Appaloosa Horse Club

Membership Recruitment

Guide To Membership Recruitment

Where do we find them, and how do we keep them?

Regional clubs have historically been the best way for the Appaloosa Horse Club to stay in touch with Appaloosa owners at the local level. Over the years, the purpose and general make up of regional clubs has changed dramatically. Of the many changes, one has been a decrease in membership. This has forced many regional clubs to change their focus. What follows is a guide to help you and your regional club seek out new members and to keep them interested and involved.

What is a regional club?

In the precise sense, a regional club is an officially recognized group of 50 or more people who, as enthusiasts of the Appaloosa horse, have joined together to incorporate an organization with the specifically stated “purpose” and intent: “To cooperate with and aid in every way possible the programs and functions of the ApHC.” The ApHC is a national organization whose stated mission is “Dedication to preserving, improving, promoting and enhancing the breed known as the Appaloosa.” It is on the basis of its stated “purpose” that a regional club is granted its charter by the ApHC.

In actuality, a regional club can be many things:
-promoter of ApHC-approved horse shows,
-developer of ApHC-approved races,
-sponsor of ApHC-approved trail rides,
-sponsor of, or promoter of participation in events not approved by the ApHC which may include:
-competitive and endurance rides
-all-breed horse shows
-seminars, clinics and other educational programs,
-group of Appaloosa breeders,
-political action group, promoter of the Appaloosa horse,

-social club,
-all of the above and more.

Your club’s mission statement is a very important aspect of your charter. Every club should take care in defining their mission statement. There were reasons for establishing the club, and that should be a great portion of your statement. Once your mission statement is written, you need to educate your members as to what the mission of the club is. Any prospective member should be able to ask for and receive a standard answer from your current members.
The next question you need to ask is, what are the goals of our club? You should set both short term and long term goals. To aid in achieving your goals, it may be helpful to form a Planning Committee.
With no publicly stated mission and no defined goals, your club is like a ship without a captain or a rudder. It leaves the dock with no destination in mind and then putts about aimlessly, ending up wherever the wind and tides take it.
When establishing your mission and goals, keep in mind the railroads. Had their management thought of themselves as being in the transportation business rather than in the railroad industry, they would today control trucking and airlines. Their narrow vision of what they were all about nearly killed their industry and took them from a position of leadership to last place in transportation. They were unable or unwilling to take a franchise into the future and follow the trend. Instead, they insisted on their way being the best way and they struggled vainly to regain their past. Is yours an Appaloosa Horse Show Club or is it defined in a much broader sense to include all types of horse enthusiasts with an emphasis on the Appaloosa?

What does your club offer members?

Assuming we all know what our purpose for joining together is, we need to take a very objective look at our organization and take an inventory of various aspects.
  • How are you perceived by your potential customers?
  • Who are your customers and why?
  • How limited is your potential prospecting pool?
Keep in mind that no more than 20-25% of all horse owners are involved in showing, and only 20-25% of those people are involved in breed shows. Therefore on the average in a group of 100 owners, 22 show and only 11 of those go to breed shows. This means any organization that limits itself to serving only the breed show segment is writing off 89% of the available prospect pool.
It is imperative in this inventory to ask yourself how limited your appeal is. Who may you be leaving out? Think of a program that would interest a wide variety of people. The ApHC has lost people in the past by not catering to the Sport Horse, the Pleasure Horse, the Games Horse, etc. The beginning of the end for any group can be seen in the fragmentation of interests not being served properly.
You must then look at how membership in your club will generally benefit someone. This will include both tangible and intangible benefits. Take an inventory of specific potential benefits to your members and make a list of what you want your club to offer.
  • Meet nice, friendly people
  • Learn something new and grow intellectually
  • Materials received as a member
  • Variety of activities offered for children and adults
  • Awards you may receive, etc.
With all of this in mind, review your dues structure in relation to the value the club offers and adjust where necessary. If all your members show horses, why do you charge extra to sign up horses for points? Do the dues charged cover the costs of the membership benefits? Does your newsletter pay for itself? These are just a sampling of questions you will want to consider.

How do you market your club?

Now that you know what you offer and how much you’ll charge for it, you need to target your marketing efforts. If you offer more than just a breed show or two a year, your recruiting information must tell people what it is you offer and the benefits they will derive. You must look at every possible method to advertise your existence to the individuals you feel would be most likely to “buy” your product.
  • Classified ads
  • Posters in local businesses
  • Direct mail
  • Your newsletter
  • An open house or barn
  • Booths at local events
  • Incentives for current members to bring in new members
  • Club business cards
  • Bumper stickers or other advertising specialties
  • Radio or TV
  • Public service work
  • Sponsor a local youth group
Regardless of how you market yourself, you must have a plan. You cannot rely on people learning about you by chance. Word of mouth does not work! Set specific goals and objectives and define how you will get there. Successful clubs don’t wait for people to find them. They market themselves aggressively and actively seek new opportunities.

How do we retain members?

The most important thing you need to do to retain your membership is to pay attention to them. Send them a welcome letter when they first join the club and possibly include a new member packet with names and numbers of other club members. Make sure they are well aware of what is coming up next, and invite them to join in. Old members and new members alike appreciate the small tokens as much as the big ones. Solicit their opinions and suggestions and include them in the decision making. The fastest way to lose members is to make executive decisions without informing everyone else. Not only include what people’s accomplishments are with their horses in your newsletter, but it might be nice to include other information as well. Human interest tidbits go a long way. If you have a member that has a special skill or who might be in a profession which would be helpful to your club, ask them for their assistance. Capitalize on people’s need to feel as though they are wanted and appreciated.

How can we better service our customers?

The largest complaint from regional clubs is that members don’t attend meetings. Well, the first thing you must look at is, are our meetings worthwhile? Hold meetings for the general membership that are informational and don’t deal with specific management problems or decisions. You need to avoid negative debate. Invite guest speakers or have videos showing some new topic or activity. Hold meetings at convenient times in convenient locations, not just what’s convenient for the person setting up the meetings. If it is at all possible, you might rotate the locations of your meetings to give more people the opportunity to attend.
When you set up your different committees, there should be a mix of old and new members to stimulate ideas. If people don’t readily volunteer to be on a committee, ask them to participate. The worst that can happen is that they say no. When people come to the table with new suggestions, it’s best to analyze the idea. Discuss what is good about the idea, and then maybe discuss what could be changed. The final and best outcome of most ideas are not what was initially brought forward. However, the fastest way to kill someone’s initiative or creativity is to review and vote on every little detail. Let the ideas flow and let the discussion take a natural course.
Once you have formed your committees and they are working at capacity, formally recognize the contributions of those members. Provide them with some type of special recognition. This could be as simple as announcing a thank you at your next event.
It is important to keep your leadership fresh. It might sound impressive to say that you have been the President of such and such club for 10 years, but this makes it easy for your club to become stagnant. There is absolutely nothing wrong with change. In fact, change is necessary to keep up with the latest trends and constant flux of the industry. Stagger terms of directors and limit those terms. Make sure that new officers are privy to what is currently in the works when positions do change hands. Don’t let one disgruntled member be the downfall of your club. Remember that you can’t please everyone, but by including as many people as possible in the operations of your club, you will have the best chance for success. 

Now that you know the do’s, here are the final don't do's.

  • Don’t accept your club’s condition as being a result of outside forces. “When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that three of his fingers are pointing at himself.”
  • Don’t encourage negativism by tolerating it or being a part of it. People won’t join an organization whose members are constantly complaining and appear to be unhappy.
  • Don’t think the old way is the best way. If you are trying to recapture the excitement of the years when the Appaloosa was on the rise, then your organization has to create excitement that is appealing to the Appaloosa owner of today.
  • Don’t allow your club to be run for the sole enjoyment of, or to serve the personal agenda of, any one person or small group of individuals. Run it for all of the membership.
  • Don’t limit your horizons. Expand the organization’s thinking power by including everyone.
  • Don’t expect your club to be around forever if your members are not willing to contribute to it’s future. A club’s success is not measured by it’s leaders doing extraordinary things, but by it’s members doing ordinary things extraordinarily.
  • Don’t forget that you are in competition for a partial share of discretionary income that is available for recreation. Horse ownership is expensive and owners spend the most when they are having fun.
  • Don’t accept the things you like as being the same things other people do. Test your ideas on a wide variety of people.
  • Don’t ever accept anything that is not targeted for excellence. If you are going to do something, do it right.
  • Don’t forget the words a Greek philosopher uttered around 500 B.C., “There is nothing permanent except change.”