Do you have an interest or a hobby that is not catered for in your local area?
Perhaps you love to paint, read, craft or debate and are looking for a like-minded group of people to share your interest?
Starting your own club may attract the enthusiasts you are looking for and provide a friendship base that will last for years to come.
Planning for a new club
Creating a successful club or social group starts with laying the correct foundations. Planning is a crucial first step to get your organisation off to the best possible start.
- Research what is already available in your area. Is there a struggling, little-publicised club or social group that already serves your interest and would benefit from your energy and enthusiasm to get it back on its feet? It may be easier to help an existing club grow than set something up in direct competition.
- If nothing already exists, find out whether there is a demand in your area for the club you want. Place posters in places likely to be visited by potential members, for example in libraries, supermarkets, post offices, wool shops (for a craft club), health centre (for a beginners’ walking group) or book shop (for clubs relating to reading or writing). Post online in hyper-local Facebook groups or the nextdoor site for your area. When using these methods to reach people, only use contact details that you are happy to have in the public domain; it may be sensible not to broadcast your landline telephone number and you might prefer to create a brand new email address to use solely for gathering replies.
- When you have a few replies, hold an initial meeting of interested people. This could be done in a coffee shop or pub rather than paying to hire a room or using your own home. Use the meeting to find out what the potential members want from the club – they may have good ideas that you hadn’t thought of. Have a bit of fun and break the ice by brainstorming a name for the club.
Structuring a new club
Once you’ve determined the new club is viable, it’s time to decide whether it needs a formal structure with a committee, bank account and constitution or whether it can be run on an informal basis. The deciding factor is likely to be whether or not the group will need to pay to hire a room, bring in outside speakers or buy equipment.
If the club needs money then it will need a treasurer and a bank account and other committee members and a constitution to ensure that everything is run properly. If the club can be run informally in a space with no charge then it may be enough to simply have a couple of people willing to take charge of arranging dates and acting as a central point of contact.
An example of the first type of club is an art group taking place in a church hall and providing easels for members to use and occasionally booking outside tutors, models and exhibition space. An example of the second type of club is a small group meeting in each other’s homes or cafes to discuss the books they have read.
In either case, care must be taken to ensure that members’ contact details are securely stored according to GDPR legislation.
Marketing and publicising a new club
Once the new club is up and running, with a founder membership from those that attended the initial meeting, it’s time to attract more members and get the group buzzing. Effective publicity requires a several-pronged approach:
- Try a re-run of the original poster and online campaign giving more detail about the group that has been started. Concentrate publicity on the locations/websites that brought in the most founder members.
- Invite the local paper to take part in and report on one of your meetings. Be sure to get as many of your founder members in attendance as possible in order to present an enthusiastic image for a press photo.
- Create a website or Facebook page. The first port of call for people looking for a particular club in their area is the internet. This means that a website or Facebook page is essential in order to be discovered. There are many free website providers that allow you to build your own website without a vast amount of technical knowledge – or perhaps one of your founder members is a computer whizz? Alternatively, a Facebook page may be easier to manage. A Facebook page is different to an ordinary Facebook personal account. Usually, only friends can see a personal account but anyone can see a Page – which makes a Facebook Page a useful publicity tool for a club.
Financial support for clubs
If money is necessary to start and run your club it may be possible to apply for financial help in the form of grants or sponsorship.
This is particularly true if you can show a tangible benefit to the community or to the club’s members from your activities – for example, will the club reduce social isolation, improve mental health or care for the environment? Sources to investigate are your local Rotary club, the National Lottery, or community charities local to your area.
If financial support isn’t available for your club’s activities, try negotiating a discount with a local retailer. For example, an art supplies shop might offer your art club members a discount or the book shop might offer you a discount (and perhaps a place to meet) if you regularly order twelve copies of a book.
Create an online club
The Covid epidemic highlighted the benefits of online tools for socialising but even without a pandemic, there are good reasons to continue with this method of meeting people.
Perhaps leaving the house is difficult because you are a carer or have mobility problems. Perhaps your interest is too specialist to generate enough interest locally and you want to draw from a bigger pool of people. Or perhaps you enjoy the stimulation of mixing with people from outside your local catchment area.
If the club or social group you’d love to belong to doesn’t yet exist, create it! There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.