members, they moved their membership meetings to a local brewery.
They scheduled activities attractive to younger prospective members, including a trampoline dodgeball event. They emphasized snowboarding as well as skiing in activity promotions.
Their efforts have resulted in a 60 percent increase in younger members. The president of the 350-member club is 29 years old, the vice president 25.
Ski clubs continually seek new members to avoid stagnating. New members bring new ideas and fresh energy. Many clubs are experiencing an aging membership and looking for new blood.
The Connecticut Ski Council attracts families and introduces children to the sport by organizing an annual Kids Learn to Ski Day. The council and a local resort provide certified ski instructors and heavily discounted lift tickets for the kids and their family members. Kids, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles come out to spread the joy of winter sports to the younger generation.
The SAGA Gay Men’s Ski and Snowboard Club in Los Angeles holds membership drives at a local fitness facility to reach potential members. On trips they offer members the opportunity to group up by ability and ski with a club member guide so that no one is left to ski alone.
Racing is attractive to active adults. Many councils have racing programs that attract new members to join their clubs to participate in racing and subsequently become involved in other club activities.
Attracting new members is challenging. Making them feel welcome and valued is critical to keeping them.
Social media is essential in attracting younger members. Clubs are using Facebook, Meetup, Instagram and Twitter to reach out. It’s where younger adults get much of their news and information. Some clubs are Meetup clubs that operate largely through Meetup instead of membership meetings.
Websites are useful for reference information once a new member becomes interested. Information must be kept fresh and current. Contact information should be easy to find on the website so that potential members can get more information from trip and activity leaders.
Many local newspaper and television station websites provide free online posting of meetings and activities. Newspapers often print the web-posted items and sometimes will highlight the event in a larger article.
Special events attract new members. Broadcast them on the club social media sites and email a news release to local media outlets. Events to raise money for charities or club-sponsored community service projects can attract media attention. Include information on joining the club in all announcements and news releases, as well as a club contact and the website address.
Develop a club brochure to distribute through local ski shops and other businesses. Brochures can be inexpensively created using software such as Microsoft Word that’s probably already on most personal computers.
Publicize upcoming ski and adventure trips. While skiers can find bargain travel on the Internet, clubs offer a social experience with other active adults who enjoy outdoor activities. Clubs also offer convenience by taking care of most of the travel arrangements. Many clubs organize a variety of nonskiing outdoor activities, such as hikes, picnics and camping trips in summer and snowshoeing in winter, that can attract new members.
And what would ski clubs be without parties? Parties provide opportunities for social interaction among new members and prospective members in a relaxed and fun environment.
Getting a prospective member to a meeting or activity is only the first step. Make sure they feel welcome. Long-time club members tend to bunch with their friends at meetings and unwittingly keep newcomers from feeling part of the group.
One way to integrate new members is to assign long-time members to a different newer member “buddy” for each meeting. The veteran member is expected to call the buddy before the meeting and sit with her/him during the meeting. Identify new members and guests with a unique nametag so that current members can recognize and greet them before the meeting.
A poorly run meeting will turn off first-time attendees, as will sloppy organizational management. Follow good meeting management practices by starting meetings on time and maintaining control. Tactfully deal with conflicts or disagreements promptly. Involve members by distributing tasks and showing all members that they are valued. Keep in touch with members through social media, email blasts, newsletter and other communication methods.
Ski club membership offers relief from a boring lifestyle. Activities bond members together. Monthly or weekly happy hours, ski trips, travel to new places, camping trips, picnics, cultural events, charity events, opportunities to serve the community (and the club) while meeting, and making new friends creates for an exciting lifestyle.
The Birmingham (Alabama) Ski Club’s motto is “Some people dream of an exciting life. We make it happen.” Any ski club can use this approach by using a generic version: “Don’t just dream of having an exciting life. Join (fill in club name here) and make it happen!”
We have FUN! Get the word out in your community.