Skip links

Trending Topics: The Subjects on Board Members’ Minds

Board members charged with maintaining sound governance and trusted leadership are awash in duties and responsibilities, along with planning and directing club strategy. And that is before

listening to voice messages, reading member emails or looking at social media accounts.

While the issues are varied and ever changing, the three topics that currently are topmost for most board members include:

Contested vs. Non-contested Board Elections

The steady movement of private clubs opting for board elections which rely upon a slate of candidates nominated by a duly authorized Nominating Committee continues.

While many clubs continue with contested board elections, citing

valid reasons for continuing to use that method for elections, the majority of private clubs in North America now rely upon careful vetting and even-footing for nominated club members.

With non-contested board elections, three primary points of focus are emphasized:

  1. Clearly communicated and pre-set criteria are used to define the needed skill sets and professional development required to carry out the duties as a board member.
  2. Transparent and trustworthy methods are employed to populate the nominating committee.
  3. Results demonstrate the club’s needs are the primary goal rather than those of special-interest subsets of members.

Member Discipline

As has been reported extensively over the past three years, the pandemic led to incredible demand for private club memberships. The influx of these new members, many of whom never belonged to a private club previously, has led to an increase in disciplinary issues that have required club boards to reset their traditions and standards of discipline to address antisocial behavior.

Members, new and seasoned, look to their club leaders to establish clear-cut guidance as to what is, and is not, appropriate behavior. They expect disciplinary actions to be taken should issues arise no matter the member to ensure that all who belong can enjoy their clubs.

The most trusted guidance identifies four keys for club leaders’ consideration:

  1. Swift. Members want their clubs to revert to genteel and mutually respectful communities tied to the club’s historic traditions.
  2. Firm. Boards are called upon to be unequivocal and consistent in discipline.
  3. Fair. Allowing for due process, club members want disciplinary actions that balance an offense with the punishment handed down.

Communication. The best clubs have developed communications that identify inappropriate actions or behaviors that are being disciplined; describe the penalties being imposed; and protect the identities of all involved.

Setting Membership Fees and Dues

No one would have ever imagined that a global health crisis could be so generous to private clubs, but it was. Clubs quickly went from needing more member initiation fees and dues to meet long-deferred capital needs to becoming overwhelmed by demand for new memberships.

Now, club leaders are struggling with the imbalance of capacity and capability versus demand for space and services. This struggle highlights the need for careful and consistent measurement to understand utilization of amenities and assets. Rather than relying on outdated metrics and guidance from grumpy members, boards are advised to evaluate:

  1. Capital Needs. Each club needs 10- and 20-year capital reserve studies that provide cash flow guidance in addition to standard useful-life guidance.
  2. Sources of Capital. Club leaders must use pending capital needs to guide future pricing and utilization decisions.

The key to establishing future initiation or joining fees and monthly dues—be they regular dues or capital dues—is seeking balance between the club’s capacity and its utilization. Most clubs continue to have capacity despite complaints from members about heavy demand for popular dining times and venues or access to reservations for courts and tee times.

Boards who are succeeding use three points of reference:

  1. Current Utilization Metrics. Most clubs continue to have unused capacity and require tactical solutions that enable members to tap into unused capacity.
  2. Historic Attrition. Club leaders who evaluate historic attrition alongside current demographics regarding age and aging within the club are finding that they can forecast probable utilization for coming years.
  3. Broad-based Member Communications. Helping members know when unused capacity is available can result in some club members choosing alternative demand windows, which opens more space for everyone.

Elections, discipline and setting the membership cost structure are the three topics boards are talking about today. By staying focused on clear guidelines, current metrics and robust communications, board members will tackle these topics and be ready for the next three.