Author Topic: Dealing with Club Growth  (Read 15964 times)

Offline dbeechum

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Dealing with Club Growth
« on: June 20, 2011, 01:09:34 PM »
So, one of the things that struck me out of our panel on Saturday was the number of clubs out there dealing with the issues of fantastic growth. Going from 10 to 50 members, etc. Let's talk about what sort of challenges that clubs will face

There are a number of issues with this that I can think of:

1) Meeting places - where to meet now that you have that many more folks
2) Dues - collecting them?
3) Structuring - how organized, how loose?
4) liability
5) The whole "brewers" vs. "drinkers" debate.

In the Falcons we've dealt with #5 for a long time and for a while some folks wanted to have a way to require that you be a brewer to be a member. For us though we have a number of older members who are active, helpful and awesome and who just don't have the time for brewing. To us it didn't seem fair or very warm and friendly to tell them to get grab a kettle or go take a hike. Ultimately that got incorporated into our newest bylaws (Maltose Falcons Bylaws) and the purpose statement of the club:

The purpose of the MALTOSE FALCONS HOME BREWING SOCIETY shall be to encourage all members:
To mature as brewers and beer enthusiasts;
To promote the dissemination of knowledge in the art of brewing;
To encourage and reward individuals dedicated to the brewing arts;
To educate the beer connoisseur in identifying the components of beers;
To foster the responsible use of the products of our craft; and
To celebrate the fruits of our labors.
 

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Offline weithman5

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2011, 01:27:52 PM »
i have been struggling with joining a club for growth reasons. there are two in my area. one has grown very quickly and on their website they talk about the number of members. to me it is already to big and busy.  good for them but i like smaller crowds. one of the others i emailed - club closed to new members.  growing pains abound
Don AHA member

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2011, 01:30:55 PM »
You can always start your own . . . find a couple of brewers you like and just start meeting.  You're a club.

Register on the AHA site too though, it can help people find you.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline weithman5

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2011, 01:50:55 PM »
i have thought about that. especially as i have found a good 8-10 people in my area that are not members of any club.  of course, some live in the neihborhood and it is easy to just get together and bs.
Don AHA member

Offline dbeechum

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2011, 02:12:47 PM »
Don't laugh, but that's a pretty good foundation on which to build the basics. Naturally over time, if you want the organization to become self-sustaining there'll need to be both growth and incorporation of new members into the group. Otherwise things will just die off whenever you grow bored or enough of your neighborhood members do.

Also, as you define your club's culture think long and hard about not setting it up as in opposition to the larger club.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2011, 02:13:56 PM »
i have thought about that. especially as i have found a good 8-10 people in my area that are not members of any club.  of course, some live in the neihborhood and it is easy to just get together and bs.
Sounds like you already have a club then.  They don't all have to have a formal agenda, one of my clubs is just 6-12 of us meeting at a brewery every month and sharing beers.  No dues, no bylaws, no officers, and events are typically limited to an email saying "I'm brewing if anyone wants to come help".
Tom Schmidlin

Offline bobby_m

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2011, 11:38:33 AM »
I've been living this topic for at least 3 years now. We went from around 20 to 60 in about a year and a half. First, realize that most of the people that were around for a couple years before the explosive growth are probably going to be most affected and put off by the growth while most of the new people will feel at home with more new people.

My advice is to accept that growth is inevitable and account for it ahead of time. I realize some clubs want to be as "Papazian" as possible and not worry about structure or bylaws but I promise you that it's easier to put it all in place before growth starts or gets out of hand.

When growth is due primarily to local, active, participating members (i.e. people that want to show up to meetings), I think there are two primary paths to take. 1) Select a meeting location to stick with and size the club based on the space available. 2) Grow organically and select meeting locations as necessary.

This doesn't address the pros and cons of smaller or larger clubs at all. It's just that you can't commit to a restrictive meeting location AND have no growth plan in place at the same time. Sardines don't make happy members.


When we finally realized that we had 60 members, no growth strategy, no room left and no accepted form of decision making/conflict resolution, we had a near meltdown. People who wanted to affect change were frustrated. The president at the time suggested we form a steering committee to spread out some of the work of the officers and the first goal was to draft bylaws.

I can post more about our bylaws on the other thread, but here are the highlights of our current structure:

President, Treasurer, Secretary are the three officers. Additional steering members are the most recent ex-president and two additional elected representatives. Any suggestions or grievances get made to the committee and they first have a shot at solving it with full consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, it goes to a full club vote. It's sort of democratic in a way, but some faith is put on elected officials to keep petty crap from clogging the meeting.

We don't accept beer tourists into the club. We've decided through majority vote that we like our smaller meeting location (a brew pub) and therefore must cap membership. The club is focused on homebrewing so you have to a be a homebrewer to join. Of course, we probably wouldn't be this restrictive if we had room for more people.


Bobby
www.WhalesBrewClub.com
« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 11:51:47 AM by bobby_m »

Offline euge

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2011, 12:09:46 PM »
You can always start your own . . . find a couple of brewers you like and just start meeting.  You're a club.

Register on the AHA site too though, it can help people find you.

I'm not much of a "joiner". Can I form my own club and be the only member? 8)

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2011, 01:22:50 PM »
You can always start your own . . . find a couple of brewers you like and just start meeting.  You're a club.

Register on the AHA site too though, it can help people find you.

I'm not much of a "joiner". Can I form my own club and be the only member? 8)


If it works for you euge, if works for me.  You're a club now. :)
Tom Schmidlin

Offline euge

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2011, 01:30:37 PM »
I'd rather be a corporation but a club will do for now. ::)
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline alikocho

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2011, 11:57:25 AM »
You can always start your own . . . find a couple of brewers you like and just start meeting.  You're a club.

Register on the AHA site too though, it can help people find you.

I'm not much of a "joiner". Can I form my own club and be the only member? 8)



Yes, but conversations will be a little onesided ;)
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Offline Kit B

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2011, 12:43:20 PM »
You can always start your own . . . find a couple of brewers you like and just start meeting.  You're a club.

Register on the AHA site too though, it can help people find you.

I'm not much of a "joiner". Can I form my own club and be the only member? 8)

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I'll volunteer to second anything you got...
Just PM me & I'll enthusiastically PM back "2nd".

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Offline roxanne

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2011, 04:23:09 PM »
While one option is to start a new club - another option is to go to a meeting or event as a guest.  Most clubs have a provision for new people to come to 1-2 meetings before needing to join.  This way - you can get a feel for the club, how many people REALLY attend meetings and the 'personality' of the club.  You may find that you like a lot of the events the club does - even if you aren't a monthly meeting type of person.

We also have people in our club who are members of another club, and their more informal group of 6-ish.  Having multiple options can give you the type of activities you prefer.  I'd just encourage you to go beyond the 'numbers'.  You may have done this already - but it doesn't hurt to check them out beyond their website.
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Offline olllllo

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2011, 10:26:04 AM »
Our club exploded in growth a few years ago. We're now one of the largest clubs in the country.
I can't speak on what happened during the rapid growth period since I wasn't on the board at the time. The current board inherited this homebrewing machine.

Here's what I can tell you.

1) If you aren't growing, you're dying. Every aspect of the homebrewing hobby is growing. Craft beer is growing. You merely have to exist to grow. If you're not, you might be headed for trouble. Another club in our area has been shrinking; losing brewers; struggling to do the things they used to love to do.

2) Know the limits of your growth. There is a size your club can grow to where you can still meet in people's homes. It's different for each club. You may be able to meet at a business , bar, brewery or restaurant. Once you have 100 people coming consistently to your meetings, things begin to be uncomfortable in those types of environments. Homes become too small, you become too dependent on one business. Insurance and liability become an issue. Your state DLLC (or ABC) starts to become interested. We're beyond this point as a club, we have to rent space to meet. Once this happens several things change.

a) You will most certainly want insurance if you don't already have it. We have a policy for our club with liquor liability. It wasn't easy to come by, but it has to be done once you get large.

b) At some point, growing your club through dues alone will not be sustainable. You will have to raise money through raffles, merchandise, events and flat out begging industry businesses. Revenues gained where homebrew is given away are fairly risky. It only takes one agent to decide it's against the law. A couple of things that help us are selling overall and event sponsorship to breweries, having a business give a percentage of our business back to the club and raffles. Begin to raise funds that are not dependent on your dues.

c) Recognize that you are as large as many industry businesses like homebrew stores, breweries, bars. As a member, your group is a club and it should have a club feel. As a board member, you need to look at it as a business or at the very least a well run non-profit. Don't run the club with a hobby mentality. It's a subtle mindset thing, but I assure you, it changes your focus.

3) If you have a Brewer's Guild in your state, see if you can join it. If there isn't one, start one. As a club that is growing, your club has significant value to the craft beer industry. Don't be afraid to market your selves to them. I'm sure you're already getting things like glassware, shirts, etc from places. Ask them what they'd like to see in return. Find out if they'd be willing to offer more. Glassware is a nice raffle item, but maybe the brewery is willing to offer more for formal recognition by the club. Position your club as a group of opinion-makers in your local beer scene. Encourage your members to let businesses know that they are from your club. Formalize discount programs and provide recognition for businesses that participate.

4) Even though we are one large club, we have several informal clubs within that club. Recognize those groups and work with the leaders of those groups to work on projects. Sub-groups occur in even the smallest clubs, so don't think that this is a large club only trait.

5) Look for ways to incorporate growth into your by-laws. We recently put in a clause that allow the board to expand when membership expands and contracts if membership declines. If you are going to grow or limit growth tie those to certain conditions (i.e. So long as we are able to meet at x business, our maximum growth will be y).

That's off the top of my head this AM. More to come.


Offline brandt99

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Re: Dealing with Club Growth
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2011, 02:24:21 PM »
We're among those dealing with rapid growth and a change from "what it used to be". Thought we could just manage it through sponsorship and quarterly membership acceptance dates, but starting to realize it's not going to work. Don't want to move from our excellent meeting place that we will outgrow so I'm seriously considering suggesting capping membership.
But until then, has anyone ever dealt with turning down someone wanting to join? Our recent monthly meeting gave me pause when one of our members brought some friends who just don't seem to be a good fit. If first impressions are right, any experience on saying "we don't want you"?
Thanks for starting this, Drew. I got a lot from the NHC session.
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