Diversifying your Membership

Diversity refers to the inclusion of people from many different groups and the membership of Affiliated Clubs and Recognised Training Centres should be representative of the communities that they serve in their geographic locations.

Data collected by the RYA shows that there is significant under representation of certain groups not only across our clubs and centres but also across the RYA as the National Governing Body. In line with the RYA Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, we are committed to breaking down the barriers which stand in the way of anyone either trying boating for the first time or returning to become a member following a fantastic experience. There are several cases as to why equality, diversity and inclusion should be of paramount importance and these are:

  • The human case - all participants should feel welcome, whatever their background.
  • The business case – to maintain and increase participation, you may need to promote your organisation to a wider range of people and not rely on the traditional routes to attract new members or customers.
  • The funding case – public and charitable funding bodies want to know that any grants they make to your organisation can benefit the whole community.
  • The legal and financial case – if you fail to comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, you risk reputational damage and legal action on the grounds of discrimination.

The RYA has been working closely with Professor Kevin Hylton to help develop the the RYA's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work and has produced a short five minute video which looks specifically at why we need to embrace diversity and create inclusive environments for all.

During the Affiliates Conference in 2020, the RYA delivered a number of webinars, which look specifically on how clubs and centres can diversify their memberships and the benefits of doing so and you can access those webinars and resources here.


Using person centred approaches will be a key component when you start to look at how you might diversify your membership. Putting your potential and existing members at the heart of your In order to diversify your club membership, the best place to start is to understand your existing membership and there are many ways which you can do this. One way would be to ask your current members to complete an anonymous equality monitoring survey. These surveys ask a series of questions surrounding a persons’ protected characteristics (age, sex, gender reassignment, race, religion, pregnancy / maternity, disability, sexual orientation, and marriage / civil partnership) and the results can then be used to identify what gaps are present in your membership.

Many organisations will have some form of equality monitoring as part of their club membership application form - this enables them to see how the diversity of the membership fluctuates and what the causes of this could be. Alternatively, if as a club, you do not collect equality monitoring information you could look at photographs taken and club events over the years and see how much diversity is visible across your membership. We must be mindful however that not all protected characteristics are visible. Understanding the makeup of the local community will also assist you in further understanding where the gaps are in your existing membership. You can use the Office for National Statistics website to do this - the national census information is currently available on the website from 2011; however, the 2021 census was just carried out and the results of this will be made available in the coming months.

As a part of the Affiliated Club Conference 2020, a series of club development webinars were made available to encourage clubs to not only look at the diversity of their current membership but to also give them the tools to adapt their current community offer and approach to be more inclusive and welcoming to a wider audience. The webinars are available within the Club and Centre Support pages and can be found here.

By considering the offer that your club makes to the local community, could be one of the reasons you are seeing gaps in your membership. It is possible that the offer may only appeal to certain groups. For example, if a membership benefit was a monthly beer and hog roast night, this would immediately alienate people from the Muslim faith, as pork products and alcohol are not permitted. Most organised religions have a holy day or Sabbath when their main services or collective prayers take place: Friday for Muslims, Friday evening to Saturday evening for Jews and Sunday for Christians to name a few.

If you are organising an event such as an open day, you should consider whether a high proportion of your local community are members of a particular faith group and try to avoid times or days when they will be excluded from taking part due to a conflict with their religious or family commitments. In addition to weekly days of worship, every religion has its own festivals. You can find a list of key festivals on the Time and Date website. You could also consider if your club is accessible for people with disabilities, you can find a wealth of information regarding accessibility for people with disabilities here.

Once you have re-evaluated the community offer and addressed any inaccessibility at the club, you will start to attract a wider diversity of people. Once you have identified the gaps and looked at your community offer, it is equally as important to ensure that people are treated equally and fairly, regardless of their protected characteristics. Tackling bias and encouraging inclusive thinking can be difficult, but there are several resources available to help you with this and they can be found in the EDI resource library.