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Updates from your Flag Officers

By Walter Meagher
Posted on 4/9/2018 12:40 PM

Dear Friends,
Please take a few minutes to answer the questions in the online survey. The thinking as to the uses of such a survey are below:

The first step toward understanding where your club needs to go in the future is to make an accurate assessment of the current environment. At a member owned private club, this means an in-depth survey of the existing members. A club will derive multiple benefits from a well-executed member survey, ranging from factual data gathering to goodwill and political support. The members will become engaged in the planning process from the outset and it will give them a voice and opportunity to help direct the club’s future. In many cases it will also overcome the inertia that can set in at a club by listening only to the loud voices that often impede progress. With all members able to participate, the leadership will have a real feel for the will of the club.  

The type of survey required as a prelude to a planning exercise is different than one you would use if you wanted only to know about satisfaction and operational performance. While this input can and should be part of the information collection, a long range planning survey must probe issues of mission and purpose, the vision for the future, ratings for existing facility conditions, questions on the priority of potential future improvements and testing for financial support. It should be a broad look at the world as it exists and what the club’s potential future could entail. 

In order to develop the right questionnaire to address the important issues facing the club, it is helpful to first complete a series of focus groups with club leaders, key staff and a cross-section of club members. It is very important to make sure that the member participation includes new and younger members as well as prime timers and those that have been in the club for awhile. This initial qualitative research will bring out the key issues that should be incorporated into the final questionnaire. It will also serve to generate awareness and build anticipation for the survey, potentially increasing response. 

When an effective survey instrument has been developed, it should be sent to all members and their spouses in all categories of membership. Another key for making your survey project successful is an objective and thorough interpretation of the data. This must include tabulation by age, membership category, gender, and tenure and other characteristics and comparison with established benchmarks. Without this robust analysis, your survey will be more of a vote on projects instead of a rich portrayal of the club’s key long term issues and opportunities. 

Additionally, while it is clearly in the interest of club leadership and management to drive high levels of satisfaction across all age groups, it is vital to the long range planning process that you understand the perspective of the recent joiners and youth. An overwhelming majority of your new members are going to be referred by this group. They represent the future of the club and serve as an accurate proxy for the prospective members of the same age and type. Unless you can satisfy the young people that are in your club today, it will be very difficult for the club to attract their friends and associates. 

When all the results have been tabulated and analyzed, it is important to publish the results for the entire membership to see.  One of the key opportunities any member owned private club has is to build consensus among the members about any issue and gain their support to move forward. This is simply not possible without a transparent survey process. 

Over the past couple of years many clubs held off on capital planning and investment. This made sense due to the great uncertainty we faced economically. The days of systemic risk appear to now be behind us and it is important to reenergize the planning process so that your club will have the type of quality of facilities it needs to meet expectations of current and future members. 

The old adage that businesses can cut their way to stability but only reinvent their way back to prosperity holds true for clubs, too. A long range plan based on the desires of the members is a sure way to make this happen, and a well-developed survey is the best place to start.