Optimizing the groups at your club

There is an opportunity to increase engagement, revenue and member satisfaction at your club right now and it’s hiding in plain sight. Groups are the lifeblood of any club. They are how your members interact with each other and engage with the club. The faster new members join established groups, the quicker they will integrate into your club family and feel that the club is their home. Yet all too often, clubs miss the opportunity to make groups easy to find, join and most of all, to manage. This results in members missing the opportunity to participate in groups and this is costing you money.

Think about how many group activities take place at your club. There’s golf, tennis, dining, cards, wine tastings, book clubs, Mah Jongg, checkers, chess, cooking classes, croquet, billiards and bowling, just to name a few. There are also group lessons, committees and the Board. These are only some of the groups that make up the fabric of club life. What would it mean if you could increase each group’s membership by just 10 percent? How much more engagement would that mean for your club - and how much more revenue?

All groups have the same basic structure and needs. There is one person, or a small team, who act as the group captain or manager. They need to manage the group membership, set up and manage group activities and facilitate group communications. For committees and the Board, this is normally a staff member who is tasked with reminding members of upcoming meetings, printing and collating meeting materials and making sure everyone knows where to be and when to be there. For golf groups, there is often one member who finds out who wants to play each week and then requests tee times. I’ve seen group captains who carry multiple spreadsheets with them whenever they are at the club in case someone stops to ask about joining, or cancelling from, an upcoming game.

The amount of time put in to manage just one group is typically measured in hours each week. As a result, group captains tend to limit the size of their groups - the more members, the more work there is for the captain to do. And because club members have been doing things this way for years, they often don’t realize how much time and energy they are putting into managing their groups.

If you are able to reduce, or completely eliminate, the overhead of running a group, you immediately find group captains are more than happy to expand the size of their group. The more people in the group, the more engagement there is with your club - it’s that simple. It is imperative that club management finds ways to mitigate the work group captains must do. If you are successful, member engagement and satisfaction will increase.

Helping members manage their groups more efficiently will reap many benefits. In our example above, the club now has twice as many women having lunch each week with their Mah Jongg game. That’s new revenue for the club and no staff member had to do anything find that revenue. Additionally, another 13 women are engaging with the club and utilizing club facilities each week. This type of member-initiated engagement is invaluable and deepens the member’s overall sense of belonging, and therefore satisfaction, with the club.

Automated group management can also be used in a larger group setting. I know another captain of a 40-person men’s golf group who spent hours managing their 6 games each week. The spreadsheets he put together would make any accountant proud. But as a club manager, do you really want your members putting this much time and energy into what should simply be some enjoyable rounds of golf? What happens if this member decides to go on vacation or worse, if he decides he just doesn’t want to spend the time doing this anymore? How many rounds of golf are you willing to lose because one member has taken on so much responsibility?

This member also told me that he recently stopped a monthly dinner for his golf group because it was taking too much time to organize. That’s revenue and engagement that simply disappeared because this one member could not take on any more work. He started using a group management system and not only was he able to stop creating and carrying those spreadsheets, but he also re-instituted the monthly group dinners. That dinner revenue was brought back to the club and more importantly; the work of managing over 200 rounds of golf every week was automated so it was no longer dependent on a single member.

Automating group management is a key factor to increasing engagement, revenue and satisfaction at your club. It is also low-hanging fruit because group management systems such as GroupValet are affordable, easy to implement and members quickly adopt them. Unfortunately many clubs don’t yet see the value in automating group management or feel their current systems can handle it with features like buddy lists. If member engagement is a key performance indicator at your club, take the time and research group management systems.