People fear change when they don’t understand the reason for it. And when they don’t understand the reason, they resist it.
In our work related to capital investment communications, we find that the vast majority of private club members understand and accept that it is their duty to leave their club better than they found it, with the caveat that the investment they are being asked to make is reasonable and necessary.
While obtaining a positive vote for your upcoming assessment is not guaranteed, getting members to say yes to being assessed can be much more achievable by following these 5 guidelines:
1. Communicate the Need
One of the keys to achieving a positive assessment vote outcome is to clearly communicate the need for the proposed upgrades. Whether your irrigation system is past its useful life and now costs more to maintain than replace or your casual dining area cannot service the demand or still has 1980’s decor, it is important to educate members about the need for the upgrades as well as the benefits that members will receive from them.
2. Engage Members in the Process
Gone are the days when new amenities being proposed were based on the desires of a board member or two. Today, board members and management teams have adopted a more strategic approach to determining investments needed to ensure their club’s continued success. Club leaders are apt to rely on member surveys and focus groups as the starting point to understanding the need and the desire for capital improvements. It is a good first step, but not the only one. The most effective club leaders prepare preliminary plans and drawings with the understanding that once members have a chance to review the information, there will likely be a need for changes. We encourage clubs to present the plans in multiple meetings with small groups of members. This allows the facilitator to engage each member to hear questions and comments. This method allows the facilitator to control the flow of the meeting and ensure that one or two members are not monopolizing the meeting. Once all meetings have been completed, a recap of the key takeaways should be shared with all members.
3. Don’t Rush the Process
Typically, the reaction to the introduction of major capital improvements and the associated assessment will be quite mixed. At GGA, we typically find that 20% of members will fully embrace the upgrades and 20% will be adamantly opposed to the plan. The remaining 60% need time to process the information and become comfortable with the prospect of the changes to the club and their budgets. That’s why it is vital to allow time for members to process the information, become comfortable with the plan and consider how it will benefit them. If you rush to a vote, there is a good chance the level of support needed will not be achieved. But if you take the time to communicate how you are addressing member concerns, answer member questions, provide plan updates, then ask for support, you will have a much greater chance of getting to that “yes” vote.
4. Develop an Equitable Payment Plan
The most senior members at clubs are least receptive to paying a lump sum assessment, using the argument that they will be paying for something they will not be able to enjoy for long. To ensure the capital improvement payment plan is not the deterrent to support, many clubs have moved to a “pay as you go” program whereby a small portion of the total assessment is paid in a lump sum, but the remaining assessment amount is paid monthly or semi-annually over three to five years. Not only does this payment option make it more manageable for all members, it also shows that those who will be enjoying it for years to come will assume more of the burden of paying for the plan.
5. Bring Members Along on the Journey
Just like you, members are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that bombards them every day, which means that your capital investment communications need to work harder than ever to break through the clutter. Efforts to keep members informed along the journey to improve their experience should carry a consistent theme, be repetitive and as short as possible.
A clear, consistent communications plan to educate and engage your members in the process of planning your capital improvements will ensure that fear is not the deciding factor of your club’s future.
Interested in learning about GGA’s Capital Call Communications services?
If you would like to learn more about how we can help your club execute a capital call, please contact us.