I’ve been thinking about what it takes for a club to survive in the 21st century. I belong to a fair number of automotive marque clubs, and I regularly attend meetings for other clubs as a guest. Here are my tips for making a club a more effective organization.
Make it Appealing
Car clubs have to offer enthusiasts more reasons to attend meetings and events than simply “Gosh, we all own MGs!”
The local Alfa Club, Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon, has a tried-and-true formula that I enjoy. They meet once a month on a weeknight at a local pub where they have a private room set aside. Having a separate room is very important, as it allows club members to visit with each other in a specific area. Sometimes this costs clubs a few dollars, and I have heard people complaining about the $50 or $100 charge.
My response to them is to get real. Everything costs money, and allocating the funds for a private meeting space is money well spent.
Every meeting should have an agenda, no matter how casual.
The first half of the Alfa Club meeting deals with housekeeping items: minutes from past meetings, notices of upcoming events, talks about club politics, etc.
Then there is a 20-minute break, where during good weather we can go out to the parking lot and kick tires, admiring what people have driven to the meeting.
The second half of the meeting consists of a program, generally with a guest speaker. I have given talks on collecting, others have given slide-show presentations of their trips to Goodwood and the like, and still others give talks about detailing your car.
These last about 30 minutes, and then there is a question-and-answer session, following by everyone going home.
Perhaps this is just a matter of personal preference, but I’m not fond of meetings on weekends, and I’m not excited by get-togethers where there is no program or presentation.
On the Road
A critical part of any vibrant club is the driving activities. The local Porsche Club (The Oregon Region Porsche Club of America) has a “Saturday dash” during the good-driving months. Cars arrive at a starting point, instructions are handed out, and 100 or so miles and a couple of hours later, the event ends at a decent lunch place.
I’ve never liked “cars and coffee” events very much, as I spend enough time wandering around looking at cars without giving up my Saturday mornings for more lollygagging. I much prefer to spend a half a Saturday on a spirited drive with friends.
Further, a half-day drive allows you to entice your significant other and/or children, without having them commit to an entire day.
Longer tours are important as well. During the past few months, I’ve been on overnight tours hosted by the Alfa Club of Oregon, the Oregon Porsche Club and the Pacific Coast Rover Club. Accommodations ranged from primitive camping to luxury hotels, and good wine enhanced all the experiences.
Special events that occur on an annual basis are also a good thing. The Rover Club hosts an annual Holiday Run that ends up with a potluck dinner at a member’s home. I’ve been going for nearly a decade now. You don’t have to go on the “run” (what Rover members call the driving part) to come to the dinner, and I see a lot of friends that day and night.
The Alfa Club and the Porsche Club both have annual Holiday (they used to be called Christmas) dinners as well.
The Big Events
It is also important to have one or two multi-day tours during the year for the owners who really want to get out and enjoy their cars. The Monte Shelton NW Classic is one of the oldest events of its kind, and it provides a competitive TSD event for those so inclined. It happens under the auspices of the Oregon Alfa Club.
Northwest Passage is the Porsche-club related event that is three nights in length, and always goes through scenic areas, often off the beaten path.
I’m sure there are many events hosted by other clubs as well. These just happen to be the ones I am familiar with.
The Magic Mixture
So as a basis, I would like to see car clubs have meetings with some organization to them, and held in a private room.
I would encourage them to have monthly half-day driving events that give people a chance to take their cars out for long enough to get them really warmed up.
Annual events, like holiday parties, are a good thing.
And finally, two- or three-night tours give those really interested in putting several-hundred miles on their cars a chance to do just that, in the company of like-minded people.
As I have said before, cars are just an excuse for people to get together. These various activities, which require a commitment level of very low to very high, provide a menu that will keep people engaged with their cars and with their clubs.