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Membership Development

When we talk about membership we are referring to the people who pay a subscription to be part of their club and have a say in how it operates.

All sports clubs are essentially membership bodies that exist for, and because of, the people at the club; members, players and participants. By empowering a wide range of people around a specific cause, this model enables clubs to grow stronger, impact society and have a sustainable funding stream.

In a community sports club, developing the membership is important for a variety of reasons. Of course, the fees paid by members are a vital source of income, but the membership also provides the club with a wider network of people who may be willing to assist the club through volunteering. Furthermore, having a large membership demonstrates the reach, impact and representative nature of a sports club within the wider community.

This resource has been developed as a guide to assist clubs in developing their membership and their relationships with them.

What does good membership development look like?

All membership organisations face two key challenges, recruiting and then retaining members.

According to the Sports Club Survey Report for 2017/18, the most identified potential challenge for clubs over the following two years was the recruitment and retention of members (68% of clubs said this was their priority).

To recruit members there is a need to get the message out to a wider audience within the community.

There is a need to understand what people want from membership and what attracts them and motivates them to want to participate with the club.

There are different ways of recruiting members

including:

• Face-to-face: engagement with people in the community.

• Word of mouth: using existing members to “spread the word.”

• Website: providing information about the club’s activities and benefits of membership, and

• Social media: potential to quickly reach a mass audience.

Whatever method of engagement is used, it is important to develop a clear brand and have consistent messaging.

Having recruited members, the next challenge is retaining them. Key to this is making people feel valued by providing opportunities to engage with the club. By listening to feedback you can ensure that you are providing members with what they want. This can involve an annual survey in which you gather feedback on how satisfied members are with your club and its activities.

A good way of enabling members to feel engaged is to ensure that they have access to the club’s decision making structures. This can be achieved, for instance, by ensuring committee members are available to meet members at games.

Practical Tips for Managing Memberships, Payments & Gift Aid

One way to improve the way your club operates and engages with its membership is to use a multi-function online membership management tool. There are various systems out there that will do that, however Club Development Scotland have a preferred partner that enables payment collection, a hub of information regarding your members and  the ability to communicate in a professional and consistent manner with your members.

A lot of sports clubs and teams still collect their membership fees using cheque, cash or standing order. Chasing payments even once every year can often waste a lot of time and it may be worth looking at setting up an automatic payment method such as Direct Debit via a membership management system.

Not only does using Direct Debit allow you to avoid waiting for cheques and cash, it also allows you automatically renew memberships every year. It helps your members to stay with the club for longer and reduces admin time for both for them and the club.

Be sure to speak to us about our preferred membership partner by emailing 

The table below gives a sense of how clubs can assess their current level of engagement with members and how they can improve.

  Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Does your club understand what your members (players & participants) want and need from your club? Do you know what is important to them? We don’t currently ask for feedback or actively seek to understand our members. We make assumptions about our members’ wants and needs. There’s no process for seeking regular feedback from members. Our understanding of our members’ wants and needs is based on informal conversations. We sometimes act on the feedback we receive. We understand our members’ wants and needs through seeking regular feedback. Some action is taken in response to the feedback given, although we could be better at this. We are confident that we understand our members’ wants and needs. We seek regular feedback from our members and always respond. Our members are at the centre of everything the club does.
We haven’t reviewed or changed our club offer since we started and we’re not sure if it still meets our members’ wants and needs. We haven’t reviewed or changed our club offer since we started and we’re not sure if it still meets our members’ wants and needs. We have reviewed our club offer in the past but should do this more often. We assume we are still meeting our members’ wants and needs. We regularly review our club offer to make sure it meets our members’ wants and needs, but we don’t always manage to make changes to our offer in response. We regularly review our club offer to make sure it meets our members’ wants and needs and adapt it to keep up with changes if necessary.
Would you describe your club as inclusive? We’re not sure what inclusivity means or how to go about making our club inclusive. We understand a bit about inclusivity and are taking steps to become more inclusive. We recognise we could do more to ensure that the club is inclusive. We understand the importance of being inclusive. Inclusivity is reflected in most of the club’s activities but we could still make improvements. Being inclusive is important to the club and it is embedded in everything we do. We regularly review our activities to ensure we remain fully inclusive.