A Winning Club

A Winning Club  (11/11) 
By: Frank Neumayer

Question: I’ve shot at many different clubs across the country. Some were great, while others I’d never go back to. I have a few ideas of what makes a club enjoyable, but from your experience, what do you think makes for a successful gun club?


Answer: For a gun club to be successful, it all comes down to its members! The truth rests with just how well those members collectively interact to accomplish the club’s goals and objectives. A club can have hundreds of members, but if there’s no established purpose or mission statement; no stated goals or objectives; no established expectations that come with being a member; then the club will function like a ship at sea without a course. Good planning, leadership, and support become the main factors if a club hopes to be successful. In most clubs, you’ll find a small group of people who always end-up actively engaged in trying get everything done that needs to get done. This will always become a short-lived situation.  


     Based on my experience, only about 15-20% of a club’s membership is actively involved in club operations and support. Most commonly these people become officers, directors, or that reliable corps of volunteers. Because of this, those “hardy few” are constantly being asked to do more and more, and soon they become overwhelmed and burned-out. When this happens, clubs will start struggling at trying to support all of the venues and activities they have to offer. The first thing to slide is usually facilities and equipment maintenance… soon after other things start to follow.


     A solid volunteer group is so important to a clubs success that I think clubs need to seriously consider, as a condition of membership, that “every” member participate in a certain number of support activities per year. These activities can be volunteering for work parties, taking-on a small project or two from start to finish, or simply helping in the support of a few registered events. The tasks can be simple and the quantities small but when you add it all up… a lot can get accomplished. I’ve even heard of multi-level memberships being offered, where a member can choose to pay “twice” the annual dues and then never be asked or expected to volunteer for anything at anytime? Overall, I believe there are three major factors that make for a winning club. Let’s take each factor individually and look at the details involved.


Factor 1:     Is your club attractive, appealing, and inviting to all those who come to shoot? How well does your club make that first impression? To be successful a club needs to put forth a welcome and inviting attitude to every visitor, all the time. In my travels, when I’ve come across a club that is well kept and maintained, regardless of its size or number of venues, right away I’ll sense that feeling of pride and ownership coming from its members. It’s like being greeted at a new church with open friendship and gratitude… it goes a long way in getting people to feel comfortable and want to come back. Couple that with a desire to openly share all the great attributes their club has to offer, and you end-up with a winning combination.


Factor 2:     Does your club accommodate and support shooter expectations? This boils down to what your club actually has to offer. Aside from the basic target venues, this usually includes providing things like shooting instruction, gun rentals, ammo, components, a pro-shop, food and beverages, youth activities, or RV accommodations. In all, is your club able to provide the local shooter base with all that they want and expect? A small trap or skeet club can be just as successful as a large one. It’s all in knowing your market and providing the best possible products and services you can.  


     Clubs will try hard to convey that personal family atmosphere, yet at the same time they need to stay focused on operating like a small business. Growth and expansion must be carefully planned and executed. Some clubs will work so hard to offer so much that they simply end up out growing their support structure. When hopes, plans, and desires don’t align with reality, things will get spread too thin, and all of a sudden there’s not enough money or support personnel to properly run everything. The focus and direction of your club falls directly upon the quality of its leadership… so at every opportunity, choose your officers and directors wisely.  


Factor 3:     Does your club offer shooters value and affordability? Are the prices and fees for everything you offer reasonable, fair, and competitive? The ability to participate in clay target shooting, like many other sports, depends largely on a shooter’s discretionary income or family budget. All across the country, the current economic situation is having a dramatic effect on the monies individuals or families have available for any and all types of recreational activities. Even though shooting is relatively inexpensive when compared to other sports, when you add in multiple shooters, guns, equipment, shells and components, the costs can be just too overwhelming for many shooters or families to afford.


     Clubs need to always keep this fact in mind and make certain they don’t price themselves right out of the picture. Large profits shouldn’t be expected from ammo and component pricing. Clubs make their money by keeping targets in the air, and this relates directly to maintaining modest target fees and ammo prices. Keeping squads moving through the venues and throwing as many targets as possible should be the primary focus of daily club operations, all other activities and considerations can follow.


     Again, these are just my thoughts on what makes for a winning club. If you want shooters to keep coming back, then a good “first impression” is the best place to start. Be warm, friendly, and welcoming to all those who come out. Don’t hesitate to show-off your pride and satisfaction in your club, and always make certain to express gratitude to all those who choose to visit. Make sure that everything you have to offer is affordable and value-added. Here’s the bottom line! Clubs needs to provide every shooter that comes out with the very best shooting experience possible. You want satisfied shooters promoting your club in a positive light long after they leave. As a shooter, when I find a club that’s well kept; friendly and inviting; with a good choice of venues; and properly set targets; where I can get in all the shooting I want for that day; and where prices and fees are fair and reasonable… then you’ll see me coming back to that club again and again.


     If you’d like more information visit my website at www.claybrakn.com, or if you have a specific question send me an email at claybrakn@msn.com and I’ll do my best to get it answered.