By Tarquin Bateman.
For the past 62 years, Melville Bowling Club has been the heart and soul of the Melville community. Birthdays, funerals, weddings, windups and social events have all been hosted in the Club’s Tompkins Park facility, and the well-maintained bowling greens are a favourite of both national and international pennant bowls competitors.
Melville Bowls Club President Tim Smith shares his strategies to keep the membership base engaged. His secret? Transparency, diverse revenue streams, community partners and a well-structured management plan.
I met with Tim at the Melville Bowls Clubrooms around 3pm on a Tuesday. We sat at a table adjacent to the bar, where the club manager was cleaning wine glasses and making phone calls. Faded photographs in carefully hung frames graced the wall by the clubrooms. A notice board was prominently displayed, and outside on the green by the Swan a few pennants practiced their aim. As we spoke, members began to trickle in and socialise at the bar.
“As you can see this is a very sustainable club. We have savings in the bank, we run at a monthly profit and on a part-time and full-time basis employ 7 people. We have adjunct clubs that are adjunct members; netball clubs and football clubs and scrabble clubs. All these people utilise our facility on a daily or weekly basis,” said Tim.
“We just celebrated our 62nd birthday and had 600-odd people come to our social event, and it’s amazing the community spirit that surrounds this place.” Tim pointed to the notice board, where letters about the relocation were pinned.
“The best way to keep your membership strong through a hard time is to let them know exactly what’s going on,” said Tim.
“Any correspondence we get about the club we post on the noticeboard so that everyone can read it and everyone is informed. And even though we are going through a hard time, we go ahead with all of our club events. We make sure we have at least one event every month to keep people coming back, because the social aspect is equally important as the sporting aspect to the success of our club,” Tim said.
As we talked, the lovely bar manager brought us two glasses of cold water. Young men lounged in the corner with pints, a few of the elderly members sat around a table talking, and many people came up to greet Tim and I and contribute to the discussion. In opposing the move, the Club has had to spend a fair amount of money, Tim tells me. They have kept themselves financially stable by making best use of the facilities they possess.
“Diversify your revenue streams, find ways to multipurpose the assets you have,” said Tim.
“Clubs need to think bigger than just their key sport or function. You have to look at the resources and facilities you have available and utilise them as much as possible. Having all your funding coming from members is unsustainable. As with anything the cost of running a club will go up over time, and with a single revenue the cost of participating in the club goes through the roof”
In order to make a club cost competitive, Tim tells me, you have to think about doing things like adding adjunct clubs, creating social memberships, or hiring out your rooms and green spaces for functions.
“For our club, barefoot bowls events and green hire have been great revenue drivers,” Tim said “If you are structured, well presented and have a plan, you are more likely to be successful in getting grants, community sponsorships and new members.”
As the Melville Bowling club had been around more than six decades, I asked Tim how the club had adapted to technological advances and social media. “Our Club has held computer literacy classes, where we had consultants come in and just explain the whole process of accessing email, websites, Facebook and how to engage online in general,” Tim said.
“For the most part, the internet and social media is how we engage with our membership base. We can advertise our events, keep up to date and engage new people, doing a lot of media for free. Social media has been very good for club transparency actually, and keeping all links in the chain informed and connected, although there’s still a few members who we have to put a stamp on an envelope for and wait a few weeks for a response,” Tim said.
After our interview, Tim recommended I talk to a man by the name of Jimmy Stewart, who has been a Melville Bowling Club member for 30 years. Jimmy currently holds the position of Deputy Chair of Men’s Bowls, but has previously been the Club President. “I enjoy our club because we have managed to keep it a place where you can drop in for a roll up and a social drink, and find like-minded people to enjoy both with. I also enjoy pennant bowls where I can be competitive,” said Jimmy.
“The community gel with our club, we are affordable and they feel they belong when on the premises. The managing group has kept everyone informed through these hard times, so the club has been running as smoothly as ever, better even, as we are all united in wanting the same thing – to save our club and the memories that reside within it.”