by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

The same goes for OHV clubs and State Associations. Those that continually pound their members to work on trail project after trail project, may find themselves with fewer and fewer volunteers showing up. On the other hand, those that keep trail days fun, and hold a variety of enjoyable club rides and events throughout the year -- inviting to members of all ages -- stay active and growing.

At a recent workshop held by the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), Jack Terrell, NOHVCC Senior Project Manager, led a discussion group on what OHV organizations are doing to attract, retain and motivate their members. Those attending the workshop came up with a healthy list.

“It’s a gathering of thoughts,” said Terrell. “And one thing that came through to me was that you have to make the whole thing social. Maybe your club’s number one goal is to open a new trail, and that was the reason the group got started in the first place. But that may not be the driving force to keep the club active. You’ve got to keep the club social and fun. Join the local chamber of commerce, partner with civic organizations on projects, ride your OHVs in local parades.

“The other thing that successful clubs are doing is marketing their image. It’s not just a bunch of guys that get together on Wednesday night and have pizza. They’ve created a brand and gone out and marketed it. It keeps the group in the public focus. It lets everyone know who you are, what you do, and how much fun you have. That brings in new members.”

Here is a list of things they and others at the COHVCO workshop came up with to maintain an active and vibrant membership.

Key club considerations:

• Have a well-defined description of the club’s makeup: machine types, member ages and demographics, types of activities, etc.

• Define and publicize your club’s mission, objectives, goals, etc.

To build awareness:

• Create an attractive website, keep it current, include a calendar of events

• Use social media, with a club Facebook page

• Produce an attractive newsletter, and send it out on a regular basis

• Send out club press releases to local magazines and newspapers

• Seek out multi-sources of “free” advertising for your club

• Distribute freebies: discount opportunities, gas cards, etc.

• Hold how-to clinics on machine maintenance, riding tips, use of GPS, etc.

• Do a phone call notice to members prior to each meeting

• Post flyers about club rides and meetings in local dealerships

• Talk up the club with local dealers so they know what you are doing

• Ask dealers to direct to your club the customers who want to know where to ride

• Take the time to introduce your club to local civic and social organizations

• Be highly visible at public gatherings and community events

• Seek out publicity from local cable channel and local TV and radio outlets

To build camaraderie among members:

• Emphasize the social aspect and make everything you do family friendly

• Hold regular meetings, with a lot of social interaction...and food!

• Have potluck dinners at your meetings

• Have a wide range of activities that are attractive to young and old

• Hold regular club rides, introduce all first-timers at the rides

• Invite members to organize additional, informal rides

• Participate in local parades, county fairs, etc.

• Teach kids how to ride; that draws in parents

• Have field days with riding-oriented, fun contests

Keep trail work days fun:

• Do not make the focus doing trail work

• During work events, set aside time to ride and socialize

• Have four work parties per year: often multi-day, up to four days

• “We get up to 35 or 40 people per work party.”

• Club gets CPW grants to pay for materials for trail work; one built a substantial bridge

• Spread the workload. Do not let one or two key people (officers) do everything

• Identify skills of each member and assign them tasks in line with their skills

• Provide your members with a sense of individual accomplishment Partner with local law enforcement agencies:

• WSATVA started a Search & Rescue ATV Team in 1987, assisting the Sheriff’s Department

To strengthen partnerships with land managers:

• Many years of success working with BLM/USFS are attributed to continuity of contact

• Club has purchased two trail dozers thru CPW grants; leased back to agencies

• Agency provides operator & insurance and trail crew through an MOU

• Define your long-term goals

• Break down long-term trail projects into incremental steps (or projects) along the way so that you can celebrate each accomplishment as a “success.”

Always thank members for their efforts:

• Go out of your way to recognize what people do for your club: in newsletter articles, at meetings and banquets, with plaques, awards, etc.