Community Outdoor Clubs
Making Anglers, Hunters and Outdoor Users at Home in Society:
The Club Concept Revitalized - April 2008
Recruitment and Retention requires frequent and local activities with mentors – clubs fill the void
What do studies and professionals say are the keys to recruitment and retention?
• A close support group of family and friends. Hunters make hunters! Anglers make anglers! Parents in the outdoors can get kids into the outdoors!
• Outdoor activities must favorably compete with the modern alternatives.
Clubs can provide social contacts, reinforcement and support
• Rod and gun clubs rose in prominence in the 1800s, 1930s
• Local clubs were asked to affiliate nationally and take action on behalf of angling, hunting, wildlife, and conservation of the land.
• Environmental groups sprouted in the 1960s for funding and lobbying
• Now is the time for clubs to come to our aid again by asking our many agencies and unaffiliated organization to join forces and promote local clubs.
What club model could we follow?
• European hunting clubs show the value of building social capital, mentoring, and the power of clubs to sustain hunting throughout the expansion of humans.
• Civic clubs, such as Rotary International, give us insights into the value of weekly meetings, extensive committee structures and civic action as a mission.
• Our own heritage of rod and gun clubs and the foundation and existing network to begin new efforts.
Ten considerations to bring the power of clubs to the people and people to the clubs
1. Give hunters a local home
2. Start with local clubs and organizations
3. Hold weekly meetings with broad audience appeal
4. State and federal agencies can support clubs and their programs
5. Club members need a direct tie to the land and management of lands and wildlife
6. Local and national businesses should support clubs
7. Outdoor media should be part of recruitment and retention by supporting clubs
8. People value of proximity and repetition and miss events when they cannot attend
9. People want to anticipate and prepare for events, enjoy then, then talk about them
10. Clubs provide the social network that is currently missing
Model clubs should have the following attributes:
• Support conservation and outdoor responsibility and stewardship
• Have personal and social reasons for existing: visions with dreams and goals
• Develop concrete objectives for conservation and enjoyment
• Create an atmosphere that welcomes and nurtures the new and inexperienced
• Maintain a broad base of leaders and competent officers
• Use sound organizational structures with relevant functions
• Actively recruit, develop and retain members
• Conduct interesting and useful meetings and programs
• Activate committees to carry out diverse programs
• Encourage diverse participants, young and old, male and female
• Gain and earn support from governments, businesses and the community at large
• Cooperate with existing angling, conservation, shooting, and hunting groups
Some precautions about clubs but not a reason to avoid clubs
• Hunters and people in general have decreased their civic engagement and lost some social capital.
• Joining clubs is no guarantee.
• Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone examined 500,000 interviews dealing with civic participation and reported that society has become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and social structures including the PTA, 4-H, church, civic groups, recreation clubs, political parties, or bowling leagues.
• Putnam wrote not to discourage club involvement but rather to show that decreasing civic engagement wasn’t good. He encouraged clubs.
Doers make Doers! Clubs provide what anglers, hunters and other users say they need: places to go and a support base of mentors. Clubs can provide what education theory recommends: positive experiences with repeated inputs over time. Club leaders already exist that can form the foundation for socialization of hunters and shooters. The club concept worked in the past and should work even better today but leadership must meet the challenges with strong, unified and persistent actions. There aren’t many new ideas in world to discover and sometimes we fail to find solutions that are immediately before us because we are looking for something that does not exist. Success with conservation clubs would improve if every related agency and organization in every state and province partnered with outdoor businesses to make it their goal to encourage the club concept. Good ideas need proper timing to germinate and ideas take time to mature. Clubs have the components for successful recruitment and retention: interested people as mentors, places to go, topics of mutual interest to discuss, and leaders who can take the concept to a higher level.
The revitalized clubs should become part of weekly socialization. Not attending the events should be felt as a distinct loss.