i TRAMP  Rejuvenating a tramping club

Nearly 10 years ago, FMC did a ‘focus on clubs’ in the Bulletin; we got back in touch with Kelvin Shaw of the Napier Tramping Club to see what initiatives those FMC articles inspired have worked, and which haven’t.

Kelvin’s original letter was in response to Shaun Barnett’s article, (“Clubs, Membership and FMC” on page 24 of the June 2009 FMC Bulletin) Reviewing his words, it seems that many of the old challenges seem be the same ones that clubs are still working on today.  Below, we’ve re-published Kelvin’s original letter, with a few updates and additions for 2018 from his chat with FMC’s Development Officer, Dan Clearwater. Photos are all sourced from Napier TC’s Facebook page

The ideas from this Outdoor Community blog, and others have been summarised in one document; ‘Attracting and supporting new members‘ right here on Wilderlife’s Outdoor Community resource.

Rejuvenating a Tramping Club

The June 2009 FMC Bulletin focus on clubs struck a chord at Napier Tramping Club (NTC). Our club has a core of keen trampers and is financially robust, but a slow membership decline and steady rise in member’s average age have caused concern. While tramping and walking may be more popular than ever, our club asked: how can we increase and rejuvenate our membership?

The NTC formed a small sub-committee to examine FMC’s checklist. It soon became clear that few knew the club existed. We needed to move closer to potential members. Recruiting new members is a big challenge for tramping clubs. 

While the wrong kind of exposure, on top of the Kawekas, is easy enough to get, how could our club raise our profile?

The first big idea? An instantly recognisable logo. The club ran a competition to design a bumper sticker that attracted 50 entries – not bad, considering the current membership of 55. The winning creation was a bright ‘i TRAMP’ sticker displaying the club website.   

The logo also appears on the club’s business cards, which trampers hand out to others along the track and leave in huts. NTC members wear their i-TRAMP T-shirts in public; members sporting their T-shirts recently trotted along to local half-marathons. We love our new i-TRAMP logo so much that we’re offering it to any interested tramping club. To get the original artwork, just email us (trans@ction.co.nz).

2018 Update: After the initial enthusiasm of the i-TRAMP initiative, the club is ticking along nicely with i-TRAMP letterheads for all club communications, and a healthy stack of i-TRAMP stickers that keep finding their way into hut logbooks. The stickers all have the club web address, as almost all initial contact from potential members is via the website these days. Very few people just turn up to a club night without first asking a few questions via email.

Children are our future. But how to drag them – and their parents – away from the Great Indoors, the telly, or their computers, Facebook and Twitter? One answer: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em – with a website. The upcoming i-savvy generation won’t look at a bad website, so the club spent $200 on designing a really good-looking website. Within months the website attracted more than 25,000 hits – a remarkable result considered NTC could not afford ‘search-engine optimisation’ experts. We relied instead on a clever, easy design made by a friend in Munich. It works, and has enormous potential for development.

2018 Update: The Napier TC website is a great example of a simple, yet effective club website. There’s clear information about the club and how to join. The site is up to date, and makes good use of attractive photos to engage the viewer.

How many clubs send out uninspiring newsletters – black and white, full of badly written reports of trudges devoid of pictures? NTC ditched its self-centred, members-only newsletter and instead produces a professional-looking, quarterly Bushbasher magazine, packed with colour pictures and humour. Circulation is no longer limited to members; Bushbasher resides in local schools, outdoor retailers, libraries and information centres. Printing cost is the only hindrance to even wider circulation.

Publicity is another trail to exposure. Could that picture you took on a recent trip interest your local newspaper? It might, and often does. We’re increasing our efforts to get unusual articles or pictures into local rags.

NTC members heading up to Longview Hut

Club meetings often feature speakers whose interest might extend far beyond the membership. Advertising is expensive, but a press release to the free newspaper or a word to the local radio station might attract a bigger audience.

2018 Update: Kelvin reports that for a while, the club put considerable effort into dropping hard copies of the ‘Bushbasher’ to the spots mentioned. It was always difficult to track whether this effort directly contributed to new members, but in time the club decided that the additional cost of printing the magazine wasn’t sustainable.  Small, local community newspapers are always on the lookout for content. Forming a relationship between the club and the paper can pay dividends, especially if you can provide a variety of material, or something a little out of the ordinary. Many small community papers will happily publish classified advertisements for community groups for free.

‘Take a kid fishing’ is a tried and proven idea. ‘Take a kid tramping’ may be more suited to interested families than established tramping clubs, but somehow we must interest young people. Making contact with local youth organisations such as Venturer Scouts and cadet groups might not be productive in the short term, given the widening generation gap between youth groups and many tramping clubs, unless such organisations (and the clubs) can put sufficient resources into organising joint ventures into the outdoors.

2018 Update: Napier TC didn’t have much success with local youth groups, but the New Plymouth Tramping club certainly did.  Take a look at the articles about Karen Griffiths ‘Take a Kid Tramping’ here on Wilderlife.

The club appointed Kelvin as the ‘new member coordinator’.  When someone makes an inquiry on the website, Kelvin gets back to them with a ‘new member info pack’ which explains more about the club and outlines what to bring on a day trip. He then gives them a specific invite to the next club night, and next few day tramps with the club.

Kelvin keeps track of the new members, and after they’ve been on their first club tramp, he’ll check in with the trip leader to see how they did, then with the new member themselves. The goal is to make them feel welcome, get any feedback on how the trip went for them, and to make sure they are invited on the next one!

When Kelvin first started as new member coordinator, there was a list of about 50 people who had inquired about the club since the website had started, but hadn’t for one reason or another, ended up joining the club. Several had come along to club nights, or to a trip or two, but hadn’t actually joined up. So Kelvin got back in touch with all of them, and invited them on to an “Eezee Tramp”

An Eezee Tramp is one specifically intended for welcoming new members who may have very little knowledge of tramping. The trip is run by a few club stalwarts, who take the extra time to explain more of the basics of what tramping is, how to pack and what to expect. They also ensure the prospective/new member is aware of all the great things that club membership can offer them. The trip itself is tailored to the new member’s fitness, ensuring a positive experience with the club.  Now that the club has cleared it’s backlog of un-followed up enquiries, Eezee Tramps are run ‘on demand’ when new members with little experience contact the club.

Nearby huts make a great spot for an ‘Eezee Tramp’

Eighteen months after the FMC article kick-started our sub-committee into action, there are signs of progress in Hawke’s Bay.

2018 Update: Kelvin is pleased to report that the club membership has grown steadily each year since the club decided to take action. Now Napier TC has 70 members.

Today, NTC is better known and we have new members. Volunteers and the invaluable financial support of Hawke’s Bay’s local community trust are helping to rejuvenate our club. Doing nothing is simply not an option.

Enjoy reading articles from past FMC’ Bulletins and Backcountry?  Did you know that all our back issues are available from our public online FMC archives

The ideas from this Outdoor Community blog, and others have been summarised in one document; ‘Attracting and supporting new members‘ right here on Wilderlife’s Outdoor Community resource. 

Wilderlife