|The International Square Dance Magazine|
Building Your New Dancer Program and Your Club
I had an interesting discussion with a close friend of mine a couple months ago after I complimented him and his wife about the wonderful Holiday parties they have hosted in their home for so many years. He told me that this year would probably be their last because, “People just don’t have parties and gatherings in their homes anymore.” He went on to say that, “Most people meet in a restaurant or elsewhere, but home parties seem to be a thing of the past.”
I thought about it a moment and had to agree that it seems like it is becoming a thing of the past. Then it dawned on me, that those who still seem to be carrying on this fading tradition are the successful square dance clubs. Parties, barbeques, progressive dinners, pot luck dinners, picnics, theater nights, and even club parties that are commonly themed to holidays are still being held by successful square and round dance clubs. Most of the events, in these successful clubs are open to the general public by invitation, and some groups even print tickets that have a dollar value on them. These $20 tickets (as an example), are now an item of value to give “complementary” to friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers as an invitation to attend and join in the fun. Some groups will even charge for these events if they are doing a fundraiser for an existing social group or a cause.
By opening their doors to the regular club social events, having smaller home parties, and inviting non-dancers to just enjoy a fun event, they now have a group of people who have had the opportunity to know their members socially. It’s far easier to invite people to join your new dancer program and club if they know some of the members already and have been exposed to the fun that the club enjoys by being together. Most of these successful clubs even keep a list of these prospective new dancers calling it, “Friends XYZ Club”. Think about starting a list like this and holding some of these open gatherings right now.
These home parties don’t have to involve the entire club if there is not enough room in the house. Just a few members and guests at each one can add up over time.
Most of these successful clubs hold the events all year around, even though they might only start a class one or two times a year. Names for these lists are obtained by having attendees fill out a sign-in sheet (not at home parties, but at events in the hall), or from club members who have invited them. Some clubs are even using social media to keep in touch with people in their club and those on their “Friends List”.
Use your imagination about all the ways that will help your club reach out to friends, family, co-workers of your existing club members and bring them closer to your club. Meeting and getting to know people on a social level first (before approaching them to join your new dancer program) will make your efforts more successful. Even if the time is not right for them to join right away, this social link to these special friends will make it that much more likely that they will join down the line.
Try to have your club become more visible in the community through community events, fundraisers, health fairs, state fairs, farmers’ markets and the like by spreading the joy and fun of belonging to an active social group like a square dance club. People are not joining groups like they used to and one reason is that clubs like ours are one of the best kept secrets around.
Think about the image you project in the activities that you participate in too. Being in a parade with tractors, hay, and everyone wearing overalls doesn’t project the image of today’s square dance activity very accurately and yet, I’ve seen it recently on U Tube. I cringe when I’m discussing modern square dancing with non-dancers somewhere and they ask where we find barns to dance in today, or that square dancing is not for them because they are allergic to hay. We have struggled with our image for over 50 years now, so let’s not put fuel on the fire of those who are still locked into the vision of our activity as it might have been 100 years ago.
We still have what I believe is the best social activity around. Research from the medical community over the past couple of years has reported that people with active social events in their lives are living longer and enjoying a better quality of life than those who have only a few social contacts. There are so many ways to spend recreational time alone or at home in front of a computer or television. We can even be in a public area like a shopping mall or movie theater with no real contact with other people. The square dance activity gives us this “social capital” as it’s called, to be healthy and live a better quality of life.
So if you want to grow your club and your new dancer program, “open up your doors” to as many people as you can. Hold events all through the year, attend outside public gatherings, and be as inclusive as you can. Have fun and be friendly. If you dance during these events that’s great, but don’t feel that you have to. Try to include those who don’t dance as much as you can. If their experience is fun, they will join you or find a way to do so in the future.
Consider combining your events with those of existing social and service groups like the Elks, the local Chamber of Commerce, and church groups too. As I said before, use your imagination, welcome others with open arms, and your new dancer program and your club will grow.
|Fun set to music!|