Are your members happy? What do they like? What don't they like? Which groups are happier than others? Which members are you potentially at risk of losing?
Do you know the answers to all these questions, or are you simply acting on a hunch?
After a successful first year, the RYA invites your club to sign up for this year’s RYA Club Members Satisfaction Survey and taking part could be difference between your club acting on instinct or with information as each participating club gets a two-page report of invaluable member insights.
"Every year 2,000 people leave Midland clubs meaning club volunteers put in a huge amount of effort to replace these leavers just to keep numbers static,” says Gareth Brookes, RYA Midlands Development Officer.
"By better understanding what members really want and addressing the things that matter to them they're more likely to remain active and engaged. Clubs who took part in last year's survey said it's helping them identify members or groups who weren't as satisfied as they would have liked, engage with them and do something tangible about it, from developing offers to better suit them to simply improving communication.
"In some cases clubs hadn't really appreciated that people weren't satisfied and so have been able to act and put them at the top of the priority list before losing them. Meanwhile, it's also enabled clubs whose members were extremely satisfied to reflect on their successes and how they can build on those."
From one to another
Chelmarsh SC was one club that enjoyed a glowing report. With some major club development proposals in the pipeline, including introducing more watersports and SUP'ing, they felt the survey would provide evidence to support their belief about what changes were required.
An above average 45% of members completed the survey, as Commodore, Alison Taylor, communicated its value via posters plus email and social media, but most importantly by just chatting to members when she was at the club. She believes it was definitely a worthwhile exercise.
Alison said: "There was nothing that came up that really surprised us, the things we thought might be issues came up, but that focused the committee's minds on addressing those concerns.
"The most pleasing thing was people were genuinely really happy and the most popular word was 'friendly'. I don't know if it was in part because of the survey or simply because people felt they were being listened to, but a huge number turned up to the AGM to support the new development plan, which was approved comfortably.
"So many people had positive things to say about the club we're going to display the comments on the noticeboard, while it's given everyone a sense of satisfaction that whatever they are doing to support the club really does make a difference. It's helping us communicate that everyone has a stake and responsibility in the club's future."
In accordance with findings from the survey, Chelmarsh has reviewed some of its restrictions and its safety policy to make it easier for social sailors to sail when they want to and, having also heard it discussed at the Midlands Affiliated Clubs Conference in November, is introducing a Novices Rep to support beginners.
Alison encourages any club thinking about taking part to do it, and added: "We should want to know what members are thinking. Waiting until people become dissatisfied before addressing issues creates more work in the long run or you just lose them from the club altogether."
The big picture
While the individual results of the RYA Club Member Satisfaction Survey undoubtedly holds a lot of interest for each participating club, the overall findings can also be helpful for all clubs, and from the 2018 survey the importance of 'soft skills' was the biggest takeaway.
Soft skills, so things like interpersonal skills, communication, leadership, teamwork, empathy, collaboration and problem solving, are satisfaction drivers and performing well in these areas will make a strong impact and differentiate your club.
Here are Gareth's 5 top tips on how you can improve your communication soft skills ahead of the season.
1) What touchpoints do your members have with other club members and committees - what sort of welcome and interaction do they get at every point? Is it welcoming and friendly? Would you be happy if you were greeted/treated in the way your members are?
2) Friendliness on the water is as important as off it - we all know how competitive it can get on racing days, but when competitiveness spills over into something else, could people feel intimidated and put off? Having someone in your club able to resolve on-the-water disputes in as fair, informal and diplomatic a way as possible can be helpful. If you would like to train people in dispute resolution club check out our RYA Club Rules Adviser Course at Burton SC on Saturday 9 March.
3) What's your signage like? At the gate and around the club, does your signage use language that says 'we want you here' or could it make people feel they are stepping into somewhere they shouldn't? Does it look fresh and professional or has it got a bit tired and weather beaten? There have been big improvements around the region on this front in recent years but it's always worth a check in.
4) Everyone was new once - number of clubs have appointed new member reps on the committees to make sure new members have always got someone to turn to and talk to so if you haven't got one yet is it something you could consider. Rudyard Lake is one club that introduced a rep with success. Here's the case study we wrote at the time - Repping for the Novices and keeping them sailing.
5) Use technology - how do you help people feel part of your community away from the club? Using a range of communication tools like using WhatsApp, producing a regular newsletter, having an active Facebook group, or whatever works best for your club, can keep people happier.