Growing Chicago Yacht Club

Published on March 22nd, 2016

When the leadership from many of the top yacht clubs in the United States gathered to share strategies for growth and to candidly discuss ideas that worked and didn’t work, Commodore Greg Miarecki of the Chicago Yacht Club (CYC) described their reform initiatives over the past several years.

These included adding younger racing sailors to its leadership, refocusing its efforts toward on-the-water activities, hiring a waterfront director and keelboat director, introducing new distance-racing formats to the Chicago area, purchasing a club-owned fleet of 21-foot Sonar sailboats for member use, and stepping up its efforts to host world-class regattas and delivering tangible member value.

Next, CYC completely revamped its food-and-beverage team, emphasized a renewed focus on membership recruitment and retention, and launched a number of new community-service and engagement initiatives. The club also added new activities to drive member usage, including more activities focused on families and a number of women’s activities (networking events, the Women on the Water racing club on Sonars, and happy hours).

Engagement and providing member value were the overriding goals of CYC’s new strategic plan. Miarecki even goes as far as to write a two-paragraph email each week to the membership to keep members engaged. CYC’s officers searched their database for members with the potential to become the next level of leadership both on committees and on the board; these members were encouraged to get involved.

Results have been impressive, including a substantial increase in operating revenues, a 50-percent reduction in resignations, a significant growth in membership, more events being sold out, and a substantial increase in membership engagement. Miarecki summed up CYC’s conclusions with this advice:

• Strategic planning is essential, as is aggressive implementation.
• Yacht clubs and boat clubs must focus on the water.
• Food and beverage service is a critical aspect of your club’s success.
• Obsess about member value.
• The “youth movement” is generating excitement among all members. Actively cultivating young talent is key.
• A focus on the entire family drives positive results.
• Clubs must be led by active, serious boaters.
• Club leaders must adopt a “one club” mentality, which means your club should actively promote “crossover” between different groups and fleets.

Source: BoatU.S. April/May 2016 Magazine

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