Wider reaches of the community are getting involved

Andy Murray, Head of Coaching and Development at Scottish Canoe Association talked to us about the power of going digital and how online meetings have brought wider reaching areas of the community closer together. 

Scottish Canoe Association Logo and Andy Murray

How long have you been working in the membership space?

13 years in my current role and 5 years previously as a volunteer.

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

I've worked in the public and private sector in the past, but working in the voluntary and membership sector is so much more rewarding. Being able to support and provide services to people who have such a passion for their sport and recreation is incredibly rewarding. I work with a great team of colleagues, a wide network of fantastic volunteers and a vast collection of loyal members.

How important is membership income to your organisation and how does the success of membership impact the overall growth of your sport?

Like most membership organisations, we rely on membership income to provide the wide range of membership services. Members are core to our purpose; the reason we exist and we therefore have to consult carefully with them and adapt our services to meet their changing needs. The more members we have the more we can do for the collective community and for each individual member. Whilst some members will join or renew for the direct benefits or services, we also hear from many who say they join or renew because they see great value in the community and of the collective role of the SCA on behalf of all members.  

How have you responded to the challenge of COVID, including any new initiatives you have adopted, and have your efforts helped with member retention and growth?

We quickly reviewed our offering and services when it became clear practical activities would be limited. We introduced a detailed online programme of activities with different optional payment options, or free booking as we did not want cost to be a barrier to anyone. This helped contribute to the cost of running the events.  It's been a massive success with over 2,000 attending online interactive courses in the last 11 months. In addition, we've hosted hundreds of virtual gatherings of different groupings of members to focus on particular topics, or just to network and offer peer support. The sense of community in these sessions is incredibly powerful.

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

We are also a very diverse sport (collection of multiple sports and recreational activities to be more precise) so we find that different members have quite a wide range of expectations. The reasons for joining and remaining a member are wide and varied. What is important for some is not of interest to others. We have a wide range of benefits and services and a relatively high retention level in general, and during covid is encouraging. Our members are very geographically spread across Scotland including across the many island and rural communities so finding ways to engage with all our members was sometimes a challenge. 

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

Keeping connected with our members is key and for many years we've been hosting online meetings as well as national and regional events and activities. However, even regional events can be quite far from home for some people. The explosion in online participation over the last year means we've had members take part in meetings, discussions and courses from a much wider area of the country. The limiting factor is no longer distance but the success and speed of an internet connection!

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

GoMembership provides us with a comprehensive administration platform to manage membership and events (and more!). The simplicity of creating events and managing event bookings means we can quickly and easily adapt our events programme, create various discounts and booking criteria based on membership criteria or time. The personalised emails also mean we can ensure those who book get a specific email about the event type.

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