IPMS LogoInternational Plastic Modelers' Society / USA

IPMS LogoInternational Plastic Modelers' Society / USA



How to Boost Your Club Membership


How Not to Waste an Opportunity to Recruit Potential Club Members

by Dick Montgomery
IPMS/USA Region 6 Coordinator

At the annual show hosted by my home club, Alamo Squadron, we experience a large number of people purchasing General Admission tickets. These individuals are not entering models in the contest. These folks are obviously interested in modeling or they wouldn't be at the contest. What is the attraction for them, and more importantly, why aren't they members of the club?

These individuals come to the contest for two reasons. These folks come to the contest to gain access to the vendor area. The Alamo Squadron show has a very large and well stocked vendor area rivaled only by those found at the National contests. For the small fee of a General Admission ticket modelers can take advantage of the great deals offered in the vendor area and save much more than the general admission fee.

Another reason for General Admission entrants to pay to get in the contest is to view the large number of models entered in the contest each year. There are, on average, 525-575 models to view. At the Alamo Squadron show one ticket gives a person access to both the vendor and contest area.

Visitors cycle between the contest and vendor areas, make their purchases from the vendors and then go home. I submit that a wonderful opportunity to recruit people for club membership has been lost. The essential question is, 'What is the contest leadership team doing to encourage these modelers to come to club meetings and, perhaps, join the club?

The simple answer is, for the most part, 'nothing is being done'. No one approaches these walk-in modelers to speak with them. No displays are set up to advertise the host club. Other than a table with flyers stacked up for distribution there is little or no effort being made to attract new membership. (One can easily hear the contest leadership team mumbling about a 'lack of manpower' and a 'lack of club volunteers' to provide for recruiters and people to man tables for that purpose'.and that issue will be addressed later.)

Think of this opportunity in this way: Your club has modelers paying a general admission fee to come to your event and provide your club an opportunity to recruit them... They're paying to come to you!

There are several things that can be done to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity but it requires some imaginative and creative leadership. It requires a contest leadership team that understands that the model competition, perhaps, should play a less significant role in the daily schedule. Are more visitors coming to the show to participate in the contest or are most of them coming to the show for the vendor area? In many cases most of the walk-in traffic has little interest in the 'contest'. If the contest is reduced in significance what, then, takes it place?

Recruiting Efforts

Provide a space in which you have current members serving as recruiters for the club.

  • Select members who have good 'people skills'. Putting a grumpy or crusty person at this table will serve only to run off potential members. First impressions are important so select your recruiters carefully. Be sure to include Junior members and female members.
  • Have a selection of models on the recruiting table. Make sure the models reflect a variety of modeling interests, unless, of course, your club is focused only on one particular kind of subject. Even so, these organizations can display a variety of subjects within their area of interest.
  • Have a flyer with contact information on it. Make sure that the email addresses and phone numbers are correct. Make sure the flyer lists the correct URL of your club's web site.
  • Have a stack of business cards available with contact info on it.
  • IPMS has created a PowerPoint presentation and has made that presentation available to all chartered IPMS clubs at no charge. The presentation can easily be modified to make it appropriate for use by any IPMS club. Have this presentation running on a laptop at the recruiting table. Did I mention the program can be ordered from IPMS at no charge?
  • If your club runs a raffle or door prize concession the recruiting table is the perfect point for visitors to claim their prizes. It makes the recruiting table the center of attention throughout the day as visitors check to see if their ticket numbers have been drawn.
  • Have a 'Please Contact Me' form which captures the name, phone number, and email address of the walk-in. Explain that they will be contacted by someone from the club who can provide information about club meetings, meeting locations, and club functions. Make sure you follow up on this promise to contact them.


Workshops & Seminars

Remember those walk-ins who shop the vendor area, view the models, and then go home? What do they want besides great deals on models and materials? They want to improve their modeling skills. They want to do that which will enable them to enjoy the hobby. They want something for free. Give them some workshops. (Again, one can hear the contest leadership bringing up the concern about lack of manpower. And again'.that issue will be addressed later).

Provide a schedule of workshops and seminars throughout the day.

  • Assuming your show (notice up until this point I've referred to the event as a 'contest'. Henceforth it will be referred to as a 'show') opens at 9a.m., start scheduling 30 minute workshops with a 15 minute break between each workshop. If that pace is not appropriate then alter it.
  • Workshop subjects can include those same areas that judges look for when they judge the contest entries:
    • basic construction
    • decaling
    • glues and adhesives
    • paints/painting/ surface preparation
    • alignment
    • Other workshop ideas:
    • diorama bases
    • scenic effects with model railroading materials
    • using an airbrush
    • using a paintbrush and oils
    • using pastel chalk
    • metal finishes

More ideas: Workshops specific to various kinds of modeling subjects

  • automotives
  • armor
  • space
  • dinosaurs
  • figures
  • collections
  • dioramas
  • aircraft (military)
  • aircraft (non-military)
  • Seminar ideas
  • adapting the IPMS-provided PowerPoint presentation for local club use
  • recruiting club members
  • judging seminar (how to be a judge at a local contest)
  • judging seminar (training judges for duty at a Regional Convention'.you'll need the RC present for this one)
  • creating a club web site
  • locating research material for modeling
  • writing and publishing a club newsletter
  • liaison work with local hobby shops
  • How to be an effective club officer
  • How to bid for the Regional Convention (again, the RC needs to be present for this one)
  • How to nominate for various Regional and National awards (guess who needs to be there)
  • Ideas for club meeting programs

The number and nature of the workshops and seminars is limited only by the creativity and imagination of the contest leadership team.

For hypothetical purposes let's look at a schedule which might be found at a single-day show using some of the above ideas. It may get a little tedious to read through this schedule but then again, it may be very helpful to get a clear view of what a single-day show may look like.

Schedule of Events

  • 9:00am - Open the doors.
    • Allow the first hour for the initial rush to die down. Walk-ins want to head straight to the vendor area and contest participants want to get their entry forms filled out and their models placed on the table.
  • 10:00-10:30am - Time for the first seminar or workshop.
    • If space is available run two at the same time. Frankly, I've been to very few events which have the luxury of space. It is probably more realistic to envision one seminar or workshop being conducted at any given time.
  • 10:30-10:45am - Set-up for next workshop
  • 10:45am-11:15am - Time for the 2nd workshop.
  • 11:15-11:30am - Set-up for next workshop
  • 11:30-Noon - Judging seminar
    • Kills two birds with one stone. The host club can use this workshop to orient the judging teams and at the same time allow modelers to listen in to see what the judges are looking for. It also serves as an OJT experience for rookie judges.
  • Noon-12:15pm - Set-up for next workshop
  • 12:15-12:45pm - Time for 3rd workshop
  • 12:45-1pm - Set-up for next workshop
  • 1-1:30 pm - Time for the next workshop
    • Judging has begun now. Participants who are not involved in judging are looking for something to do. Some contests do not allow visitors in the model area during judging and they will gladly sit in a seminar or workshop.
  • 1:30-1:45pm - Set-up for next workshop
  • 1:45-2:15pm - Time for next workshop
  • 2:15-2:30pm - Set-up for next workshop
  • 2:30-3:00pm - Next Workshop
  • 3:00-3:15pm - Set-up for next workshop
  • 3:15-4:00pm - Last Workshop
    • Announce that the awards ceremony will not begin until this workshop is finished. This will cut down on the crowd of anxious and impatient folks waiting for the judges to complete their jobs.
  • 4:00 and on - Finish the judging, announce the winners, clean up, get out, go celebrate the completion of another fine show.

Your recruiting efforts should not end here. Most of the attention is given to those who entered models in the contest while the walk-ins leave without a word of thanks. Be sure to have 'reverse-greeters' at the exit doors. They can distribute flyers and club business cards to the walk-ins as they exit. They can thank walk-ins for coming to the show. They can hold the door open for those whose arms are full of recently purchased items. They can, in short, be Ambassadors of Good Will for your club.

In the days following the show, be sure to make contact with those walk-ins who filled out the 'Please Contact Me' info sheet. Assign a club member to contact them and bring them to the next meeting. Sit with them during the meeting. Introduce them to other club members before and after the meeting. Introduce them to the membership during the club meeting by listing their name and their area of modeling interest. In other words, make them feel special and appreciated.

The Manpower Issue

Manpower issues are a very serious concern for the contest leadership team. Some club members can always be counted on for help. Some have real-world conflicts that require their presence elsewhere, and some can never be counted on to volunteer for 'show' duty. Manpower shortages are caused by several factors, two of which are the organizational design of the show and the size of membership of the host club.

A club with a small membership will need to ask for assistance from outside sources. Although I've yet to see it done, there is nothing preventing the host club to ask for help from neighboring clubs. Perhaps, if a member of a visiting club helps at the registration desk for an hour, he can be thanked by a reduction in the registration payment he personally pays. Perhaps he can be given extra door prize tickets. Perhaps he will help simply because he was asked for assistance. A benefit of this kind of cooperation between clubs will be that effective procedures used by one club will certainly be adopted by others due to the experience one would gain by volunteering to help at another club's show.

Just because a club has a large membership does not mean that the manpower issue is of no concern. Large clubs can suffer because of the lack of volunteers as well. In larger clubs the lack of volunteerism can be related to many factors. One of the most readily observable factors is that of club leadership, both in general terms and leadership specifically for the event. If club members do not feel included in the decision-making process they are less likely to volunteer. Clubs in which leadership roles are seldom transferred throughout the membership are more susceptible to this problem than clubs that actively foster new leadership. It's not a condemnation of those in the leadership role; it's simply a factor of political and social evolution. Clubs that resist change in leadership face stagnation to a greater extent than clubs that foster changes in leadership. It does not mean the people involved are bad leaders or bad people.

If a club wants to address the problem of lack of volunteerism it must first investigate the very nature of the club and to make changes where necessary. The problem is, however, that people who perpetuate the problem of stagnation are the last to recognize it for what it is and are least likely to initiate change.

Who, then, is going to provide all these seminars and workshops that are necessary to attract potential club members? Who will serve as the friendly face of the club? From where will all these volunteers come?

Here are some specific ideas:

  • Workshop and Seminars can be presented by modelers from other clubs. This will free up local members for volunteer duties.
  • Invite hobby shops to send employees to present workshops featuring tools and materials that the hobby shop stocks.
  • Invite hobby shops to send employees to present seminars featuring recently released tools, research materials, and products.
  • People involved in the registration process can include volunteers from neighboring clubs.
  • The judging ranks can be filled with modelers from other clubs.
  • Restructure the various administrative duties in such a way that they require fewer people.

More long-range actions include changing the political and social nature of the club. In order to increase volunteerism a club must be one that encourages participation by the membership in the political life of the club. This change will bring about more participation in other aspects of the club including the organization of the club's annual show.

Lastly, the term 'contest leadership team' is actually an inappropriate title. That is true, of course, if one accepts the basic ideas put forward in this article. The correct term would be 'show leadership team'. If you want to grow your membership then your club should take advantage of the 'contest' by turning it into a 'show'.