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Successful Club?
#1

Greetings All...

A couple of questions for those of you that have thriving clubs (at least prior to the pandemic):

1) What do you do to attract new members?
2) (Maybe more important) What do you do to keep people coming back to play?
3) What makes your club "special" - so that people want to be involved?

Thanks in Advance!

Bill W.
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#2

Hi Bill, great question - Most of the exact same "character traits" as below, I find in each successful club I have visited around the country, and the members I chat with regularly online, or by phone.

1) "Mate-ship" (that might be an antipodean term)
But in short, that the guys are interested in the friendly camerarderie. There may be only a couple of "pockets" of guys who are friends outside the club, but in club they accept each others as they are, realise they don't get everything just how they like, and that other members will have different interests and priorities within the club, ie different classes, different interest levels in the building versus the racing.

2) A variety of classes that represent different aspects of the hobby, realism, sheer stupid fun (such as caravan racing), IROC house classes, classes which require serious build engineering, such as making a Scalextric 70s muscle car run similar lap times to a tuned Mosler.... versus, plonk a Slot.it Group C on the track with minimal and very common and well known tuning tweaks. 

3) Some variety from just running 2, 3  or 4 classes every week on a roster. eg,
-  Caravan racing... oh I mentioned that. [ Could also be renamed "incontinence testing" due to the amount of laughing and falling down.]
- Teams events say 30 to 60 minutes per lane, typically 4 team cars built on the day/night, or before hand by 4 good builders, and teams seeded to be roughly equal overall. All drivers drive equal times per lane, with live driver handover. We ALL enjoy teams events and get a near 100% turnout. We now run 4 x 4 man teams each event.
- Invitationals for other clubs, or road trips to visit

4) Food, you just gotta have food, and if you can get some sort of supper food culture thing going, were you know one guy brings xxxx, and another will bring yyyy etc, and others fill in.

5) Trash talking culture, banter - we wind each other up, we all have nicknames.

6) A place to hang out. I my case that is in a forum down-under, where we remind of location as we rotate members tracks by week, classes are a basic 5 week rotation that we can change up. Who is coming, who is out, share ideas, new stuff that has been built, ideas etc
- Forums work better for this than Facebook, as you have a rolling database to access recent content, and maybe a different thread for rules and roster.

7) Being very welcoming and supportive of any "fresh meat" who are stupid and gullible enough to turn up :)  :) 

8) Loan cars, a couple of us in particular always have at least 2 cars there for each class, to loan to any regular or visitor who doesn't have one. No-one should miss out.
If someone breaks down mid-race, we stop a couple of minutes to see if they can fix it, or if not, one of us with a very good car - loans them ours.
I once took out all three podium spots with my 3 BTCC cars...  Wrench Wrench Checkeredflag Checkeredflag Cool Cool

9) Sharing is caring. Very few secrets amongst members. We all know who the best builders and best drivers are in club, So get over ourselves, and help those who aren't so good. - [ Until they get as good as us, then we take them out back for a good kicking, and inform their spouse where we hid the remains.... :)  ]
But seriously,  I have no tune secrets I won't share if asked how I got a certain car going so well.
Get over ourselves, we are grown men playing with toy cars. All the sheep stations have already been won, we're only competing for bragging and blagging rights  Bravo 

- I run Saturday tune and test sessions and open my garage as needed - as I have two Unimat lathes, 4 tyre lathes, and a snot load of other gear. 
- Another part time member does resins and vac forming, and supplies us all with vac form windows and interiors, drivers etc for a small price.
- Another very active member is an engineer and great with CAD, so he has come up with some nifty repair and improvement bits, he shares generously.
He has an Endor 5 Pro 3D printer and supplies special bits for us - again, at a small cost which now happily funds his hobby. He just bought a Crealty 3D resin printer as well, the sky is now the limit. Or is that "Infinity and beyond" 

Most new members come through work or social contacts of existing members, but we have the odd one who contacts us through our club Facebook group, our nation-wide slot racers facebook group, or our club website. We don't advertise actively, we get and have enough to be comfortably full.
For reference

Forum
  We have 2 other threads which are static, one to hold our rules set, and the other to list the weekly class roster.

Club Website  - mostly static, I update once or twice a year, takes half an hour.

NZ Slot Racers Facebook page 

Club Facebook page - this overlaps with the NZ one of course. We usually post weekly results and racing pics to NZ as well as club, as do some the other clubs around the country.

That sums up our club, which is now 14 years old, and has around 15 active drivers - comfortable numbers to cope with in our mostly garage based tracks.

A few of us travel to other clubs for local or national events, and they to ours. Next week we have 24 drivers, half locals, half visitors to a full weekend event based around DTM. Prizes, trophies, food supplied during the event, and a slap up self pay Saturday night dinner at a restaurant that I booked.

[Image: DTM-2021-online.jpg]

And remember, everyone in front of me is a filthy rotten cheat, and everyone behind me couldn't drive to save themselves.
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#3

Bill - that's a big question! I'll have a go...

   

First, our club: Worthing HO Racing (aka WHO Racing), on the south coast of the UK. We'd been running ten years and two months when Covid closed the doors. Our website (with an archive of all our events) is: www.whoracing.org.uk and our Facebook page is here and YouTube Channel here.

In a nutshell, we race 24 times a year in a church hall, designing and building a different track each time. Half our racing is HO scale 4-lane analogue and the other half 1:32 scale Scalextric Digital. Our attendance at each event is routinely somewhere between 20 and 30 racers of all ages, genders, backgrounds and abilities. We've always attracted a lot of 'dads and lads'. If the club had a mission statement it would be something like "fun, friendship and low-cost racing for all".

Now on to your specific questions...

1) What do you do to attract new members?  We do a lot of things, there isn't one magic solution. The main reason for people joining us for the first time is 'word of mouth' - a recommendation of current or former WHO racers. Our active presence on Facebook does attract a few people, as does the occasional (free) article in the local press and using (free) local listings and 'what's on' websites. Each year we produce around 250 full colour A6 fliers (costing about £20) which find their way into local libraries, shops, schools - but are mostly distributed by WHO racers to friends, family, colleagues etc. They have the following year's schedule on the back, so get stuck on racers' fridges and noticeboards.

   

Most years we run either a beginners' series (usually team races in the holidays) or a single very public event. In either case, we publicise these widely, using every free method we can find - media releases to local papers, radio and TV stations etc. If the series or event is pitched with the right amount of imagination and flair, it can get plenty of coverage. We also invest a small amount of money - including the annual flier (one side ad for the beginners series, the other side the year's schedule) and a Facebook promotion. The most we've ever spent in a year on publicity was £50.

We also pick two or three 'outside' events to do during the year - a community festival, library event, slot car show etc. These are hard work with no guaranteed returns in terms of new racers. So we pick events we'll enjoy, which will be busy and might create links that benefit the club in the longer term. We get a lot of requests and we turn a lot of people down. We could be doing public events 52 weekends a year, but that's not what the club is about. If we get one person or one family involved each year from public events we are very happy.

However... The success of any promotional work - or word of mouth recommendations - is what the potential new racer then sees on our public platforms (website, Facebook and YouTube). Does that match up with their expectations? And if it does - and if they decide to come along - does what they experience on their first night match up with what we promised?


2) (Maybe more important) What do you do to keep people coming back to play?    The most important thing is the experience on the night (or during the day on our occasional Saturday events). There's the fun and the friendship - that people can walk through the door, be welcomed (we have a welcome desk just inside the door), get on track with a competitive club car and controller and have an exciting first event and feel they are fully involved in the race and the group. We have a subsidised club shop, but no pressure to buy. There are the club cars and controllers, but WHO racers are likely to loan cars and controllers - and often sell good used kit at ridiculously low prices. And there are offers to help tune cars and occasional tuning sessions at people's homes.

We take email addresses of all racers and email them links to the race report, pictures, video and updated championship tables. These are also ready to view via Facebook. We aim to have all the post-race coverage finished within 24 hours after the race has finished. That creates an exciting buzz for a brief period of time... then back to ordinary life, although we do continue with daily Facebook posts - and then begin to ramp up for the next event with another email 6-7 days before and build-up on Facebook. We have no private 'inner circle' Facebook or WhatsApp groups. What you see is what you get - we are all equal members of the club, whether we've been there ten years or ten minutes.

Another thing that might work is that we keep things stable. Classes hardly change, dates are set in October for the following year and don't change (until the pandemic came along). We avoid the situation where someone might invest in new cars and then they are obsolete the following year. It's slightly different for our digital racing, but we guarantee a new digital class will run for at least three years. In our HO racing we have three classes: boxstock Nascar, boxstock F1 and a 'modified' class more or less equivalent to the US HOPRA Super Stock. Many of our race winners and champions use standard Parma or DS resistor controllers. In the digital racing, almost all our classes are non-mag standard Scalextric, with the only exception a Slot.it Group C class. The modifications we allow stretch only as far as a change of tyres, ballast and body rock. Our Wednesday night digital events start with a club car team race and the Saturdays include a club car 'rotation' race. Fun, friendship and low-cost racing for all...

   


3) What makes your club "special" - so that people want to be involved?   There have been numerous people who've told me our club isn't for them. I have been told we should have one permanent track (like most other clubs, instead of having to learn a new track every time), that 'kids' shouldn't race as equals (they should have their own separate category or events), that the importance of 'banter' means slot car clubs should be men only (we have always had racers who are women and young girls - including race winners and champions) and that because we race HO / digital / Scalextric, we can't be considered a 'proper' slot car club and are no more than a "youth club". Personally, I think all those things make our club special and are reasons why many people want to be involved... although I do accept others want something very different. There are nearly a dozen other slot car clubs within a 100 mile drive  - and choice is always a good thing...

The reality is there are many different types of slot car club. When we were sketching out plans for Worthing HO Racing back in 2009, me and Robin spent important time discussing what we wanted - and what we didn't want. We did want a club that was part of the local community, welcoming to dads and lads (and daughters, mums, granddads etc) and was accessible to people from all backgrounds, especially people with limited financial means. Then we went all out to create that club - and we did a pretty good job of it, I think. It is important we have stuck to our guns and - in the early days - the club was run as a 'benevolent dictatorship' to keep its development on track and ethos coherent. There was plenty of advice and hundreds of ideas that would have made a committee system of running the club very difficult (as I have seen at other fledgling clubs). Now that we have a very clear ethos, structure and routine at the club, we have a 10-person 'organising team' (including women and young people) who help run WHO Racing. On the night, race control is almost always run by a junior racer (under-16) or former junior racer. They do a much better job than us oldies.

   

I hope that helps. Do let us know about your club - or plans for one Thumbup
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#4

A key aspect is what used to be known as "friendliness" but has become "inclusiveness". Existing members have to be approachable and open so that new members feel comfortable. Its difficult if there is an established group with the behaviour of some members being tolerated by others. The tolerant members need to be "woke" to the situation and provide encouragement/support to new members.
Employers are adopting a process of mentoring new-starts and whilst that is probably far too formal for a club, the concept is good. It tends to happen normally as new members become more comfortable and conversations flow.

Leo

Forum Precepts:  Don't hijack or divert topics - create a new one.   Don't feed the Troll.    http://www.scuderiaturini.com
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#5

Andy - so much overlap between your post and mine. Just slightly different flavours - I actually ran a juniors and parents night for 2 years and stepped some up to the main club night, but overall, it is interesting to see how close our "formulas" are. 
How we both want to keep costs down, and class longevity - which I neglected to mention, but which we also maintain. We maybe change 2 of 15 classes a year - tops, and often combine two old, similar classes as their relevance and lack of new releases brings them toward closure.

And everything else so similar, but adapted to our physical situations - we have multiple smaller venues, and fixed design wood tracks of course. 
But it's all about the people.
As a result, we haven't had anyone "throw their toys out of the cot" for some years. We don't even have any formal organisational leadership. 
At our club size, and close knit group, its not so needed. But we do have an equivalent informal "benevolent dictatorship." 
One of our hosts is a natural leader and organiser, about a head and shoulders and 50 kg bigger than me, and can generally point us in the directions we might next go. But everyone can throw in some thoughts. 

The key throughout seems to be good relationships - as highlighted by Leo's feeling about some that got heated at his club.

I remember visiting a private club that was "by invitation only" in Sydney, Australia just as I was getting our club established. It was mostly populated by the "Greek mob" of slotters in the city. I was hustling to marshal very quickly, so nervous I would let someone down in my novice state.
One of the guys said with a big grin  "don't worry Mark, around here, we marshal with our hands in our pockets, and for some guys we don't bother to take them out of our pockets" 
That taught me a lot about good attitude and fun being paramount, not the hunger to "crush and conquer all before me on the track"
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#6

Lots of good info/ideas posted here, but I will list a few of the things that out local area clubs have adopted over time.

We run on 10 /12 local area wood tracks and 2 Commercial type track with 30/40 total members,...although over the last year, circumstances have put a major hold on any real race meetings.

A few of the things we do.............

1/We have eliminated season long points championships for the club tracks............the reality is that the same folks tend to win most of the races/championships, and there are those that once it becomes mathematically out of the question to win,.....attendance wains, so we treat each race as a standalone.....while this does not make it easier for the bottom half of the grid to win,....there is no points table for one to see how far down the list one actually is.

2/ On the commercial tracks we do have season point totals, but, we have adopted a "A" vs "B" class of racers.............while we all race together, equal points are collected by both groups based on where you finish within your group, so, we have had instances where the "champ" has come from the "B", base on consistent high place finishes within the respective groups.
At the end of each series the winner of the "B" group is promoted to the "A" group, while the tailender of "A" is demoted to the "B" group.......this can lead to some good natured ribbing  Bigsmile

3/ All members have an equal vote in determining classes and rule sets by class........we normally have an annual/biannual meeting to choose classes/rule sets.

4/ We have a variety of "low cost" vs. "high cost" classes......from tyres, weight, and blueprinting in the "low cost" classes to more liberal rule sets in the "higher cost" classes.

5/ At the end of every race the top three finishers must remove the body from the car, and all are invited to have a look/ask questions

6/ We hold rather frequent "Clinics" on various aspects of tuning from gear ratio choice/set up to tyre prep, to chassis construction.

7/ Like most all groups we do have difficulties attracting new members, so we do our best hang on to the folks we have.......decency, a sense of humour, passing on some knowledge, etc. all seem to work !!

Cheers
Chris Walker
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