Are Your Club’s Gatherings Fulfilling Their Purpose?
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to improve in the US, people want to get together again. It’s a perfect time for club leaders to take a fresh look at their events.
The book The Art of Gathering: Why We Gather and Why It Matters, is food for thought for any club leader. The book discusses various aspects of bringing people together in events that are far beyond routine. The Art of Gathering delves deep into how any meeting or event planner can create meaningful, memorable experiences that benefit their attendees significantly after the event.
One major takeaway that’s applicable to clubs is the concept of purpose. The book points out that "A Category is Not a Purpose". Something like "holiday event celebration" is a category. Purpose is the reason why behind the event. For example, the category of "holiday event celebration" could potentially serve any of the following purposes, or more:
- Impress members with our over-the-top skills at decorating and catering
- Provide a formal evening for members to rub elbows while opening their wallets for charity
- Help younger members meet each other so they feel more engaged
- Provide a fun activity for children while their parents have a date night
Depending on the purpose selected, the structure of the event would be wildly different. A formal evening for charity would probably be structured as a black-tie gala with table and seat assignments, whereas a children's event could be a scavenger hunt by the pool.
How could better events help your club?
Events at private clubs become hallmarks of the member experience. As such, an event’s purpose should underscore the deeper purpose of your club and its culture. Every event is an opportunity to tell members, “This is why you’re a member here.” (And of course, why you should continue to use the club often, stay a member forever, and recommend the club to your friends and family!)
For example, my family and I are members at a large residential and destination resort-style club in the Florida Keys. The club excels at helping families create memories while vacationing in an upscale yet relaxed environment. The club's biggest events are organized around holidays, such as the Easter golf cart parade, Fourth of July fireworks celebration, and Christmas gingerbread house making. During every major holiday weekend, street fairs are organized with food and family-friendly activities such as bounce houses, DJ music and photo booths. Sometimes the club even organizes special events like concerts with top tier artists or full-scale carnivals complete with Ferris wheels and other rides. These events have become signature experiences that really define what it's like to be a member there. The club understands that its primary purpose is to provide a platform for families to enjoy memorable experiences together, and these events deliver exceptionally well on this purpose.
But what if the club's purpose was less about families making memories, and instead it wanted to help other members meet each other to create an intimate, well-connected community? These events would not satisfy that purpose. At most of the club’s events, we show up as a group, stay together, and don't really interact much with other members. The golf cart parade, for example, has families decorate their carts at their homes, then sit in the carts and drive them through the parade. There is virtually no intermingling of families. This works great at bringing the family closer together. But if the club wanted to connect members with others they might not already know, the event would need to be designed differently. Perhaps by hosting a pre-parade rally or cart design brainstorming session where families could swap decorating tips.
So how do you define your event’s purpose?
According to Priya Parker, the author of The Art of Gathering, a good purpose must be specific, unique and disputable. Let’s look at how these attributes could play out at an example club event of a new member happy hour.
- Specific. The more specific the better. So rather than hosting a happy hour for ‘new members’, how about ‘new members under 45 with kids’?
- Unique. Parker mentions the “Passover rule,” based on the question asked during the seder dinner, “What makes this night different from all other nights?” Maybe instead of having a bartender make drinks during the happy hour, you ask each member to make a drink for another member. This would help members mingle with one another.
- Disputable. This means there could be multiple alternatives to the purpose selected. In our example, maybe the happy hour’s purpose is to allow new members under 45 with kids to meet each other without their kids, so they can enjoy a more adult evening. As opposed to, allowing these members to meet each other, so they can plan on getting the kids together in the future. The first purpose would be designed with a more adult-friendly or upscale mood, to allow the parents to forget about their kids. The second approach may see a more casual atmosphere and help adults share more about their kids, or even invite the kids along. It is ‘disputable’ which option is preferable, depending on who you ask.
Ultimately, the events hosted by your club should underscore the culture you’d like to create and support the needs of your members. Getting clarity on the purpose of your club helps, like our club has done by placing the utmost importance on memorable family-friendly activities.
How technology can help
How do you define your club’s purpose? It helps to have a firm grasp of your club’s demographics, and how they are changing over time. Your club management software should have easy-to-use analytics on your member demographics to shape your programming needs.
In addition to demographics, using other methods of gathering information on members’ interests are helpful. An engaging member mobile application that allows members to opt-in to certain interest groups can provide you a platform for gauging interests as well as communicating with those specific individuals when you plan an event that might appeal to them.
Finally, analyzing member spending at your club is a huge clue to what kinds of things are most important. Being able to run reports on event attendance from the past, digging deeper into food and beverage sales, looking at golf and fitness-related spending, etc. can really help you see not just what members say they want, but where they are voting with their dollars. Your club management system should be fully integrated to see cross-departmental spending in one place, and robust enough to allow you to access in-depth reports easily. Features such as advanced search and sort/filter capabilities, as well as visual graphs and charts with drill-down ability into the records can really help your numbers tell a story and allow you to better shape future programming.
Events are essential to rebuilding your club’s culture at the close of the pandemic, and a great way to help build a more powerful community. If you’d like to speak with us to see how we can help with technology to support your club planning more purposeful events, please contact us.