I enjoyed meeting up with the new Chair of Surrey Area, John Nathan, today. John is a retired doctor, with lots of ideas and energy for Surrey – our biggest Area in terms of membership.
In setting up the meeting with John, I emailed him to say that it would be useful to talk about his plans for the Area. His response today was, to adapt a Tony Blair quote, that he had three priorities: increase membership, increase membership, increase membership. This is, of course, music to my ears. Points he raised with me included :
- We need to convince people about the importance of increasing membership. He said that many see the same numbers on walks, and don’t realise that non-walkers are not renewing – yet the numbers of walkers are going up.
- We should send out email acknowledgements to new members when the sign up, as well as their letters [this is something we’re working on].
- We still need to work on our image. He said that he’d been told as a reason why a woman did not join was Ramblers walks were “too far too fast”. Another woman had done the Tongariro crossing in NZ but did not think that she was fit enough to join the Ramblers! [I totally agree. I think we’ve made some strides in changing our image, to show that we’re for all walkers whether beginners or old hands, but we need to keep going with this.]
- We should be a partner in ‘Walking for Health’, particularly at this time when local authorities are cutting budgets for such work. [Again, I totally agree. I’m very keen that we forge stronger links – nationally and locally – between Ramblers and Walking for Health.]
- We should offer more services, such as insurance, for members. [This is an interesting idea. I’d like to hear other views on this, and other ideas for ‘member benefits’.]
- We should provide an award for the member who recruits the most new members in a year. [I’ll look at this one. I told John about the Challenge Cup in Cornwall Ramblers, which will be awarded to the Group which has the biggest membership growth this year.]
I am very grateful to John for sparing the time to meet with me. It is always very instructive to hear the views and ideas from Areas and Groups. While we can’t act on everything, and certainly not instantaneously, the ideas do help us to shape future plans.
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