1 May 2005

Keeping a Car Club Going and Growing

Once your collector car club has been organized, you want to make it go and grow. Good communications, timely publicity and signing up new members are key elements that keep a club active and strong. The Newsletter Committee will be relied on to keep the membership well informed. Publicity may be the job of appointees like the Club Editor, Club Photographer or Car Show Chairperson or a separate Publicity Secretary can be picked. Membership-building efforts are often the responsibility of the Club Secretary, although larger clubs may want to have a Membership Secretary to work solely in this area.

Club Communication: Internal
To make your collector car club going, members must be informed about what the club is doing and when club events are scheduled. The best way to do this is in a published club newsletter. This can be quarterly, monthly, whatever your club's budget allows. It must also be professional and correct. A portion of the annual dues collected should be set aside for printing and distribution of the newsletter.

Club newsletters don’t have to be fancy to be effective. It’s the content that’s most important. Essential items found in many club newsletters are a calendar of events, club-related or general collector car news, the club’s last meeting highlights, announcements/notices, a column written by the club president, opinions, tech tips, a future meeting schedule, special offers to club members, a Member of the Month feature, classified ads listing collector cars and parts for sale by members.

Home computers have made it easier for a careful novice to create a professional-looking newsletter. Widespread use of home computers has also changed the type of publishing media that can be used. In the past, a newsletter had to be printed and mailed each month, which meant writing checks to a printer or copy shop and the post office. Some car clubs now send their newsletters by e-mail or making it available on a website.

Creating a website is another form of communications you’ll want to consider today. Internet users are constantly surfing the web for things that fit their interest. It would certainly help your membership efforts if your club’s website pops up when the words “Collector Car Club” are put into a search engine. It would also be an easy way for current members to get updates on the club happenings.

Club Promotion: External
Promotional opportunities for your collector car club can basically be broken down into 10 categories: 1) press releases in local media, 2) press releases in hobby media, 3) club brochures, 4) club website, 5) booths at car shows and swap meets, 6) bulletin boards, 7) speaker opportunities, 8) public service announcements, 9) vendor resources, and 10) advertising.

Send a press release to local radio, TV and newspaper media when your collector car club makes news, whether it’s a charitable donation or a classic car show. Make sure the information in your release tells who, what, when, where and why. The press release should have the club emblem on it to make it official. And don’t confuse a press release with a free advertisement. Some media will not allow contact information.

Club brochures given to members to place on collector cars around town are a great way to promote your club. Most enthusiasts keep a sharp eye out for cars like their own and seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to spotting collector cars hidden away. The brochure should be colorful, state the purpose of the club and let people know how to join.  It’s essential to have a membership form inside the brochure!

A club website is the way to reach people using the Internet. There are many websites that sparkle and spin, but do they get new memberships? While a website must look exciting, it’s the content that sells. A car repair tip or a lead on where to find the cheapest collector car parts may convince the web “surfer” that he/she should join the club. Once the collector is convinced, make sure the website offers why new members should join (features and benefits of the club) and how to join (an online membership application works great).

Booths at car shows and swap meets are often available to clubs free of charge. Check with the promoters of collector car events in your area and make sure your club has representatives at every show. Try to send different people to different events so no one gets overworked. Show reps should wear club shirts or jackets, and carry leftover newsletters and club brochures with membership forms inside.  Free food or beverages will attract people to your booth. The cost can be offset by selling the club’s excess inventory of items like club shirts, jackets, hats, license plate frames, etc.

Bulletin boards set up at car shows is another idea. When going to a collector car event, be sure to take brochures and signage materials with you, in case a bulletin board is available. You'll also find bulletin boards in businesses that car collectors are likely to patronize, like car dealers, auto parts stores, car repair shops, restaurants and supermarkets.  Ask current members to use such free announcements to promote the club.

Provide speakers to other groups. Community organizations ranging from Cub Scouts to Lions Clubs are constantly in search of people to speak at their monthly meetings. The Cub Scout may not be a collector car owner, but perhaps his father or uncle might be. 

Community service announcements are often available through local TV and radio stations and newspapers. If your club is doing a Christmastime “Toys for Tots” drive or a fund-raising car wash for charity, the effort should qualify for a community service announcement. When people come to the event, they will learn about your collector car club.

Some vendors have large mail-order operations that reach thousands of people. If your club is fairly large, vendors may be willing to promote it with an insert card in their next mailing. This may also work for a local club if you can talk area car dealers or auto parts stores into keeping your club brochure on their parts counter. A number of vendors have used Look But Don’t Touch signs as a promotional item. These are signs that hobbyists put inside their car windows at shows.

Advertising in national hobby media might seem like a great way to promote a club at first. It is, but the expense may not justify the results unless you proceed wisely. With a new club, a large display ad might be very effective, but don’t run it more than twice. Response tends to diminish after you reach the most passionate hobbyists. After that, you may want to change to a classified word ad to stretch your budget. If you put your club ad in the Collector Car section of the classifieds, you can bet that every reader interested in collector cars will see it. Put a code in your ad and keep records of how much response you get from each publication. Spend accordingly.

Also watch for How to Grab New Members next month for 50 great ideas for building new membership.

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