Guest Article

Transforming Organizational Psychology and Club Programming Concepts

Master Club Advisors Club Leadership Digest

by Don E. Vance, CCM – View Bio

October 2010

There is a tremendous population shift underway in our country with the various age and cultural demographic changes that will modify the way we do business in our private clubs well into the future. Studies have shown that our 65 year old age group will double from 40 million to 89 million and from 13 percent of the population to 20 percent by the year 2050. While this seems like a long way off, the impact that this means to our economical outlook, and how we do business in our clubs will be impacting and must be dealt with today.

A recent study from Stanford University on the longevity of Americans living longer in our society states that Americans will continue to “Age Up” for decades into the future. With medicine and wellness practices, Americans are living much longer. With this change, there will be a transformation of organizational psychology and club programming concepts that will have a major impact not only with government policies and programs like Social Security benefits and Medicare but us as club managers and CEOs of our organizations with how we conduct business.

The realization of what this means to the business of private clubs is significant. Our entire market is changing clubs across the country. As we experience continued growth of our “Waiting to Resign Lists” with members wanting to get out of the club, for various reasons, we must begin to pay attention to how we deal with this problem. As we all know, our clubs operate with dues as our primary source of income. Without this revenue stream, we will not be able to operate. Last year alone, over 400 clubs closed their doors for various reasons. This is an alarming rate of closures in which we need to be concerned about.

The aging demographics of our membership coupled with the current global financial crisis, along with our member’s investment portfolios shrinking by 25 percent or more is causing a major transformation of the wealth distribution in our clubs. The way we are conducting business today will be outdated in the very near future. Our senior members are living longer and are spending more time at our clubs, but they are spending less money.

Several clubs have discounted their dues for seniors in an attempt to keep this age group active at their clubs and off the waiting to resign list. The reasoning is that this membership group has already paid their dues so to speak, but as younger members soon realize that the senior group is using the club more than they are, there begins to be resentment among the membership creating different factions. The younger members are feeling like they are paying the way for the senior member.

We need to ask ourselves if discounting the dues for senior members is the business practice or not or are there other measures we can take to better deal with this concern. What programs do you have in place to meet the needs and demands of this aging group? Are these programs sufficient and do they add value to the lives of our senior members, giving them a reason to continue being members of your club? A term “Productive Aging” is becoming the buzz word amongst our aging members 50 years and older.

Many clubs are being proactive and are already planning for the next few decades and how to better serve their aging membership, while still recruiting younger members, which are the future of our clubs. There is no doubt that we have age and cultural differences in our clubs. Our senior members do not desire to dine or be near the younger members and their young children, so we must develop seating areas or dedicate specific dining rooms in our clubs to accommodate this need.

What other programs are we developing to better serve our aging membership? Below are several programming ideas for you to consider implementing in your clubs for this age group.

Investment groups made up of members

  • Book clubs – many clubs are creating their own personal libraries that are situated in unused areas of their clubs, which has become popular with members
  • Wine clubs
  • Travel clubs
  • Hiking or outdoor recreation and fitness programs
  • Cooking classes – heart healthy cuisine
  • Organic gardening – several clubs are providing areas on club grounds for those members to have their own personal garden that they maintain
  • Self defense training – how to avoid an attack in the mall parking lot (hopefully not your club parking lot)
  • Writing and poetry groups
  • Member focus groups – to share cultural and local lore
  • Hobbies and craft groups
  • Health, nutrition and wellness classes
  • Classes on how to retrofit your home to prepare for aging
  • Outdoor stargazing events
  • Fly fishing classes
  • Cycling groups
  • Card groups (besides bridge)
  • Story telling and oral history presentations – lecture series
  • Mental exercise groups – crossword puzzle competitions
  • Philanthropy groups – big brother and big sister groups
  • Community outreach groups
  • Volunteer groups – to clean up neighborhoods a side streets and waterways around your club
  • Club historical preservation societies to gather your club’s history / arcives
  • Technology – computer classes
  • Mystery theme dinners
  • Comedy night
  • Movie nights for families
  • Pet grooming classes
  • Pet obedience training (along with member’s and their kids as well)
  • Care giver programs
  • Club concierge services
  • Car wash – on sight to wash, wax and detail members cars
  • Relationship building programs – (matching single members together)
  • Etiquette and formal dining classes
  • Retrofit your club with handicap accessibility
  • Sport shooting – clays events
  • Kayak and canoe clubs
  • Bus trips to local museums, art exhibits and sporting activities
  • Coffee shops – Wi-Fi Internet access in your clubs
  • Music lessons – how many members would like to learn how to play the piano but feel they are too old to learn but are capable?
  • Discovery nature center in your club
  • Nature walks on club property – with signs marking plants and trees along with a nature walk book to identify foliage
  • Natural healing and wellness classes
  • Business center to include access to a club computer, fax machine, photo copy machine and so forth
  • Genealogy research classes
  • Recipe book – your club members personal recipes
  • Club history book
  • Club member personal history book – let your members tell their stories
  • Shopping trips
  • Photography clubs

Adding these types of programs for your entire membership to enjoy will support their need to remain as members ensuring the future of your club.

Unemployment Reaches an all time High for our Senior Members:

Surprisingly many members of your club over the age of 55 are unemployed but still keep their club memberships as a resource for networking, while conducting their job search, along with a method of “escapism” getting their minds off of the realities of being unemployed. The unemployment figures for those over the age of 55 were at 3 percent unemployment rate for 2001 and are now at 6.9 percent in 2010. One out of six people in America are currently unemployed. The hidden factor not mentioned are those who are “under employed”, working less than 40 hours per week. In addition based on a study by Robert Half Management and Consulting Group, those who are employed working with MBA’s and higher education credentials are working at half the price of their actual worth based on their prior salaries before this economic downturn.

Think about how these figures have had an adverse impact on your members at your clubs. Does your club provide any type of outplacement programs for those members who are unemployed? While most of our clubs are developed for social and recreational use only and our club charters prohibit use of the club for business purposes, we all know that the truth is many of our members have greatly benefitted from being a member of the club to develop their businesses, along with their personal lives. A few programs to consider supporting your unemployed members are as follows:

  • Job hunting classes and networking groups
  • Job search webinars
  • On line social networking – blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn networks
  • Employer match programs – job boards

Many of your employed members may be seeking talent already in your club whom are members that are unemployed. Why not try to match them with jobs in these markets?

“We must provide recreational diversions and added value programs to our members in order to keep them engaged and active in our clubs.”

Our private clubs must become a local community that not only offers golf, tennis, dining and recreational activities, but we must also understand and meet the social and economic needs of our membership. The more services and programs we can provide our members, the less they will rely on other outside sources, which will keep them at our clubs. As the saying goes, we must become all things to all people!