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pdjang
October 1st, 2008, 10:31 AM
http://www.usms.org/admin/conv08/actionplan.pdf

I didn't go to the national meeting (too much work, not enough annual leave), but I do follow the convention via the post meeting report.

If you are interested in the future of USMS, you should read what is being proposed. USMS has come a long way since Amarillo and while you may or may not agree with all of the concepts and terms in the plan, IMHO, it is does a very good job of 1) recognizing our growth issues and 2) describing a plan for solving some of these problems.

I'm not suggesting that the plan is perfect and I'm well aware that USMS is not a democracy, but I feel that our professional staff and leaders should consider our opinions (as we are THE CUSTOMER).

Redbird Alum
October 1st, 2008, 02:52 PM
Part of your revenue plan is increasing fees. Have you considered having tiered memberships with some form of incentives based on tier? You could have a collectible (annually) or offer special one-time opportunities (lotteries) for higher level memberships.

We were pleasantly surprised at the numbers of higher-tier memberships we gained even in our local athletic boosters program from such incentives.

Of course, this would assume you have been successful in centralizing some administration functions.

ehoch
October 1st, 2008, 07:19 PM
I am not sure I understand why "Growth" always seems to be the absolute highest priority ?
Is having 90,000 members so much better than having 45,000 ?

I think serving the existing members should be the number one goal and finding ways to serve them better. Growing 8% or something a year sounds great - but USMS is not IBM.
Right now we are lucky to find hosts for Nationals - I am not sure, twice as many members will solve that.

LindsayNB
October 1st, 2008, 11:22 PM
One of the benefits of membership growth is revenue growth without raising fees, a lot of costs don't scale up as fast as revenue so membership growth means you can offer better services to each member. Of course you have to have improved programs that you want to offer for that rationale to work.

But more fundamentally, I think it is the basic mission of USMS to increase the number of adults achieving benefit in wellness, health, fitness, and competition through aquatics. Membership growth is the natural measure of success in that mission.

One of the things I would be very interested in seeing is an analysis of the factors that lead some clubs to be wildly successful while others simply survive (or don't). Are there things that lead to success that can be replicated? Some sort of systematic survey of members that don't renew and why would also be very interesting.

Finally, I wonder if some sort of initiative to "take competition to the swimmers" on top of swimmers going to the competitions is something that might increase the proportion of swimmers that are engaged in the competition area and therefore motivated to maintain membership. By this I mean that a lot of swimmers don't go to meets not because they aren't competitive but because they don't have the time. Why not promote time trials that are held in a couple lanes in regular workout time slots? That would significantly reduce the barriers to participation, both in terms of time commitment and intimidation/self consciousness - lot of people would feel more comfortable in a time trial versus a more competitive environment. If it is seen as more a regular part of what clubs do rather than something that some people in the club do outside of the club, more people would be more likely to participate. You could also tie it into things like the checkoff challenge and it could give some focus to workouts. My expectation would be that this would lead to greater participation in meets rather than less, the idea is not to replace meets but to offer another venue that is more convenient for members. This would be particularly good in rural areas where meets are few and far between.

ViveBene
October 2nd, 2008, 07:06 AM
Excellent responses to date.

I'll read beyond the first question in the Action Plan in a bit. It gave me pause: "Are you satisfied with this level [35% per year] of [annual] member non-renewal?"

Sure; why shouldn't I be? In other words, where is the benchmarking? This could be a good figure or an average figure. Using some stats from institutions I am familiar with, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have very high renewal rates, high 90's. OTOH, museums, which study turnstyle attendance relentlessly, find it very, very difficult to entice once-a-year visitors to come a second or third time. Success on this metric is in the single digits percentagewise.

Without benchmarking, without context, the question is pointless.

In addition to benchmarking, I'd like to see 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year consistent-renewal rates. If there is a big dropoff at 3 years (the third time for anything is the psychological breakpoint), that would suggest an area to address. (BTW, I'm not sure what "annual renewal" means. Does it mean purchasing membership one year at a time versus, say, 10 years? If so, principal components analysis of the lumped figure of 35% should be useful. What part reflects stopping membership after one year, stopping membership after three years, and so on.)

One suggestion: Nathan [last name?] posted an inquiry about swimmers who might be interested in clinics by Megan Jendrick. There was a very favorable response, so it looks like one clinic was added:
http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=11836

It appears this was done without USMS facilitation other than the forums for communication, and perhaps allowing use of a pool at Nationals (I don't know where the clinic was held or even if it was held, but use of a pool at a USMS-sanctioned event likely took care of insurance issues, which was another gift, if passive, from the org). Can the org partner with its top swimmers to do more along this line?

Another brief suggestion (like, anyone in the org is reading this, LOL ): An outdoor org I belong to has held the basic membership fee steady, but above that line is "basic membership plus": "Yes, I'd like to donate $10 this year to help the org continue its important conservation activities." People who don't check that first box, with the plus $10, get to feel like jerks who are personally standing in the way of conservation (that would be me). Those who do check get to feel warm and fuzzy over volunteering the cost of three lattes to saving the planet. You can bet the org in every one of its communications to members talks about conservation, and indeed it has managed, either individually or in a coalition, to buy large chunks of land as they come on the market. So the plus $10 folks feel very gratified. The USMS would have to do something concrete to ask for a donation of plus $10. Shouldn't be impossible.

VB

LindsayNB
October 2nd, 2008, 09:57 AM
Another thought is that it might be useful to think about how the benefits are delivered and by whom.

It seems to me that for most swimmers most of the benefits of masters swimming are delivered by the clubs. The clubs provide the pool time, the coach, and they organize the meets. USMS provides mainly infrastructure to help clubs to carry out these activities: insurance, rules, officials training, records, rankings, etc.. There are some direct services such as the magazine, the website, and the fitness programs.

One way to look at this is that in some sense the clubs are the primary direct beneficiaries of USMS rather than the swimmers. The swimmers benefit most directly by having good clubs.

If you look at it that way the club development initiatives in the plan are very important. But my real point is that there will be a strong tendency for swimmers to look only at direct benefits and overlook the indirect benefits they receive from the infrastructure support provided to their clubs.

So, I think one question we have to ask is whether the people who organize clubs are getting sufficient benefit from USMS to make them feel comfortable setting a policy that all their swimmers will be USMS members?

On the flipside, are there opportunities for USMS to project its brand through the club system and directly reach the swimmers, making them more aware of the infrastructure? It seems to me that the "My USMS" has some potential here, if you can get a lot of your members signing on to get an integrated view of their swimming activities, logging their workouts, setting goals, tracking their participation in meets, tracking their participation in the long distance pool events, the check off challenge, etc., then they will not only perceive the value they get from USMS but may be more likely to participate in those various programs as they are more visible.

There is also some potential in making it visible which clubs participate in which programs, so a potential member can see that if they join Club A they will have the opportunity to do, for example, the one hour postal event. There should be a recognition system for clubs that provide their members the opportunity to participate in the various USMS programs. That would help steer members to clubs that participate in the USMS branded events and put some pressure on clubs to participate. It also means that clubs that want to be seen to offer these activities will see that it is a lot easier to offer these programs using the USMS infrastructure than cobbling together their own systems.

Redbird Alum
October 3rd, 2008, 05:37 PM
But more fundamentally, I think it is the basic mission of USMS to increase the number of adults achieving benefit in wellness, health, fitness, and competition through aquatics. Membership growth is the natural measure of success in that mission.


Lindsay - if three out of four elements are wellness, health and fitness, perhaps USMS needs to provide more communication, tools and personal or team testimonials/stories about the successes USMS-registered people have had through their endeavors.

I agree membership growth is a base metric, but how can we measure the wellness improvement aspects and use that in marketing?

hofffam
October 3rd, 2008, 05:57 PM
Why do they think Gary Hall (I assume GH Jr.) is such a draw? I think he is a divisive figure.

LindsayNB
October 3rd, 2008, 08:16 PM
Lindsay - if three out of four elements are wellness, health and fitness, perhaps USMS needs to provide more communication, tools and personal or team testimonials/stories about the successes USMS-registered people have had through their endeavors.

I agree membership growth is a base metric, but how can we measure the wellness improvement aspects and use that in marketing?

Here's an experiment you can try: go to the USMS home page and time how many clicks and how long it takes you to navigate to a page that explains the wellness, health and fitness benefits of masters swimming.

There is a question in my mind whether the problem is marketing or programs. I don't know whether a 30% non-renewal is good or bad. I would guess that the renewal rate at your typical gym/fitness center is lower. Perhaps Jim can check the numbers for some of the top programs to see whether the rate is universal or varies from club to club. It would be interesting to get a list of the ten clubs (of some minimum size) with the highest renewal rate and the ten clubs with the lowest and then see what the gap in rates is and if there is anything identifiable that differentiates them.

I think you should always go to the data first if you've got it, and in this case I think you do, the answer should only be a few queries on your registration database away.

If the problem is you don't have enough people coming in the answer might be marketing, if the problem is you have too many people leaving, the answer might be improved programs. Right now we're kind of flailing around in the dark trying to figure out the problem and guessing at what the solution might be.

Jim?

Glenn
October 3rd, 2008, 08:43 PM
Hofffam,

Re Gary Hall - I assumed he was talking about GH Sr. who also swims Masters and holds the WR in the 100m back set at Worlds at Stanford! I guess it depends what age group you are in as to which GH you think he meant.

craiglll@yahoo.com
October 4th, 2008, 03:45 AM
30 % non-renewal rate is rather embarrassing. I truly believe if the new ED can get a true structure that reaches to both the needs of the club and the needs of the individual, who for some reason doesn't participate in a cub, he will have reached a great goal. A huge problem with USMC is that it is both an organization of clubs and of individuals. most nonprofit organizations aren't burdened with this structure. Individuals have such various and often opposing goals, even with in the same individual. Clubs succeed when all members are able to agree on why the club is there. Basic, core values push organizations forward. But we have so many avenues bringing core values.

I think the internal belief that many people involved in the organization nationally are still working out what the organization is. I would like to know how the vision and mission of the organization are influencing the decisions that are the double sides of USMC. Were clubs seen as the way to achieve the stated goals or working to the individual. This really is a conflict in the idea that you can serve both on a national level and fulfill the needs of both.

Also, it is no secret that I think doing a magazine by the organization directly takes us away from both what should be the vision and mission and our magazine continues this schizophrenic identity if we are to grow. The magazine was begun too early. USMC didn't through the baby out with the bathwater, it put a clean diaper on the baby before it had washed the baby's bottom. The magazine maybe should have been put off for a future when there would be a staff in a localized office. The magazine is an example of not understanding or looking at basic core values and not using them to create a vision and mission to guide us. I'm not sure anyone really understands the core values of the org., if there are any.

Growth is good but is the growth spoken in the plan really the growht we need?

Allen Stark
October 4th, 2008, 03:41 PM
I like the plan overall.I have a problem about the direction of the magazine,although I really don't like where it is now. It said the magazine is taking a third of our budget.Why??? Did it cost this much when we were affiliated with Swimming World? It seems like Swimming World is pretty well doing what Swimmer does now and costs us nothing.That said,if we are going to keep Swimmer,making it more electronic doesn't seem to help grow anything,it only cuts cost.Is Swimmer on newsstands? What about having free copies sent to health clubs?What about giving them out at Tri events?What about sending them to all college swimmers,or at least coaches.I thought we went to publishing our own magazine to make money and increase public awareness.Has it done either?
What about having a really slick pamphlet "Is Masters Swimming for YOU" that every USA-S swimmer gets at 18(also sent to health clubs,colleges,triathletes,etc.)

craiglll@yahoo.com
October 4th, 2008, 09:08 PM
I like the plan overall.I have a problem about the direction of the magazine,although I really don't like where it is now. It said the magazine is taking a third of our budget.Why??? Did it cost this much when we were affiliated with Swimming World? It seems like Swimming World is pretty well doing what Swimmer does now and costs us nothing.That said,if we are going to keep Swimmer,making it more electronic doesn't seem to help grow anything,it only cuts cost.Is Swimmer on newsstands? What about having free copies sent to health clubs?What about giving them out at Tri events?What about sending them to all college swimmers,or at least coaches.I thought we went to publishing our own magazine to make money and increase public awareness.Has it done either?
What about having a really slick pamphlet "Is Masters Swimming for YOU" that every USA-S swimmer gets at 18(also sent to health clubs,colleges,triathletes,etc.)

i really think that Swimmer could be the item that kills USMS.

LindsayNB
October 4th, 2008, 11:09 PM
I like the plan overall. I have a problem about the direction of the magazine, although I really don't like where it is now. It said the magazine is taking a third of our budget. Why??? Did it cost this much when we were affiliated with Swimming World? It seems like Swimming World is pretty well doing what Swimmer does now and costs us nothing. That said, if we are going to keep Swimmer, making it more electronic doesn't seem to help grow anything, it only cuts cost. Is Swimmer on newsstands? What about having free copies sent to health clubs? What about giving them out at Tri events? What about sending them to all college swimmers,or at least coaches. I thought we went to publishing our own magazine to make money and increase public awareness. Has it done either?
What about having a really slick pamphlet "Is Masters Swimming for YOU" that every USA-S swimmer gets at 18(also sent to health clubs,colleges,triathletes,etc.)

On a lighter note, I got a mental picture of Swimmer magazine becoming the method by which age group swimmers are "put out to pasture". Picture a group of older age group swimmers huddled together having spotted the coach with a copy of USMS Swimmer wondering who he's going to give it to... But seriously, if you want to have a paper publication delivered to all your members. unless you can find serious advertisers it is going to cost money whether it is produced internally or you pay for subscriptions to an externally published magazine. And yes, USMS did pay big bucks for subscriptions to the old magazine before starting USMS Swimmer magazine.

I don't foresee Swimmer magazine being the death of USMS but I think Craig's earlier post has some truth to it in that masters swimming everywhere has a bit of a dual identity between the competitive side and the non-competitive side. Added on to that is the fact that it is much easier for a national body to do things like arranging for a national championship than it is for it to make an impact in the day to day running of workouts which is what impacts on non-competitive swimmers.

It might be interesting to imagine USMS being split into two separate entities, one that was exclusively a competition governing body and another that dealt exclusively with non-competitive swimming. The former would likely look a whole lot like USMS currently does, except a quarter to a third the size. It's a little harder to imagine what the latter organization would look like but probably not a whole lot like USMS does now. It is probably safe to say that the fitness committee in that organization would probably get a budget in excess of the $240 in the current USMS budget... :rolleyes:

Another interesting exercise would be to look at creating a hypothetical club where none of the members would be going to meets, and ask what it would take for that club to be successful. What programs would you institute to motivate members if swim meets were out of the picture? That exercise might lead in the direction of how to focus on the needs of the large majority of USMS members.

craiglll@yahoo.com
October 4th, 2008, 11:53 PM
But why do we need a magazine published? The magazine reminds f more of the AARP magazine than it does about an active organization moving forward to interest its many subgroups. It so quickly dismisses every group that has any interests outside of its constant self-praise.