Peter Goodwin is collecting proposals for how to spend the 50th Anniversary Fund. The purpose of the fund is club growth. Here is the description of the fund
. The three main projects are marketing, mapper development and land access. If you have ideas, now is the time to let them be known.
To get us started, here are some other threads that discuss various ideas, some of which will be relevant. Now we have a little funding - let's see if that would help make any of these ideas real! Obviously we need not just money, but people willing to help make these things happen, so in your discussion, let us know what YOU are willing to do, or people you can identify who can contribute.
A bunch of ideas from last summer
; I summarized it here
, though the summary probably needs updating.
Ideas for promotion
The basics of club growth is simple. Hold more events.
From this comes more participation and more volunteers to direct more events. The largest clubs have large consistent schedules. Clubs with spotty schedules are usually small. All the others ideas are fine, but without a consistent event schedule club membership will stagnate or diminish.
on the Randy's ideas thread hits the nail on the head for me...
And yet that post is nearly everything wrong with our orienteering culture to me.
Mass starts are great. They remove the intimidation of being alone in the woods.
Long races are great. Our race distances look pathetic to most runners. Get in shape.
Being lost is not part of the appeal of orienteering, knowing where you are is.
If just hosting more events was the solution to all of our problems, then we would have solved them long ago. More events can actually be a bad thing from a marketing standpoint depending on who you are targeting. Quality, targeted, focused events are a solution, but you need to identify your audience, and have a marketing plan on how to reach them, and have understanding of their goals.
Just build it and they will come may have worked in decades past when there were less alternative groups putting on events, but now that we have a multitude of better produced, better marketed, better targeted outdoor events, we need to change our culture to be appealing to a younger demographic or we will continue our rapid slide into oblivion as an old persons sport.
Here's a story
(from barb's log) about 21st century targeted marketing that could potentially help orienteering appeal to a variety of people -- once it is wrested from the black-hatted crowd...
Some people love mass starts, some people hate them. There is plenty of room for both. Doing exclusively one or the other is probably not a good idea. Sure, some people are intimidated by being alone in the woods; others love the solitude and find the pack / mass start intimidating.
As far as "more events", there definitely need to be enough to maintain interest. In my region, one club has increased from monthly to 30 or so events per year, and average attendance per event has increased significantly. Another has begun putting on weekly sprints and they've also had tremendous growth. Two other nearby clubs have decreased events from monthly to around 7 or 8 per year and their average attendance has dwindled. I'm coming to the conclusion that if people have the opportunity to orienteer weekly, they get in the habit of coming every week. But if events are irregular and far between, our "customers" end up finding other activities and drifting away.
well said Mike. Some clubs, like our own, would benefit greatly just by having more events. On the other hand, clubs that already have weekly events (or more), might not see improved attendance with more events. In other words, it depends on the situation.
I like a lot of Randy's ideas. I think that is a definite path forward, and at least looks to sustain the sport, such as it is.
That said, there is a lot of support in the existing orienteering population, which is shrinking and aging, for the sport as it is now. Is there any way to hang on to the aspects of the sport that we love, while being open to new ideas?
More events takes more trained people to put on the events. Some clubs are doing this really well. Others, less so. I would encourage every club (and every individual) to question why they love orienteering, and then work hard to promote those aspects. I suspect the answers will be different for all!
+1 Alex for recognizing you have two different markets (existing orienteering fanatics whether they be fast or slow; and new recruits). One size does not fit all.
Here's an idea for marketing. Have orienteering USA make a short (3 minutes), high quality professionally produced video that explains the basics of orienteering for beginners. Then, individual clubs could link to this video from their own websites.
Lots of European videos show good-looking fit hotshots sprinting through the forest and leaving through streams, but that's not explaining the basics of the sport and showing it has very beginner friendly.
My club (croc.org
) has a video link on our site, but it's made by a couple of kids in Seattle, and while cute and explaining the sport pretty well, probably does not appeal to adults very much.
One high-quality video produced by our national organization that can be linked to buy everyone is much better than individual clubs trying to come up with their own.
For those of us who like mass-start, longer, rogaine-style events, why not offer a mass-start Score-O option at local events, utilizing all of the existing controls for the orange, green, brown, and longer courses. Have a mass-start 30 minutes after registration opens, with 3 hours to visit as many controls as possible.
The only extra effort would be setting up another course in the scoring software, printing off another set of maps, and having someone start the racers off.
I agree; I think some clubs already for a "Choose your own adventure" option which is as you describe. Course closing time to be strongly enforced.
The one thing I ask, is that if you're going to try to grow the sport, that we get input from outside our bubble.
We can debate all day long about what *we* think will work. But we're already here.
There are many more people in the US who were once enthusiastic orienteers than there are enthusiasts today. It would be good--and even of paramount importance--to learn what it was that kindled their enthusiasm, and why they lost it and left the sport.
If you want to expand the community, the first step is to identify what is working, and what isn't. Without knowing that, you 're just blundering in the dark, and there is little reason to believe that attempts to attract and retain significant numbers of new people will be any more successful than they have been in the past and almost exactly what the history of the past 25+ years here shows.
Again and again you see clubs expending considerable time, effort, and resources to get new people to try the sport, while giving relatively little thought to what their existing active members want and desire. That is a losing model.
Actually, feedback from inside our bubble is pretty good. In forty years of orienteering, certain traits seem common in those who've been orienteers over the long term... a keenness for maps, navigation, interesting terrain, challenges. Finding more people like this is probably productive, given past success.
The proposals for the fund seem pretty specific already, such as website template for small clubs. Is there scope for broader club growth initiatives, such as helping start local junior programs, whether ARK-like, or interscholastic leagues, or JROTC, or scouts?
By the way, one reason that my parents, brother and sister dropped out was the work involved... endless volunteering. This is also a challenge for making a weekly orienteering schedule some places. A way to reduce work for an event would help. In Calgary, we had weekly orienteering for a few years (right through winter) by having lots of streamered events right in the city. Maybe more untimed events, just markers in the woods, perhaps even print your own map, would help. Maybe more small maps closer to where people live, to fill in between bigger events on bigger maps further out.
Had a nice chat with the Tech administering my bone scan this afternoon. We got on to running as he commented that I must be a runner given my physique versus his solid self. He plays hockey but can't run more than a mile without gasping and aching. Talked about shoes and where I run - a lot in the woods and orienteering. Explained that and the map/compass thing. He was impressed and thought it really interesting, commenting that with gps these days that he is losing the sense of where he is going. Just follow Google and it will get you there - until it doesn't. Maps and paper directions are harder to find. He used to always write down the detailed directions. Now set the gps and go.
I'm not saying that we don't get input from inside the bubble. I'm just saying that we should research outside the bubble and act appropriately.
When CascadeOC recently revamped our website, our UX designer talked to a variety of people to see what they wanted in a website. She talked to board members, event organizers, regular participants, occasional participants, newbie orienteers, and potential orienteers.
And then she built a website to accommodate everyone.
I guess my point is: don't just try to accommodate everyone inside the bubble. Find out what others want. The regulars, the occasionals, the people who left, and the people yet to come.
Sure... though remember the people inside the bubble are our best customers. It's possible that someone outside the bubble could be too, but also possible (probable?) that, even if they give feedback, they're just not that interested. We could optimize the sport for those less interested in it (and they'd still not become excited enough to become, say, key organisers eventually), or optimize it for those most interested. The bubble probably represents the interested disproportionately, and outside the bubble the less interested disproportionately.
I think obsession with fastest time is really a thing of the past. In Alabama they now give 15 minutes bonus to those who go to forest in blue overalls. That is the thinking out of the box, which may be needed for O'ring to re-gain popularity, particularly among the very special snowflakes, those from Seattle.
One idea: designate a control to serve as a safe space, where runners can punch in and out (and the time will be deducted), where one can sit in, relax, check the FB status stress-free, maybe send a tweet or two.
Real orienteers don't call people names.
This discussion thread is closed.