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Building a Paddle Club - Part 3

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Hank Brooks |
Published Friday, December 01, 2006

Building a Paddle Club


This is the third part of a three part series on Building a Paddle Club by Hank Brooks and the Tampa Bay Sea Kayakers.

Suggestions to Increase Membership

The efforts to increase membership and participation depends on these four areas:

  1. Club member efforts members to bring in new members
  2. Kayak Shops efforts to encourage people to joint TBSK
  3. Advertising and publicity efforts of the Club
  4. Club policies, practices, paddles, outings

1. Club Member Efforts to Recruit New Members

At club meetings and events we try and impress on members that they are the best recruiters for our club. We encourage them to ask others to paddle and when out on the water or when they see a vehicle with a kayak on top, to give them a club brochure or business card. Specific efforts to recruit new members include:

  • Four Color Brochure: A first class brochure was developed to attract new members. This brochure is kept by most local kayak shops and given to interested people.
  • Club Business Cards: Created a TBSK business card and give to all TBSK members to be handed out anywhere, any time. Business cards are easily kept in your wallet or purse or in a plastic bag in your kayak. We put our website address and a blank line for the phone number of the person handing out the card. Leave cards on any vehicle with a kayak on top.
  • Make New Members Feel Welcome: Assign an experienced club "paddle buddy" to each new member to introduce them to the club and personally invite them to club events and outings. Have monthly club "welcoming paddles" to which they can be invited.
  • Kayak Shop Demo Days: Get the shop's OK to solicit new members at their demo days.
  • Kayak Races: Include one of your brochures in the handout bags for race participants.

2. Kayak Shops Efforts

  • You need to think of "what is in it for kayak shops" if they are to be used to encourage membership:
    • More kayakers means more equipment business
    • Hold some kayak club meetings at different shops to bring in your club members
    • Have club members mention the club name when making a purchase at a shop
    • Help kayak shops at demo days and symposiums
  • What do we want from kayak shops? They currently keep our brochures and some shops "talk up" TBSK as a good club to join. It would be ideal to give a TBSK brochure each time they sell a kayak. Be aware that most shops are very proprietary about "their customers" and want to sign them up for their "store clubs", not your club.
  • Align yourself with the major kayak shops in your area
  • Of the 7 kayak shops in the Tampa Bay area, 6 carry TBSK recruiting brochures
  • We hold our TBSK monthly meeting at the two major kayak shops in the Tampa Bay area and generally rotate between them.
  • Assist with local shop's annual Kayak Symposium
  • Work with a kayak shop to use their indoor pool for winter training
  • Visit kayak shops on a regular basis to maintain contact, determine if there is anything we can do to help shops (help at demo days or symposium) and replenish brochures
  • You can try to ask kayak shops to give your club members a discount. Unfortunately, for TBSK, this was met with a giant "thud". Most said that if they did it for our kayak club, they might have to do it for the many other clubs which work with their shop.
  • Send TBSK Newsletter to all shops, even that those which do not advertise in the newsletter.
  • Join with kayak shops to open new markets by having them hold demonstrations at new locations such as retiree community events, schools and other places with potential paddlers.

3. Advertising, Marketing and Publicity Efforts

Get publicity for supporting charitable and conservation programs by actively support many community events such as:

  • Hurricane Man Swim Support
  • St. Anthony Triathlon
  • Safety Harbor Race
  • Alafia River Race
  • Tampa Baywatch Challenge

Send the club newsletter to the local newspaper, St. Petersburg Times. Their sports editor sometimes puts TBSK meetings and events in the paper.

4. Club Policies, Practices, Paddles, Outings

  • Monthly Newsletter: This is the "glue" which holds our club together since most members do not make our club meetings. We publish both our trips and those of the local kayak shops to give people a feeling of what's totally happening in the "kayak world" each month.
  • Monthly Meetings: With a speaker/ presenter at each meeting showing pictures of kayaks and talking about kayak trips.
  • Mid-week paddle for the retirees and others that can paddle weekdays.
  • Frequent training sessions (monthly during the summer) led by our Training Coordinator. During the winter we move to an indoor pool.
  • Monthly paddle and picnic for new members and those new to paddling (all club members are invited)
  • First class web sitethat is kept up-to-date.
  • We rotate our meetings between the two major kayak shops, which in turn support our club by providing food and drink at the meetings and advertise in our Newsletter.
  • We host kayak trips, some of which are more challenging for the more accomplished paddler including overnight camping.
  • Annual club survey to determine club member's needs and satisfaction with the club.
  • Trip Leader training to encourage more people to lead trips and to ensure safe club trips.
  • Use of Evite email system to invite all club members to club events
  • Exit interviews with members who have chosen not to renew their membership. Major reasons for not renewing include:
    • No longer paddling/ have developed other interests
    • Moved
    • No comments were made about problems with TBSK
  • More personalized service/ follow-up once a person joins the Club. An example would be a club group of Kayak Buddies who call all new members who personally welcome them to the club and invite them to paddle or attend the New Member Paddle.
  • Club Library of Kayak Books & Tapes which people can borrow.
    Use TBSK members emails to more tightly target services (e.g. email people who do not have great skills that TBSK is scheduling a training session)
  • Exit Statistics: Need to keep track for each year: number of new members joining, number of members leaving, major reason for members leaving (need to do exit interviews).


We hope that this turns out to be a "living document" and can be updated on a regular basis with ideas from people like yourselves. So let us know if you have ideas which apply. TBSK can be reached at

TBSK Marketing Committee Members:

  • Hank Brooks - President of Tampa Bay Sea Kayakers & Committee Member
  • Everett White - TBSK Membership Coordinator & Committee Member
  • Bill Brown - Committee Member
  • Rachel Doran - Committee Member
  • Bob Minthorn - Committee Member
  • Mark Rosendale - Committee Member


Part 1:Getting Started, Part 2:Participation, Part 3:Membership

Last update Friday, January 30, 2009

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