by Bowls ACT on January 10, 2019

(Article Courtesy Bowls Australia  –  by Domenic Favata)

A powerhouse club south of Perth in Western Australia, the Bunbury Bowling Club could be forgiven for abiding by the old saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

Instead, the club has recently undertaken a series of workshops and meetings, with its members leading a comprehensive review of all aspects of their club and discussions on what can be done to achieve future sustainability.

Bunbury Bowling Club was established in 1947 and has been a well-run and financially-prosperous club for many years, one of the biggest clubs in WA’s South West League.

Boasting well over 200 playing members, the club has certainly done a lot right but admirably maintain an appetite to keep doing things better.

This mantra has been led by new President Greg Slavin, a former school principal who has a strong track record of improving every organisation he’s been involved in.

The first step made by Greg was to evaluate the club’s present status.

Was there a need to change anything?

The club had been doing well on and off the greens, however, as is the trend facing many clubs around Australia, its pennant playing members were falling away.

Concerning for Greg was the average age of the club’s pennant playing member was higher than the average across Australia.

A meeting was called for all members interested in the future of the club.

This was held on a Sunday afternoon late in 2018, with over 80 interested club members involved in the presentations, discussions and workshops.

The workshops included a series of activities which explored the reasons why people played bowls, why they loved their club, what it meant to them, and what benefits they received from being attached.

It was agreed that bowling Bunbury was a huge part of their lives, the source of great enjoyment, camaraderie, and social interaction.

Bowls Australia (BA) census statistics were then presented to the group, as well as an average age table for the club.

It seemed that the members had a suspicion of their average ages, but it was only when the raw numbers were presented to them that the reality of the future threat in membership decline was really understood.

Collectively it was agreed that the club remained relevant, and was too important to its members and the community to ever risk closure.

An enthusiastic discussion session followed, with all points of view contributed and listened to, while and all ideas were compiled.

The members had been given ownership of the clubs new direction.

A Steering Committee was formed and given the task to ‘explore how the club can sustain increased membership to provide the necessary funds to develop the club for more members and the wider community’.

It was decided the club would hire a Strategic Planning facilitator to help incorporate the ‘Change 2’ program, a program Greg had been involved with in his time in the school system.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any club but all too often, too much is left to too few.

A different strategy was needed to recruit the 12 volunteers that were to form the ‘Change2 Committee’.

“Get to know your members,” Greg said.

“Just talk to them, find out about them and what they do or did. You would be surprised at how much talent and expertise you have among your bowling members. You will have accountants, civil engineers, painters, plumbers, electricians, IT experts, the list goes on.

“You don’t even need to find your volunteers from your bowling members. Husbands, wives, neighbours and associates all could be untapped resources.”

From these discussions with members, the 12 volunteers were individually selected and among them were members and non-members.

There were accountants, builders, teachers, bank managers, and even a booking agent from a repertory theatre society.

Within this committee, no stone was left unturned.

Every aspect of the club was scrutinised and evaluated including facilities, on-green performance, relationships with Local Government and the community, and financial opportunities that could be made available.

A comprehensive Strategic Plan was developed and in the short-term, a number of initiatives have already taken place:

    • In recognising the limited opportunities for female bowlers, especially those in the workforce, the club now has a ladies scroungers day on Sundays which is enjoyed by up to 30 bowlers per week.
    • Up to 20 and rising disabled bowlers are now enjoying the game courtesy of the disabled access bowling greens.

  • Functions have doubled at the club.
  • Midweek patronage has skyrocketed with the advent of regular coaching sessions, Lucky Members Draws, and other enticements.
  • Community awareness is increasing as a result of a strong relationship with the Local Government.
  • The club has had a major facelift with both the interior and exterior painted by local Bunnings Team Members, with $20,000 worth of paint donated by Dulux Paints.

These are just some examples of what can be achieved when members combine to take ownership of their club’s future.

If you think that your club could benefit from a similar strategy, contact your area’s Regional Bowls Manager.

Contribution by Steve Unsworth – Regional Bowls Manager (Western Australia South)