Creetown Bowling Club
Increasing membership at Creetown Bowling Club, Dumfriesshire & Stewartry
Case study background
At the end of the 2007 bowling season Creetown Bowling Club had 28 members and an annual bar turnover of £5k. Based in a small rural town with a community of approximately 900 people opportunities seemed few and far between for Creetown to reverse the fortunes of their club.
“We have 28 members, my target is 70 by the end of the season.” (Alastair Herries, first quote as President in 2008)
The club knew it had a problem and identified a need to increase bowling participation within the community and to attract new members. Members knew they faced a challenge as bowling was viewed locally as being elitist and exclusive.
Plan of action
In 2008 newly inducted President Alastair Herries and his committee put together a plan to engage proactively with their local community and encourage new bowlers and social members to the club.
In order to do this efficiently and effectively the club had to make several changes to its constitution. These changes allowed office bearers greater freedom to act on behalf of the club and clearly stated that the clubs facilities should be open to all in the community.
“I have been involved in the club for around 40 years. There were lots of members but sadly over the years this had diminished. At the beginning of 2008 with a new young President and Committee things began to change. This has formed a new chapter for our club. (Margaret Lockett, Club Treasurer)
Before targeting potential new members the club evaluated its current membership structure and put together a new package which members believed would help to attract the community to the bowling club. The key changes included introducing new membership categories and a promotional offer for first year members.
Family Membership n/a First junior free. Membership available to one and two parent families who are adult members of the club
In addition the club also took the brave decision to freeze its bar prices for the year. This was a key incentive to retain existing members and also attract potential new members.
The club knew that for the plan to be successful it had to communicate better with the local community. It started its drive to increase memberships by distributing a newsletter to every household in the town. This was a quick and easy way to promote the club and highlight to residents what Creetown Bowling Club has to offer to them.
In anticipation of those efforts to attract new members proving successful, the club had to be well prepared for welcoming them. The simple measures they took included re-designing their membership application, creating a database of members and ensuring coaching was available for new members.
- In June 2010 Creetown’s membership stood at 96 members which represents a 70% increase in membership from April 2008
- Annual bar turnover increased by 200% to £15k in two bowling seasons
- The club has attracted 15 junior members who are allowed to play in club competitions and sweep nights. Some of the juniors are now also playing in county events
- There are 6 family memberships held in Creetown which are helping local parents and grandparents encourage children to play. It is also helping them build respect for the club and the sport
- Local sponsorship was found enabling the club to design and subsidise new club polo shirts as well as continuing to host two popular open competitions
“I have worked at the bowling club voluntarily for a few years. It was dated and the future didn’t look good. Since 2008 with a new president the club has trebled its membership. With a lot of hard work and new ideas the club has not looked back.” (Mary Jarvie, Bar Convenor)
Following the initial success of Creetown’s drive to increase membership in 2008 the club continued to communicate regularly with the local community. During the close season the club distributed a marketing flyer locally highlighting to residents the benefits of playing bowls and being a member of the club. The club also erected a community noticeboard outside its gate highlighting not only events in the bowling club but also other events and community updates.
In July 2009 the club threw open its doors to the local community by hosting an Open Day. Not only did it offer people the chance to try bowls but they also had other fun games and activities such as a bouncy castle, a disco and a barbeque.
The large increase in club memberships also led, in turn, to the clubs weekly sweep nights increasing from 6-8 members participating each week to 24-36 members taking part. As a result the sweep night was made into a league. Each weekly winner receives a cash prize and the top four of the league at the end of the season also receive a cash prize. This has been a great way for the club to integrate new members and to ensure the green is being frequently used.
The Future The members of Creetown have been enthused by their success and are already thinking about their next moves to keep improving the club.
They have a major refurbishment of the clubhouse taking place during 2010 and are hoping that the membership will break 100 before the end of this year. There are also plans to create a website for the club to continue improving communications with members and the local community.
Key Points The success of Creetown’s work is evident in the outcomes above. Throughout the case study there are a number of key points which have been highlighted and can be taken on by other clubs to help them develop.
- Local community – every club has a local community they can target. Each community will have different needs and demographics so it’s important the club know who their locals are. Once people start to see the club for themselves then you can rely on word of mouth to help promote your club
- Communication – this has been the driving force in the change of fortunes for Creetown. The large increase in memberships is the result of a combination of activities such as community newsletters, noticeboards and open days as well as word of mouth spreading through the town
- Data collection - the club developed a database of members which enables it to maintain regular communication with its members to keep them informed of what is going on. This could be particularly important over the closed season when members might not be visiting the club on such a regular basis
- Retention – all of the above points will help the club to retain members. In addition the case study also highlights other ideas the club has implemented such as freezing bar prices, developing competitions (sweep nights) and training new coaches which will all help encourage members to continue bowling
“Creetown Bowling Club strives with passion and desire to operate a first class bowling club, not only for its members but also for the small community it is situated within. I believe the club has set a high marker for other clubs who are looking to increase revenue, improve facilities and most importantly attract new members from the community.” (Russell Meddins, Director of Spectrum Care and Support Service, Main Sponsor)