Author Topic: Do other clubs have this problem?  (Read 3334 times)

Offline guido

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 219
    • View Profile
Do other clubs have this problem?
« on: May 07, 2013, 08:33:52 AM »
Apathy?  I know we'll never have a club like, say the Maltose Falcons, and I can live with that.  But I'm so frustrated with the apathy.  No one has any initiative. The officers have tried to encourage membership with discounts at LHBS, events, educational presentations, apparel, etc...  We're a stone's throw from the AHA conference this year.  I desperately wanted us to participate in club night.  There was no interest.  We have some great homebrewers, but my wife and I weren't about to single-handedly run our booth.  Sometimes, it seems like we're little more than an organized drinking club.  I've offered to put homebrewer bios and recipes on our newsletters and website to drum up interest and participation.  Crickets.  It's so frustrating.  We have annual dies of $15 and about 25 paid members.  We have a lot more who haven't paid. Our last meetings have had five and six attendees respectively.  Do I need to accept the reality that our club is what it is?  I'm grasping at straws here, folks.
Well...I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

     -"Roadhouse Blues,"  Jim Morrison

Offline Steve

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 177
  • Been there, done that. And now I've returned
    • View Profile
    • Kettle and Cask Beer Blog
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2013, 10:24:43 AM »
I'm a member of JbreW (reg. AHA club) Johnson & Wales Univ. in Providence, RI.  I moved so I don't participate any longer in brew days or events, but I still receive emails and participate in online discussions.  We held the Ocean State Homebrew Competition and the RAW Benefit (Real Ales for clean Water) event.  We paid no dues.  We brewed in the brewing lab in the Culinary Center.  The University paid for ingredients on brew days, which were paid for by the activity fee we all paid.  We had to pay for field trip busses and for beer we drank in tastings. We also were expected to volunteer for the two events I mentioned previously. We had 10 or so fully active members who attended 95% of all of the events out of the 50 or so students who signed up for the club. I would have paid for membership if the club by-laws allowed it. Faculty and staff were welcomed to tastings and events as long as they paid the fee.

You're obviously near Philly so are you in NJ, PA, DE, MD or DC? How many other clubs are there in your area? $15 yearly dues seems too reasonable.  I feel that you should give delinquent members 30 days to pay up or they should be ejected for non-payment of dues.  Do you have that in your by-laws? Let them know you mean business.  Plus in the next cycle increase the dues amount (as long as you and the top 5-6 and other 25 paid members can afford it) to weed out members who just don't participate. Make 'em "Put up or shut up."  With this you can, as you wrote, "accept the reality" and concentrate on the great members in good standing that you have. 

Maybe you could have the two pillars of membership philosophy.  There are the "Pillars" who pay a higher dues level.  These members hold up and care for the club's structure. They also reap the highest benefits for their service to the club.  Then there's the "Catterpillar" level for those who just crawl in and out or become moths and burn in the flame.  They pay a modest dues (like your $15) and can participate in brew days, certain events and are non-voting members.  On collective brew days they can't reap any of the beer brewed unless they pitch in with or pay for proportional ingredients for a share of the beer.  They can attend tasting or other events, but have to pay a modest amount to attend to cover their share of the beer needed for tastings.  They get the basic benefit package.  They get the privilege to call themselves members.   Hell! - it's just like Cable!  Then again... someone has to administer this bureaucracy.

Sláinte
Steve
 
  "Because beer is food: in cooking, at the table and by the glass. " Lucy Saunders

Offline guido

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 219
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2013, 11:11:27 AM »
I'm a member of JbreW (reg. AHA club) Johnson & Wales Univ. in Providence, RI.  I moved so I don't participate any longer in brew days or events, but I still receive emails and participate in online discussions.  We held the Ocean State Homebrew Competition and the RAW Benefit (Real Ales for clean Water) event.  We paid no dues.  We brewed in the brewing lab in the Culinary Center.  The University paid for ingredients on brew days, which were paid for by the activity fee we all paid.  We had to pay for field trip busses and for beer we drank in tastings. We also were expected to volunteer for the two events I mentioned previously. We had 10 or so fully active members who attended 95% of all of the events out of the 50 or so students who signed up for the club. I would have paid for membership if the club by-laws allowed it. Faculty and staff were welcomed to tastings and events as long as they paid the fee.

You're obviously near Philly so are you in NJ, PA, DE, MD or DC? How many other clubs are there in your area? $15 yearly dues seems too reasonable.  I feel that you should give delinquent members 30 days to pay up or they should be ejected for non-payment of dues.  Do you have that in your by-laws? Let them know you mean business.  Plus in the next cycle increase the dues amount (as long as you and the top 5-6 and other 25 paid members can afford it) to weed out members who just don't participate. Make 'em "Put up or shut up."  With this you can, as you wrote, "accept the reality" and concentrate on the great members in good standing that you have. 

Maybe you could have the two pillars of membership philosophy.  There are the "Pillars" who pay a higher dues level.  These members hold up and care for the club's structure. They also reap the highest benefits for their service to the club.  Then there's the "Catterpillar" level for those who just crawl in and out or become moths and burn in the flame.  They pay a modest dues (like your $15) and can participate in brew days, certain events and are non-voting members.  On collective brew days they can't reap any of the beer brewed unless they pitch in with or pay for proportional ingredients for a share of the beer.  They can attend tasting or other events, but have to pay a modest amount to attend to cover their share of the beer needed for tastings.  They get the basic benefit package.  They get the privilege to call themselves members.   Hell! - it's just like Cable!  Then again... someone has to administer this bureaucracy.

Sláinte
We've kept the dues low to keep the club accessible.  Dues are basically to cover our liability insurance to have a stand at a local brewfest.  We're in PA, north of Harrisburg.  We're a rural area, but the only game in town as far as clubs go.  We've set a June 30th deadline for dues and I don't mind weeding out the deadwood.  I'd be thrilled with the 20-25 members we have if they were active, but to get anything done is like pulling teeth--as they say.
Well...I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

     -"Roadhouse Blues,"  Jim Morrison

Offline Jeff M

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 539
  • Currently upgrading to Brewery 3.0
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2013, 11:37:41 AM »
Sounds to me like your club is suffering from a lack of motivational leadership.  you probably need to choose between standing back and not doing anything, or taking the reins from whoever isnt leading correctly.  you obviously have the passion too do so. but do you have the desire:D

I dont envy you your choice.
Granite Coast Brewing Company.
Building a clone of The Electric Brewery to use as a pilot system for new recipes!

Online weithman5

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1668
  • naperville, il
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2013, 11:42:53 AM »
i can't even get the guy from the brew club listed in AHA from my neighborhood to return my call.
Don AHA member

Offline tcanova

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 182
  • Fayetteville Arkansas
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2013, 11:58:20 AM »
Our brew club is turning 21 this year and we are planning a big party!  I joined the first year but wasn't an original member and we have ebbed and flowed over the years.  When we started there were 9 of us and there are still 5 of those originals around. 

We have seen a huge increase in interest in the last 3 years, I'm sure related to the explosion of the craft beer scene, and will now have 50 to 60 attend a meeting.  We have kept our dues low as well ($25) and we have tried to encourage new membership as much as we can.  A bunch of us donated old equipment to the club that the club loans out so someone who is wanting to try and brew can without the equipment expense. 

We did go through a period where the membership waned but it just took getting some new people in to generate more interest.
What's the worst that could happen?  Beer?


Wooo Pig Sooiee

Online kramerog

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 781
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2013, 12:23:44 PM »
In the last 5 years, one of the clubs I am in basically doubled in size, another was created and is thriving, and a third was born and collapsed a few months later.  You should be seeing new faces at your meetings.  If not maybe there is a new club in your area that you don't know?  Are you seeing new faces at your meeting but they are not sticking around?
Brewers of South Suburbia
Brixie's Brewers
Oak Park Homebrewers

Offline Bruce B

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 98
  • Overcome, Improvise, Adapt.
    • View Profile
    • Bruce's Brewing Adventures
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2013, 09:45:46 PM »
One way to stir the pot a bit is to champion an event like a public brew session.  Work with the local homebrew shop to do a brew day for beginners, leave the club out of it.  Club members will eventually get wind of it by seeing advertisement at the homebrew shop and some might show up just to check it out.  The idea behind this approach is to find others in your community that are into homebrewing but not necessarily attending your club meetings, as well as a few other interested brewers from your club.  Keep doing the public brew sessions every few months and see where it goes. 
Prosit, Sláinte, Salute, Na Zdravi, Cheers! - Bruce
Beer Barons of Milwaukee - http://www.beerbarons.org
Coordinator - Midwinter and Schnapp Hans Cup Competitions
BJCP National & Mead Judge

Offline Alewyfe

  • Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 344
  • Fighting for Truth, Justice & Home Brew
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2013, 01:49:12 AM »
Guido,
You said the club officers are doing stuff...events, education, discounts, etc.
Sounds like they ARE doing something.

Perhaps the by laws need to specify that to remain a club member in good standing, you have to host or assist with at least one event, tech session or what ever each year. 

Set a limit, like two visits as a guest, then you must pay dues and join.

It generally seems to be that no matter the club size, 20% of the membership do the lions share of the work to keep the club going. Acknowledge the folks who do, do what you can, and plan events that reward those who participate.

We have around 40 members. 20 show for meetings and about 4-5 people volunteer to do stuff when asked. As a result, I don't ask as much as I "assign" tasks. People are learning that if they don't step up, they can't complain, and they might get leaned on. A good set of officers makes for a good club, but sometimes a dictatorship is a useful temporary solution. 
Diane
Roseburg, Oregon
Member: Umpqua Valley Brewers Guild
             Cascade Brewers Society
             AHA

"Growing old is mandatory. Growing up? Definitely optional!"

Online mtnrockhopper

  • I spend way too much time on the AHA forum
  • ********
  • Posts: 2876
  • Delaware
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2013, 06:32:20 AM »
It generally seems to be that no matter the club size, 20% of the membership do the lions share of the work to keep the club going. Acknowledge the folks who do, do what you can, and plan events that reward those who participate.

We have around 40 members. 20 show for meetings and about 4-5 people volunteer to do stuff when asked.
Those percentages sound about correct - if not high, for brewing and non-brewing activities I'm involved in.
As for getting people to rejoin - most people react to reward the best. Plan something early in the year that members must be renewed to participate in - like a spring BBQ or brewery tour.  Punishments, like threatening to drop status, doesn't work as well. And if it does, it only works if members care about the threat. So think about it from their perspective - What is the reward for renewing? If there is no reward, then it's always something that they can do "later".
Jimmy K

Delmarva United Homebrewers - President by inverse coup when the old president ousted himself.
AHA Member since 2006
BJCP: B0958

Offline guido

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 219
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2013, 07:12:11 AM »
I can attest that our club officers are trying their best to drum up interest.  I'm one of the officers.  It seems that hardly anyone in the club brews anymore.  Most of the beers at our meetings are commercial.  I don't expect everyone to have the same level of interest as I do, but the apathy is driving me crazy.  We have seen a few occasional new faces at meetings.  I know we haven't lost our old members to another club.  We ask them "what do you want" from the club. Again, crickets.  It has hurt that two of our more dynamic members have a much lower level of participation.  One has become much more politically active and the other one is trying to open his own brewery.  Our next meeting is at the home of an excellent brewer of Saisons and sours.  I'm hoping will spark some interest.
Well...I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

     -"Roadhouse Blues,"  Jim Morrison

Offline beerrat

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 174
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2013, 02:05:22 PM »
Apathy?  I know we'll never have a club like, say the Maltose Falcons, and I can live with that.  But I'm so frustrated with the apathy.  No one has any initiative. The officers have tried to encourage membership with discounts at LHBS, events, educational presentations, apparel, etc...  We're a stone's throw from the AHA conference this year.  I desperately wanted us to participate in club night.  There was no interest.  We have some great homebrewers, but my wife and I weren't about to single-handedly run our booth.  Sometimes, it seems like we're little more than an organized drinking club.  I've offered to put homebrewer bios and recipes on our newsletters and website to drum up interest and participation.  Crickets.  It's so frustrating.  We have annual dies of $15 and about 25 paid members.  We have a lot more who haven't paid. Our last meetings have had five and six attendees respectively.  Do I need to accept the reality that our club is what it is?  I'm grasping at straws here, folks.

Ah, the joys of volunteer organizations.  I am on the board of a number of non profits, and also involved in a couple local brew clubs.  With an older club, you will have members who on the surface seem apathetic, but really are folk no longer as passionate because they "been there, done that" stuff for years and time for new blood to help and energize.  Other passions replaced home brewing somewhat, and that's ok.  There is room for simply having a few beers with some old friends as part of the club. 

So when I joined, I asked myself, "what do I want to get out of a club?" What is the club I want to be part of, be proud of?  Then make it so.... with 1-2 others in the group that felt the same way we began executing.  You cannot make someone feel as passionate about something as you do, they have to come to it on their own.  So build it and they will come.  Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm - disappointment and frustration will not attract folk.

It sound like your group was similar in terms of actually having a good foundation  2-3 key events that have been going on for years, and a monthly meeting place with damn fine beers.

Building on those and see what the mix is for all these elements at every one: education, fun, social, club awareness and growth.

Monthly meetings - Still a social beer tasting event, but with an educational topic at every/every other for the first 1/3 of the meeting, then sharing home-brews - providing/getting feedback from experience brewers is a big perk to new folk; while socializing for the remaining portion. 

Brew day events - either at a member house or at a local homebrew shop - a way to introduce hobby and the club. Invite the press to attend it, new members or just interested folk, and have someone be there to engage them and explain what going on.

Competitions -good for internal bragging rights, or against that other local local brew clubs. Malt madness and War of the Worts two good ones for the PA clubs!  Enter comps yourself - start bringing back ribbons and you get enthusiasm from others.  Leads into education session on styles, what makes a good beer per BJCP, process discussions, etc.  Our club judges at a local country fair's homebrew contest and that is always fun and engaging for new and old when you talk about the winners and the rival clubs you beat ;-).

Road shows - demo's/speaking at local homebrew shops, beer festivals, historical, rotary, lions club etc about how to homebrew usually draws a few new people to the hobby. Sampling even more compelling.

Not sure what radio, press, or local TV you have out there, but makes friends with them.  They make good celebrity judges and will promote your events and hobby.

For any any of these you just need 2-3 folk to do it, other will jump in when it looks like fun.  Don't try to do more than what you have volunteers for, that will lead to frustration and burn out.  Do small things really well.

We been executing on this for the past 4 years and our member growth and event turn out has been very good.  A number of new faces at our meetings that have been engaging the older members for feedback bridges the gap you have.

Hope this helps.  Perhaps we'll see you at Club night.

Good luck!

Offline reverseapachemaster

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 909
    • View Profile
    • Brain Sparging on Brewing
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2013, 11:08:09 AM »
Your organization may not be big enough on its own to have a critical mass of people willing to be incredibly involved in club operations although I do agree the club needs to be more forceful about getting people to pay dues or acknowledge they are no longer allowed to participate. Could you form sort of an alliance with other smaller clubs in your area to facilitate operational tasks? If there are a few clubs within a reasonable area with small membership then there is probably 1-2 people in each club willing to do some work. Enough of those people come together and you have a very effective group of leaders.
Heck yeah I blog about homebrewing: Brain Sparging on Brewing but I'm also a lawyer: The Kielich Law Firm

Offline pepperford

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 8
    • View Profile
Re: Do other clubs have this problem?
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2013, 06:17:08 PM »
 If you think the home brew club is becoming a commercial drinking club, I suggest contacting the brewers in the club, and start another one. Participating in club night or the hospitality suite might be the event to bring the new group together. If you don't think your new club can pull it off, try working with another local club just to get the ball rolling.
 Start insisting the loafers pay the dues. After 3 meetings, no dues no meeting. Meetings are for members and new recruiters only.
 Try a big brew day. Contact your local home brew store and see if you can get a discount for the group if you buy all at once. Agree on a kit and each person changes the hops or yeast. This gives the club something to drink together.
 When you hear a member is doing anything out of the ordinary, ask they do a presentation about it. Be persistent and don't let get away. Find out everyone's favorite part of brewing and ask them to present about that topic. Push members to get involved. Try and have people that don't bring home brew to bring it in. Let them know you don't need to have a blichmann to brew great beer, or be all grain for that matter.
Your probably going to lose some members, but if they just drink and don't brew it's just a drinking club.
 Good luck