The wonderful thing about humans is that we’re all different and love to partake in varied and interesting hobbies.
We could spend our leisure time playing sports, painting with watercolours, dancing salsa or leading boy scout groups. We could choose to meet with others sharing a similar characteristic, such as a club for deaf people, or with those who have the same political outlook. Or we might like playing chess, or discussing the latest books.
Whatever the favoured pastime, clubs and associations are led by passionate and dedicated individuals who enjoy their hobby and want to help bring together others who enjoy it too.
No matter what your preferred leisure pursuit – from martial arts to amateur dramatics – if you’re thinking about starting a club, group, society or association then read on. Below we go into more detail on how to start a club and manage it successfully.
When setting up a club or society you’ll need to first check the interest from others. This is essential to ensure that your club is made up of more than just you.
There are a few ways to do this. Have you met others in the area who are as passionate about your hobby as you are? Or perhaps a similar club has recently shut down and the members are looking for a new one. Maybe you’ve seen on local online forums others who are searching for a club in the area. It might be that you have a number of friends who want to sign up, or have noticed that there’s a complete lack of similar clubs nearby.
Do some research to see if there are any clubs that already offer the same as you are proposing and that cover the same location. You can look online, in local newspapers and at some of the community groups on Facebook.
If there’s heavy competition, then you should contemplate how your club will be different and how you plan to stand out from the crowd to attract members.
You should also consider the location of your club. If you live outside of a city or town, or in a rural area, then it might be worthwhile hosting the club closer to an urban centre where it’s easier for people to get to using public transport or at a venue that has plenty of parking.
Think about running a club in a similar way to a business. Research your market first and understand it’s needs and requirements before launching your product.
Once you’re happy that there is enough demand for your club, the next step is to create your club’s vision, mission and goals. This is business terminology that all new start-ups consider before opening their doors.
First, write down the vision you have for your club and why you exist in the first place. For example, you could be a keen knitter and your vision might be ‘to be the friendliest knitting club in the area’.
Your mission will then be ‘to provide members with a sociable, relaxed space where they can knit, chat and interact with other passionate knitters. Where they can ask advice from other members or get inspiration on what to knit next. It’ll be open to experienced and beginner knitters alike’.
And your goals might be:
- To get five knitters to attend the first club meeting
- To find a venue that’s comfortable and welcoming
- To research three ways to promote the club
By brainstorming and writing up your dreams for your club and setting tangible short-term and long-term goals, you’ll be creating a mindset for success. Organising yourself early on and understanding your ‘reason for being’ will help you in running the club down the line.
Next up in our ‘how to start a club guide’ is operations. This includes coming up with a suitable and memorable name for your club as well as the rules and structure.
The structure of the club could be quite simple: ‘we meet once a week on a Tuesday at the same venue’. Or it could be more complex depending on what club you’re launching. For example, a tennis club might meet once per week but then also have a tournament which involves attending a certain number of games on different days and at different times across a specific time period.
You’ll also need to consider any rules and guidelines that members will need to adhere to. These could be about ‘striving to always arrive on time’ or about ‘telling the club leader in advance if you can no longer attend’. It should also include more serious considerations such as treating one another with respect and not tolerating any discrimination.
Having these guidelines in place and sharing them with new members will ensure complete transparency and set a standard by which your club will run. You can always update these as your club grows or evolves, but ensure to keep members informed of any changes.
You should also put a process in place that details how people can become a member. This includes the steps required and also if there are any fees involved, how much they are and when they should be paid.
Premises and Facilities
Knowing where you’ll be hosting your club is an important consideration. You might meet in a different venue each time, such as a pub or café, or you might require specific facilities or equipment, such as a football pitch or wheelchair access.
Research potential venues and aim to visit them before your first club meet to ensure they are suitable. The premises and equipment could cost money to hire which you’ll need to factor into your budget (more on this later).
If there’s a charge involved, get quotes from different places to check what is most affordable. Also check if there are any discounts available or if venues are open to negotiation.
Staffing and Volunteers
Whether you’re planning on running a club on your own or enlisting the help of others, you need to plan out the roles and responsibilities required when setting up a club or society, and to manage it on an ongoing basis.
When delegating tasks to others who you trust, for example friends or family members, or to members of your club who volunteer to help out, you must be clear on expectations and specific about tasks.
Roles could include:
- chairperson – who ensures the club runs well
- treasurer – who manages the money side of things
- marketing and sponsorship – who oversees the promotions and approaching potential sponsors
- secretary – who manages the members and maintains a current membership list
If you’re not sure where to start, then seek out a mentor. You might know someone who runs a club or previously managed a society, or you could politely approach people who you admire. Tap into their expertise by asking them how to start a club, bouncing ideas off them and listening to their best practice advice.
Keep in mind that if your club involves working with children or vulnerable adults you’ll need to run special checks for each adult staff member or volunteer.
For example, if you’re organising a woodwork club to teach carpentry skills to children and have two adult volunteers who’ll help you, then both you and these two helpers need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (formerly known as the Criminal Records Bureau). These reports can take some time to arrive, so factor that into your timings.
In order to run your club effectively and efficiently, you might need to collect money from your members. Often, it’s the case that membership fees won’t cover everything, and to improve your offering, equipment or facilities you’ll be required to raise funds in other ways.
There are plenty of fundraising opportunities you could pursue. These could be large, one-off events or small, regular activities. For example, if you run a hip-hop dance club, you could put on a ticketed show. Or you could regularly collect money at wider community events.
There are also grants available for those setting up community groups and clubs. These could come from your local council or from charities that might support your club’s activity. Organisations such as The National Lottery, as well as large businesses including Tesco and NatWest, also offer grants to local community groups and projects.
You could also look into sponsorship from local businesses, for example if you run a team sports club, such as football, rugby, or cricket, then the logo of the business could appear on your shirts.
Setting up a club or society will often include some form of money management. You might be taking regular payments from members using a Direct Debit function or handling grants and sponsorship funds.
If you decide to manage this, or delegate the task to a nominated treasurer, then its important to create budgets that help you to allocate your spending. You should also create incoming and outgoing expenditure spreadsheets so you can track your cashflow.
You’ll probably need to set up a dedicated bank account that is separate to your personal account. Research the best options, as some banks offer special accounts for community organisations that might work out cheaper than a business account.
Health and safety
As a club leader, you should consider the health, safety and welfare of your members and any staff or volunteers. For example, if you’re running a club for sporting activities you should have relevant first aiders in case of injury, or have a process in place to get medical assistance.
It could also include understanding the health and safety procedure for the premises you’re in. This could be as simple as knowing where the nearest exit is and where to gather should there be a fire.
Research online for specific health and safety requirements and make sure you have relevant training and documentation in place before your first meet.
Governing Bodies and Helpful Organisations
If you’re setting up a club or society that has a governing body, then it’s worth looking into whether you should register, and what help you could receive.
For example, if you’re setting up a Girlguiding group, there is plenty of advice and support from the Girlguiding association. Or if you plan to launch an athletics or running club, then England Athletics has detailed information and step-by-step checklists.
With some thorough online searching, there are also plenty of helpful organisations that offer guidance on how to start a club in your chosen field. For example, the BBC offers advice on how to set up a workplace choir.
Marketing and Promotion
An important part of running a club is the marketing and promotion. This function will attract new members to your club and keep existing members and supporters in the loop on news and events.
Marketing and promotion could include:
- advertising – in local newspapers or magazines, or online using platforms which have location-based audience targeting, such as Google or Facebook
- public relations – contacting local media with news about the club, with information about fundraising events or match reports for the sports section
- listings – getting your club listed in relevant listings pages online and in local media
- printed flyers – to distribute at relevant community events, place in shop windows or post through letterboxes
- social media – this could include setting up a club-specific Facebook page, or if your club is very visual, e.g. flower arranging, then you could start an Instagram profile with photos of beautiful floral creations
- promotions – such as discounts on membership fees at specific times of the year or free open evenings for people to see if they like the hobby/club before signing up
Word of mouth is also an excellent tool, so encourage your members to tell others and spread the news about the club.
The World is Waiting for Your New Club
There are many things to think about when setting up a new club or society, but with careful planning and a methodical approach it can be handled smoothly and efficiently.
Here’s a quick checklist:
- Premises and facilities
- Staffing and volunteers
- Money management
- Health and safety
- Governing bodies and helpful organisations
- Marketing and promotion
So, what are you waiting for? There are humans out there who share the same passion for your hobby and now’s your opportunity to bring them together in a well-managed club.