Clubs looking to change the hand they were dealt

AMID the media hoopla accompanying the membership drives of WA’s two football sides there is another group of clubs looking to turn around declining participant numbers.

Among changes undertaken two years ago, the Western Australian Club identified that financial survival required it to reposition itself so as to attract younger members of the corporate community.

Also plagued by the ‘old boys’ club’ stigma is Rotary, with the launch this month of a new Perth Rotary club the culmination of efforts to attract a broad range of members from the business community. The new division, Rotary Club of Western Endeavour, is headed by long-time member Stephen Lee.

Mr Lee said that, while membership had been declining over the past 10 years, Rotary has been addressing the issue. At just 30 years of age, Mr Lee is confident of building a strong membership base.

“We are aiming to get back to basics. Rotary is about professional and business people coming together to share their skills and experience in a way that can benefit our youth, our local communities and our international communities,” Mr Lee said.

“We are working to dispel the impressions of Rotary as an ‘old boys’ club or an organisation that is living in the past. “People today see their time as valuable. If they can see that their valuable time is being put to good and efficient use then, in my experience, people are only too willing to participate in community service activities.”

The WA Club chief executive officer J Barrey Williams agreed that losing the stigma associated with his club was instrumental to building a new membership base.

“Membership was stagnant. It was seen as a traditional gentlemen’s club and at that time (about two years ago) it was decided that it wasn’t the direction for the club,” Mr Williams said.

He said a WA Club Committee decision to attract members under 40 years of age was made for the survival of the club.

“Older members don’t necessarily have the time to get in and use the facilities. We need to attract newer fresh members who can get in here frequently,” Mr Williams said.

“What we needed to do was to drive the club to become the must-join club for the young executive. We’ve been very successful at that and, for the past six months, we’ve been attracting about 20 members a month.

“We have lunches once a week with CEOs to get them to join and to get their younger executives to join as well.”

An incentive is in place for those under 30 who get a membership for half price, however Mr Williams said this point was not marketed well enough.

Mr Williams is, however, careful not to undersell the importance to the club of tradition. Her said the challenge at hand was to balance relevance in the marketplace with tradition.

Mr Lee was just as careful.

“Friendship through service is as relevant today as it always has been. We are becoming increasingly focused as a result of our work activities, the opportunity to involve ourselves with other professional people, in achieving positive community outcomes is a great one,” Mr Lee said.

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