Strategic Planning & the Membership Survey

Member Surveys

McMahon Group defines club strategic planning as: “The leadership-initiated process of internal and external analysis of a club’s membership, operations, governance, facilities and marketplace for the purpose of identifying a mission and vision, and establishing strategic goals and action plans that assure a club attains maximum success.”

Clubs are membership organizations, and a key component of any internal analysis is to find out how members feel about the club’s existing facilities, operations, and services, and what their priorities are for the future of the club. A successful strategic plan is one that has the buy-in and support of the membership. To achieve the support of the membership, members should have the opportunity to provide input as the club’s leadership develops the plan. The best way for members to provide input is through a comprehensive membership survey.

The Strategic Planning Membership Survey

The first step in the membership survey process would normally be qualitative research in the form of member focus groups. The purpose of these focus groups is to allow members to participate directly in the planning process, and to identify relevant issues to be incorporated in the membership survey. The comprehensive strategic planning survey, sent to all members and spouses, serves as the quantitative phase of the survey project.

Issues and questions typically addressed on a comprehensive strategic planning survey include:

Existing Conditions (Strengths & Weaknesses):

  • Overall member satisfaction with the club
  • Perceived value of membership
  • Importance of various club activities and member satisfaction with each
  • Effectiveness of club governance and management
  • Effectiveness of club communications
  • Existing facility conditions

Future Issues (Opportunities & Threats):

  • Primary purpose of the club today and tomorrow
  • Club’s Mission and Vision Statements
  • Club’s family orientation
  • Amount of non-member activity such as banquets or golf outings
  • Membership issues (retention and attraction)
  • Potential future facility improvements
  • Funding facility improvements
  • Approval of facility improvements

Surveys of this type typically receive a response rate of over 50%, which provides a very high degree of credibility and confidence that the results provide an accurate representation of membership opinions. Detailed cross tabulations of the results allow for more in-depth analysis as to how responses and percentages differ by variables such as age group, membership tenure, or membership category of respondents.

Armed with the above information, the club’s board/planning committee can then proceed with developing the club’s strategic and facility planning with confidence that whatever is developed will be based on sound membership input.

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About Bill McMahon

Bill is a private club planner providing strategic planning, member research analysis and facility planning services for private clubs across North America. Bill joined McMahon Group in 1999 and has worked with over 200 clubs helping to solve their strategic and facility needs.

Bill is Co-Editor of Club Trends, a quarterly report published with the National Club Association (NCA). He has written for many private club publications like The BoardRoom Magazine, Club Director and more, and has been a featured speaker at national conferences, local chapters and other associations serving the private club industry. He is also on the NCA’s Communications Committee.

Bill has been instrumental in developing and enhancing the McMahon Group online presence. He created and runs Clubtopia® ( – an online business directory of firms and companies serving the club industry.

Bill’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Glen Echo Country Club (St. Louis) and the Missouri Athletic Club (St. Louis). He has served on the Boards of Cinema St. Louis ( and the Tennessee Society of St. Louis (former President).


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