Campaigning and membership growth with British Canoeing

Samantha Rankin, Head of Membership & Customer Services talks to us about the fantastic work being done at British Canoeing to overcome the most common challenges being faced by membership organisations today

How long have you been working in the membership space?

I have spent the last 6 years working in a National Governing Body and in a membership role.  I have spent a further 6 years within the membership sector.  I hadn’t realised it had been so long!

What are some of the most exciting aspects to working in membership?

Whilst many processes and activities are cyclical, I have found that no two days (or years for that matter) are the same.  As systems develop and members requirements change, it is always possible to make improvements.  Getting that positive feedback from a member is always a great feeling.

How important is membership to British Canoeing and how does the success of membership impact the growth of the sport of Canoeing in Great Britain?

Members are at the heart of everything British Canoeing works on, and we wouldn’t exist without them.  Whilst public funding for sport at national level has been relatively protected we cannot take it for granted, and membership income is invested into the areas of the sport that members have highlighted as being important to them.

We naturally want to see more people paddling and coming into membership, but 85% of our members are recreational paddlers.  So the growth we are seeing not only benefits the sport, but also ensures more people are doing exercise, spending time outdoors and improving their wellbeing.

We also work closely with the national associations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who deliver membership services in their respective home nations.

How has the global pandemic (COVID-19) impacted your member numbers and planned events through 2020 and 2021?

We saw a 60% increase in membership during 2020 from both an increase in our retention rate and also through more new members joining.  Paddlesports has been popular amongst families looking for activities to do together, it is accessible whatever your age or ability and by its nature you can stay socially distanced.   

Events have been affected significantly, with all national and international events cancelled or put on hold.  This has been challenging for our athletes, our competitive members and clubs.

How have you responded to this challenge and have your efforts helped with member retention and growth?

During the initial lockdown during March and April, paddling was not allowed within the Government guidelines, and we focused on supporting paddlers, and offering additional content and digital services.  

With a return to paddling in May, British Canoeing launched a ‘Go Paddling this Summer’ campaign.  The campaign was designed to inspire and educate people on the joys of paddling, including messages around safe and responsible paddling in line with government guidance as well as promoting British Canoeing membership. As a result we saw both an increase in membership retention and new members joining, thanks to media coverage and support from our waterways partners including Environment Agency and Canal and River Trust.

Check out the beautiful photos from the list of winners here

Before COVID-19 struck what would you consider your main membership challenges to be?

Paddlesport is a wide ranging activity covering everything from recreational paddling in inflatable craft, to team sports and competition disciplines.  Understanding members interests and exploring how to provide tailored content is something that we want to develop.

Improving membership retention and satisfaction continues to be an area of focus. 

How have you overcome or how are you working towards overcoming these challenges?

By providing the services and benefits that members see value in, we see an improvement in our satisfaction scores, and we use the results from our annual membership survey to support membership development. For example, the Go Green membership option is as a result of the feedback from members.

We have been asking some specific questions during the membership journey to understand what members are interested in, and using this to create newsletter and website content.  Our next steps are to personalise more of the emails we send.

What are the main benefits you have found working with GoMembership?

GoMembership allows us to manage our memberships, clubs, courses and qualifications and to provide automated communications, allowing us to focus on implementing new products and services for members.

How can you add value to your membership?

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