Treat your volunteers like gold- even if you lose $$ on them. Feed em, give em jobs they ask for, give em T-shirts/polos for each day worked. Volunteer "bucks" programs help, especially in these growing hard economic times. Be inclusive and dont work them too long. As a former long time volunteer I grew incensed after watching the volunteer "coordinator" driving around in her golf cart, kissing up to judges/officials, and NOT taking care of the volunteers (water, bathroom breaks, etc). You need to show club members WIIFM to attract them and then treat them like gold,
I belong to a local club that cannot even muster up enough enthuasium to become a GMO. We try to put on one schooling show a year and do clinics if we can find a clinician to come to our dressage desert of an area. Not that long ago we could do a 2 ring show this past year we barely had enough entries to make it to the afternoon. Meetings also are poorly attended despite varied locations and offerings. Last month: wine and cheese planning meeting the same old group. This month local resturant with a lecture from a local Vet. I'm not too hopeful for this one either. I have been involved for many years and each year gets worse...fewer new faces and loosing old ones. I will be following closely to see if others have good ideas.
I used to volunteer for my chapter, however no longer do. Why? Well, it is the situation mentioned where there is an entrenched set of "ladies" who appear to think it is their private club. When I started volunteering, scribes at shows etc always got a nice thank you note and a small Target gift card; brilliant. After a changing of the guard, one might say coup, never got so much as lunch or a bottle of water. This is even with multiple judges asking for the scribes to get something after they were handed a drink, goodie bag, lunch ticket. I seem to remember words along the lines of "if you don't treat your volunteers right, you won't get any".
The straw that broke the camel's back was when I noticed many unusual rides out of order for the entrenched yet NOBODY I know was accomodated for the smallest schedule requests (people trailering in together, etc) and one friend had rides over 6 hours apart. This was a single rated show, with 2 rings. REALLY?
Rant over now.
OP, Have you considered surveying your membership to ask them what they want out of the GMO and what they are willing to put into it?
Thanks Guys, all good useful info.
We have tried asking the membership what do they want, we don't get many replies, but in general they say, clinics, schooling shows, evening talks, but then no-one comes to them.
We have a website and a facebook page, and a newsletter, which I hope folks read and use.
The Board is a bit heavy with older more entrenched members, maybe that's the problem, and we do have a lot of upper level riders, maybe they are part of the problem.
But I am learning lots reading all the replies. My heart sinks at the thought of calling all the members, I am not fond of phone calls. A phone tree might help.
Keep em coming.
Melyni (PhD) PAS, Dipl. ACAN.
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I am a past president of the local GMO. Ours is one the very first so it has an almost 40 year history to it. Being Pres. was not a hard job but did take up way much more time than I thought it would. The biggest stress was Year End Awards and filling clinics/shows. I was always stressed about money. The biggest negative for me is that I wanted to put on clinics/shows or educational opportunities and when we did there was so little interest and commitment that it was a huge let down and disappointment. The only thing that kept me willing to stay the course was that the other board members were still positive and willing. We had a lot of good ideas but they were not always easy to bring to fruition.
I agree with what others have said. I did ask the members at the meetings what they wanted. Same thing, awards, clinics (who specifically, if we could get them) and shows. The clinics we put on we subsidized in part but it was still expensive (Olympian for one & Olympic judge for another) and was still hard to fill.
We did host a recognized ("S" judge) dressage show that was also barely filled enough to cover costs and that was only with a huge contribution by a wonderfully dedicated and long term member, this in an area with only 3 other recognized shows on the calendar for the year! This year a barn owner offered to pay for ANY member yearly dues if they attended all 3 of her shows + the LIDCTA show. I think I was the only one who did that!
Part of the problem in out area is that there is another club that hosts unrecognized dressage shows, as well as Western shows and H/J shows. They have a much bigger membership due to the spread of disciplines. They have their own year end awards.
We do count their shows for our awards as they use a R judge.
We did have monthly board meetings that were open to all and we tried to have a couple of member events 2x a year but again despite emails, posting on websites etc they were still not much of a draw.
We actually did away with required volunteer time to be qualified for awards as people did not want to do it and so would not join.
Sigh.... We did away with the trainer and owner must be members in order for rider to qualify rule as well for the same reason.
So the trainers I talk to all say "I should join" but I think just don't want to "waste" the money. I encourage them to get their clients to join but it is the same response. I tried reaching out to the local Pony Clubs but again no interest. I tried reaching out to the event riders, of which there are even less of, and again no interest.
It is always the same small, dedicated group who supports the club and wants it to continue but even with a FB page and emails and sometimes even phone calls the interest is not there.
I don't know if it is a cultural thing in America the feeling that "Someone will take care of it so I don't need to bother" or the economy or they just don't care. Whatever it is, it is very sad to see. Gone are the days of everyone pitching in to do something, to be part of something bigger and something that will be fun and benefit all.
Sorry to be such a downer. I did appreciate the experience and I did make new friends and contacts and there was a lot of good over all but the lack of interest.
The feeling I get is that the club does not have much to offer besides year end awards. It is like the chicken and the egg. There is interest in the club and people want clinics and meeting and shows but they are expensive to put on, require plenty of man hours but only a few step up and commit to actually attend. So the club loses money and the Board wonders why they bother.
GMO's and "Horse Clubs" deteriorate quickly when they become social groups and cliques. A Club should be professional and friendly. And yes, as Velvet stated earlier, take a deep look at the culture of your core group...is it a clique that dismisses new people or do they manage their group professionally with manners? Are there checks and balances or do the "powers that be" always have their agendas followed but no one elses ideas get a shot? I personally know of some GMO's that need to go to The Rainbow Bridge....die a dignified death and go away...
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One more thought. See if there is interest in reaching out to High School riders and see if a club can be formed where the kids can earn school letter jackets--with the requirement that they do volunteer hours and attend a certain number of shows. Someone told me about a program like that and it attracted a lot of younger people to the association.
Another somthing to consider is setting up some meetings by Skype. There may be many members who just can't get to a meeting an hour away but could sit down for a half-hour or hour on a computer to help organize an event or participate in something. You don't have to have the whole video conference - just voice is fine. Note, you'd probably have to type up detailed instructions on how to load and work Skype, but it's easy.
You may also want to survey your members for how much money they want to spend for a clinic or show or whatever, so that your GMO offerings are in line with what people are willing to spend.
I think you might also be able to do some free stuff. For example, can you corral upper level riders to dedicate 10 minutes of free time to lower level riders at a show/schooling show to go over their test sheet with them? Many lower or intro level riders don't have a trainer at the show and might love the opportunity to talk to someone about a test. Or maybe you could corral those same riders to commit to 15 minutes of warm-up advice for any rider who signs up? Or maybe you could ask them to donate time to, say "x" amount of riders and hold a lottery to assign upper level to lower level rider? These sorts of things are free for everyone, don't take too much of peoples' times, and can really be helpful for people who need the help.