Growth and Retention for sports organisations: Where to start?

The key to building a great sporting club, organisation, association or federation starts from the inside and works outwards.

Establishing and maintaining a culture where members new and old feel at home, developing programs, ensuring events are world— class and being accessible to them as the governing body or management committee, is how we can grow and retain members beyond belief.  

But, where to start: Not many people in this world would turn down a rebate for obtaining a license or achieving an accreditation, and although these strategies are tried, tested and successful; it is not where our imagination for new ideas should stop. 

People yearn for adventure, they yearn for education and information, they yearn to be a part of something, they yearn for recognition and reward, they even (on occasion) yearn to help – out and, it’s because of these human natures that we are permitted to explore and create concepts that align with these yearnings; thus, making our new concepts attractive to our target audience. 

Once we understand what people want (not forgetting what they need too), we can develop programs that are relevant, useful and have purpose; and this is exciting because we want to grow our sport, right?

So, to become that sport that people choose to play and compete at, opportunities are boundless. But…an effective strategy for growth and retention is integral to your sustainability and arguably, even more important for adventure sports.

Pulling back the doona, the sheets, stripping off the mattress protector to finally see what’s underneath, going back to the start, revisiting your organisation’s vision; this is starting to grow from the inside. However, it takes honesty, research, member feedback, commitment and time!

But, let me tell you…Starting from the inside goes even further back than just rethinking new programs and initiatives. An organisation must consider seasonal opportunities and budgetary constraints; all factors to consider and, it will take time to evaluate, design, implement, test, refine, measure for success and refine again! 

To really start from the inside, and I mean the very core of the inside; ask yourself these questions: Do you understand your brand? Remembering firstly; your brand is not just your logo. Your brand is what you stand for, it is what people connect with and want to trust!

Ask yourself: What is your brand, what does it say? Do your members understand your brand and…do they live it? When was the last time you sat down and truly evaluated your organisation? When was the last time you revisited your organisation’s vision? Do you really strive to fulfil your mission?

You see, understanding your brand ethos is where growth really begins! Because if you as leaders know it, then it becomes so much easier for you to portray it on to others, and do I really need to say it? OK, here it is…If you understand your brand, your brand will guide you to your organisation’s goals, of which I am assuming is growth and retention.  

And after all, isn’t it your brand (the comradery, the culture, the excitement of your sport) that attracted your current members? Maybe, maybe not; we all have our reasons as to why we start something, but let us say for the sake of argument, it was your brand that attracted people in the first instance. I can guarantee you though, it is also your brand that allows members to leak from the other end too!  

Yes, there are other factors. However, would those factors be a consideration if you had the perfect brand, the brand that might see people leave your sport from time to time, but, ultimately return!

Revisiting your brand is fundamental to really starting from the inside!

Here is another example of why your brand is so important: When a new candidate makes that initial phone call, arrives at reception or pulls up in a carpark to watch your sport, it is at that moment you have your greatest opportunity to turn them from spectator to participant.

We must assume that they are smart people and that they are researching for the next chapter in their story. At that very point of contact, we have a choice: We can play a starring role in their production, or we can fade away as a footnote.

Consider this, if we have excited, fulfilled and vibrant members/athletes that truly value the brand that your sport offers and are singing the praises of the club, organisation, association, federation and the sport—well, we are on our way to happy town. 

It is a simple formula, start with your brand. The brand you offer is what attracts and retains members.

Brand awareness, well that’s another article…

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