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Picture this: It is an exciting time to be a member at your private club. The grass is green on the golf course; Chef has been rolling out exciting new menu options; Members are back from summer vacations and club utilization is at a high—so high that as members are using the facilities more often, they’re also noticing things they’d like to change. Really, this is a good thing! Facility renovations are a necessary part of maintaining and improving a club’s facilities to prepare for success in the years to come. While this can be very exciting, it also comes with its own challenges.
What’s one of the most critical aspects of ensuring the success of any renovation? Communication. And not just any communication—clear, transparent, and informative communication with all members, not just the Board and Committees. This communication isn’t just a matter of courtesy; it’s a fundamental tool for maintaining trust, managing expectations, and ensuring a positive experience for all involved.
Involving club members in the decision-making process is a strategy that goes beyond practicality; it’s about fostering a profound sense of ownership and inclusivity within a club’s culture. Extending an invitation for members to contribute their thoughts and ideas sends a powerful message: their voices matter. And while clear and transparent communication is important in all aspects of the club experience—be it governance, finance, club news, or events—it is especially crucial during renovation periods, where disruptions and inconveniences can easily lead to dissatisfaction and even member attrition if not well managed.
In fact, clubs that prioritize transparency and keep their members informed are better equipped to prevent these challenges. Members who feel engaged and well-informed are more likely to remain loyal to the club, even when faced with temporary inconveniences. This approach forges a connection between the club and its members that can lead to more satisfactory outcomes that align with member preferences and desires.
“When members feel that their opinions are valued…they become champions of the project. When they are emotionally invested, they help spread the word among their friends and fellow members…”
“When members feel that their opinions are valued and genuinely considered in the renovation plans, they are not just supporters; they become champions of the project,” says Rick Snellinger, President and CEO at Chambers. “It’s all about members talking to members. When they are emotionally invested, they help spread the word among their friends and fellow members at the club.” This leads to members investing not only their financial contributions but also their emotional commitment and enthusiasm, which is especially important when renovation programs require some type of membership vote to be implemented.
Open channels of communication create a platform for members to express their concerns, seek clarification, or offer valuable feedback about the renovation process. There are many ways a club can obtain this feedback from its membership—like focus groups, surveys, roundtable discussions and town hall meetings. But maybe even more important than how is when.
“Members need to be involved in a renovation project from the very beginning,” says Snellinger. “Clear communication starts with the kick-off of the long-term planning process, letting them know they will be kept informed and involved throughout all stages.” Chambers’ planning process often starts with Member Focus Groups, which are hosted by Chambers (not the club) to obtain open, honest, unbiased feedback from members. Snellinger notes, “This is membership’s first opportunity to share their wants, needs and concerns so we can understand what is important to them before we even begin to analyze the facility.”
It’s not our plan, or the Board’s plan, or the Committee’s plan—it’s the Members’ plan.”
This feedback is then reviewed by the planning and design team to develop a list of design considerations for the project. “Once we have a general understanding of members’ priorities, we can begin to form conceptual goals and solutions that respond specifically to their needs,” Snellinger notes. “It’s not our plan, or the Board’s plan, or the Committee’s plan—it’s the Members’ plan.” These goals are validated through a comprehensive Membership Survey, which enables the team to gather quantitative data to steer the direction of the renovation plans.
Once plans are further refined through many meetings with the Planning Committee and vetted by the Board, it is time to present the updated plans to membership in a Town Hall Meeting. Snellinger notes, “We show them the whole picture, from start to finish, including costs and funding, and then ask for their feedback. This provides another touchpoint for members to let them know this is their plan and we truly want their input and direction.”
Once a renovation program is approved, it is easy for clubs to become complacent in their communication efforts. There is a significant amount of time that passes before shovels are actually in the ground and construction begins—design is being documented, details are being refined, permits are being obtained, and more. During this time, it is important to continue consistent communication with members to keep them abreast of progress that is being made even though it is not yet visible to them.
Once into the implementation process, offering regular updates and progress reports allows members to witness the positive changes unfolding as a result of the renovation. By continually highlighting the benefits of the upgrades, clubs can generate excitement and anticipation among their members. These updates serve as a reminder that the short-term disruptions will ultimately lead to a more enjoyable and functional club environment in the long run, reinforcing the notion that the club is committed to delivering an enhanced and enriched experience for its membership.
When unforeseen challenges or delays arise during renovations, transparent communication plays a pivotal role in addressing these issues promptly, honestly, and proactively. It provides members with reassurance that the club is actively managing any obstacles that may arise, and it allows for swift adjustments to the project plan as necessary. By keeping club members in the loop regarding renovation plans, timelines, and potential disruptions, clubs effectively manage their members’ expectations.
“Clear communication about the project’s potential impact on their daily routines goes a long way in avoiding frustration.”
“When members know what to anticipate during the renovation process, they become more understanding and patient,” says Snellinger. “Clear communication about the project’s potential impact on their daily routines goes a long way in avoiding frustration.” In essence, open communication serves as a bridge that not only preserves member satisfaction but also strengthens the club’s sense of community and shared purpose, even in the face of renovation challenges.
Moreover, openly sharing the financial aspects of a renovation project, including budgeting and cost management, exemplifies the club’s fiscal responsibility and accountability to its members. “By providing insight into where members’ financial investment to the project are allocated and how resources are managed,” notes Snellinger, “members gain a deeper understanding of the club’s commitment to financial transparency.” This understanding often translates into greater support for the renovation project, as members see their contributions being used wisely and responsibly.
Ultimately, transparent communication is the cornerstone of trust between a club’s management and members. When members feel well-informed and heard, their confidence in the club’s leadership and decision-making grows. This trust isn’t merely a nicety; it forms the bedrock of a strong and loyal membership base, reinforcing the sense that the club’s management prioritizes the well-being and satisfaction of its members above all else. By prioritizing communication and transparency, clubs can navigate renovations with confidence, ensuring a brighter future for all involved.
Comment below to let us know what has worked best for you to keep members engaged!