6 Secrets to Running a Successful Club

If you’ve baked a cake, you know the egg-butter-and-sugar basics. And if you’ve run a club, you know that general recipe, too: Take one group of people with a shared passion for an activity; write a set of rules or bylaws that clearly state your mission; snag a meeting space; and, off you go.  

But as a defeated baker can attest, there’s a significant difference between covering the basics, and creating an irresistible success. A frustrated club organizer can say the same: It’s not enough to reserve the church basement for your monthly get-togethers; you need to fill the seats with engaged, connected members. You want the room — and the group — to be alive.

So, what are the secrets to a successful club? We talked to GroupWorks founder and chief community officer Spencer Morgan for tips.

1. Don’t do everything yourself. (Even if you want to.)

You started the club. You preside over the club. You organized the initial events for the club. The next step? For the sake of the club, step back — and clear the way for other members to step in.

“If there’s only one or two people who’ve taken on the role of president or secretary, then that sets up a situation where the overall group is in the habit of not contributing,” Morgan says. “It’s going to get old.”   

Instead, he suggests, establish a culture where leadership turns over regularly, and where all members are encouraged to contribute.

2. Don’t rely on email.   

Email, of course, is a no-brainer for any club. Click “send,” and you’ve just let all your members know that the craft show is Saturday. It’s quick, and easy. But it can’t be your club’s only communication tool. That’s because email typically is a one-sided conversation between you, the sender, and your members, the recipients.

“Whether you’re using GroupWorks or not, it’s helpful to have an interactive communication platform,” Morgan says.

Morgan recommends a platform that encourages members to open up, and start conversations, perhaps even in real-time.

“The more members that are engaged, and not just receiving emails,” Morgan says, “the more empowered the club is.”

3. Think twice — or more — before naming your club.

“I’m always hearing people complain about their group name,” Morgan says. “They’ll say, I know our name is really goofy, but we started the club 20 years ago.”

The secret here is to pick a name that not only helps define your club, but will stand the test of time.

“Don’t give your group a name just because somebody thought it sounded fun,” Morgan says. “You want it to be memorable 10 years from now.”

4. Be prepared for naysayers.

“Every club, as it grows beyond perhaps a dozen members,” Morgan says, “is going to have some negative people.”  

The solution is to be accepting of this, he says, and neither be overly accommodating nor overly reactionary to their pessimistic views.

“While you don’t want to be oppressive in the rules and stifle members’ opinions,” Morgan says, “you want to try to create a culture that doesn’t give too much opportunity for that kind of venting.”

5. Engage your members with content — and conversation.

More than 20 years after Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates wrote, “Content Is King,” the main idea of the famous essay holds true, especially for social-activity clubs.  

“Create content that engages your members, online and offline,” Morgan says.

This can mean booking a compelling speaker for your next meeting, pointing clubgoers to an awesome how-to video on YouTube, or introducing members to GroupWorks content related to your club’s passion.

“Introducing such content is helpful towards engaging your members,” he says. “It creates relevance, which creates conversation — and, in turn, creates an environment where members want to stick around.”

6. Trust in your passion.

Especially with a new club, the doubts can creep in: What if we don’t grow? Or, worse, what if membership falls off? What if the idea wasn’t any good in the first place?

“Rest assured,” Morgan says, “there are tons of people who are interested in what you’re interested in. Even an extremely niche-oriented pursuit can find a regular group of people in six months time. It’s just a matter of getting the word out.”

That’s where platforms like GroupWorks can help.  

“There are a lot of different channels. The bulletin boards and newsletters let people know what you’re up to,” Morgan says. “GroupWorks is a place to manage everything, and be your hub of communication. The technology is your friend.”