A Membership Survey – The Essential First Step

Digital Survey

Whether it is developing a long-range strategic plan, attracting new members, retaining existing ones or gaining approval for a major facility project, the best first step is always a membership survey.

While it may be expedient to conduct a survey in-house, using an off-the-shelf online survey product, such an approach may cause more problems than it solves. An effective survey is one that asks the right questions in an unbiased fashion, and provides a club’s leadership and management with actionable results. Obtaining the expertise of an objective third party to develop the survey and interpret the results will help instill confidence in the membership and build consensus as solutions are developed and presented for membership approval.

Major Facility Projects

Tackling a major capital project can be a daunting task for any club’s leadership; but, the road to a successful project is much clearer if they start with a membership survey. Its results can provide a report card of a club’s existing facilities (i.e., what facilities are fine as they are and which ones do not meet the membership’s standards). More importantly, the results of a well-crafted survey will provide a priority ranking (from most important to least important) of potential facility improvements. Such a survey will also test how much members are willing to pay for the improvements that are most important to them. With this information, a club’s leadership can then develop a plan with a high probability of success as the plan incorporates the improvements that are most important to members at a price they have said they are willing to pay.

Attracting New Members

The lifeblood of any club is its ability to provide the facilities, programs and services that continue to attract new members and replace the 5% most clubs lose to natural attrition each year. An effective membership survey can be an invaluable tool at the start of a membership development program. While the existing array of facilities and programs may be perfectly fine in retaining existing members, are these same facilities and programs sufficient enough to attract the next generation of members? An important question to ask members in a survey is what the most important factors were that attracted them to the club, especially those who have joined the club most recently. These recent joiners can serve as proxies to those on the outside who may be looking for a club to join. Did they join primarily for the mainstay traditional club activities such as golf or tennis? Or were they more attracted by the youth programs, health and wellness facilities or very casual pub-style dining? A private club’s best salesforce is its existing members. If the members are very satisfied with their club, then they are more than willing to encourage their friends or associates to join. A very telling survey question is to ask members if they would recommend the club to others, and if they would not recommend the club to others, why not? The answers to this question may be crucial when developing a successful membership development program.

Regardless of the task at hand, the best way to start, build consensus and involve the membership in the eventual solution is through an unbiased and professionally developed membership survey.

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About Tom Strutz

Senior Vice President

Hailing from the Los Angeles area, Tom left sunny Southern California at the ripe old age of 17 to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.  After graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering, he spent 11 years on active duty in the Army and then another 11 years in the Army Reserves, eventually retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  Along the way, Tom earned a Master’s Degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management from Florida International University in Miami.  During his 22-years in the Army, he had a chance to see the world, with assignments in South Korea, Germany, the Pentagon, Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Alabama, Maryland and Washington state.

Tom has been with the McMahon Group since 1990, serving as head of the survey and market research division.  During that time, he has worked with over 1,500 private clubs on a wide variety of survey and research projects, achieving the rank of “Survey Guru” at McMahon.

Over the years, Tom has been a jack of many sports – golf, tennis, racquetball, squash, water skiing, snow skiing, running – but a master of none.  His current pastime passions are gardening, cycling and nature photography – often combining the latter two on rides at a lake near his home in suburban St. Louis.

Tom and his wife Marlene have two children in their 20’s.  Katy is an artist working at an animation studio in Portland, Oregon, and Marcus is studying Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

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