Tips, Suggestions and Ideas for Growing Clubs
Pure Dog Talk Patrons join in a roundtable discussion of “how do we grow our clubs.” How do we bring the energy and enthusiasm of new members and combine it with the knowledge and experience of long-term members to make something good that grows. Recorded live at Bonneville Basin Kennel Association in Farmington, Utah.
- “Cute kids and puppies sell newspapers. Get the media here. Get the media here talking about the great thing the dog shows are. It’s a family event. My kids are here doing this instead of off doing something sketchy.”
- Meet the breeds at the mall, Responsible Dog Ownership Days, school presentations and involving the club in the local community activities
- “Our dogs are our gifts to us and if we could only give the humans in our world the grace and the kindness and the forgiveness that our dogs give us every single day…”
- “We’re all trying our very best. If someone accidentally does something that might hurt your feelings, they didn’t do it on purpose. Be kind, say OK and go about your business. Every moment in time is not drama … everybody’s trying to do their best. I just so frustrated with the way we treat each other.
- “If you go to the club and say, ‘hey this is a great idea, you guys should do this,’ club leadership will likely balk. If you come to the club and say, ‘hey guys, I’ve got some amazing idea and I’ve got this entire six-page plan and my staff and this is how I’m going to manage it and this is what I’m going to do and I’m going to make you money while I’m at,’ the clubs be like ‘alright, go for it.’”
- “I’m hearing give grace. I’m hearing kindness. I’m hearing be willing to volunteer your time not just give other people bright ideas. I’m hearing ‘we’re not curing world peace at the dog show.’ Let’s be nice to each other. Mutual respect, participation, support, working in the community, building local communications.”
AKC Club Development Has Your Back
All breed and specialty clubs throughout the country are struggling. Members are aging, new members are few and far between. Some clubs are struggling financially, others burdened with a handful of active members. Some have even closed their doors.
AKC Club Development’s main focus is to help clubs grow. Whether that means providing ideas to recruit new members or offering guidance to organize events in a cost-effective and exhibitor-friendly manner. Success should be defined by the club, said Guy Fisher, Manager of Club Development. In a general sense, Fisher noted, success for a club is creating a fiscally strong organization with the means to support its members and community.
New AKC Department Created in 2017
Glenn Lycan, Director of Event Operations Support and Doug Ljungren, Executive Vice President of Sports and Events, looked around a couple years ago and noted that while the AKC had lots of resources for new clubs just getting started, they didn’t have a structured way to help existing clubs thrive.
“We had a goal to assist clubs to be more successful in every aspect of their development,” Lycan said. “… it’s funny you commented about how people think that the AKC is just businessmen in suits … that’s exactly how clubs looked at it, too. So, Guy’s first task, and what Guy has been excellent at, is letting clubs know that we are dog people, that we have a lot of dog experience, but we also have a lot of AKC experience and our phone is always available. We will help you. So, you hear about the glass ceiling. But AKC had a glass wall between clubs and us. And that was our whole goal for year one was to break that wall down so people felt comfortable coming to us.”
Dog people helping dog people
Fisher said he was literally born into the sport. His family raised Boxers and the Boxers raised him. An active member of all-breed and specialty clubs in Michigan, Fisher was a professional handler and his children remain active in the sport.
Lycan’s family bred Samoyeds and put him in charge of the kennel at 13 years old. He later went to work for Houston and Toddie Clark, then professional handlers and today well-respected all-breed judges. He apprenticed with them for three years, met his wife who also worked for them, and eventually began their own professional handling career in Georgia. There they were involved with their local all-breed club events and various national clubs as well.
Clubs Are the Backbone
“The clubs are our backbone of our sport,” Fisher said. “If we don’t have clubs we have nowhere to facilitate our sports and to participate. So, I always viewed it as a club needs to be a source of breeders owners owner handlers professional handlers to come together and educate their community within their territory.
“… And one of my main questions for clubs was what do you do for your membership. And a lot of clubs didn’t do anything … one of my suggestions was ‘how about trying to make it a little bit more of a fun, welcoming environment for these people’ so that they would want to … give off good positive vibes to the rest of the sport.”