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Growth Is Not A Short Term Solution
Published Wednesday 18 March 2015 13:55 by Craig Davies
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Mike Kirkham blogs:

In early 2013 I returned to the sport of Small-Bore Target Rifle shooting after a break of 30 years. To my surprise, very little had changed.  Despite the growth of internet and social media, clubs and information were not easy to find; apart from small enclaves of excellence, facilities were poor and, as far as I could see, the average age of club members had rocketed (find your local club by clicking here).

I joined a club in North Norfolk – North Walsham Rifle and Pistol Club -  with members who were as I remember from the old days, generous with their time and knowledge and protective of a club with a great history going back to 1933. With Air Rifle and Air Pistol ranges, a 25 yard Pistol Gallery, and 25 yard, 50m and 100 yard rifle ranges, it has  good facilities for a wide range of disciplines. 

The clubhouse itself, alas, had seen better days and a recent survey gave it only five years of safe usage.  A Club Hut Committee was therefore formed to explore the possibilities of raising funding.

It soon became apparent that funding availability of the magnitude we needed was in essence “community funding” from lottery based sources such as Sport England or the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) from Entrust with land-fill site members such as Biffa and Wren. The basic requirements of community funding are challenging.  Any club seeking funding needs to prove its worth and typical assessment criteria include:

Need:  What does the local community require?

Impact: Via a Sports Development Plan what impact will you make on your sport and the community?

Community Involvement: Evidence is required from users and local organisations, the local community, volunteers and National Governing Bodies.

Sustainability: In some ways this is the biggest hurdle of all.  With average membership ages so high, community funders need to ensure that sustainability is demonstrated for the years ahead and with Sport England funding the focus is also on driving new growth in the 14-25 age group.

Armed with all this data and a mass of information from the Club’s various officers we applied for a Sport England Inspired Facilities Grant in October 2013, which was, alas, declined in April 2014 for the lack of evidence. The message was clear…. it is no good doing a brilliant application, if you can’t prove what you have achieved !

British Shooting – There to Help  

Liz Davidson, England Development Manager at British Shooting has been a great supporter and is there to encourage us to grow and develop.

I spotted on the website in July 2014 a little note to say that a “ toolkit for Clubs” was being put together and so asked her to send me a copy of the early thoughts.

The early copy we received confirmed that our Club was going in the right direction with a focus on working with younger members, schools, Scouts and cadets .

It also confirmed that to grow we would have to be more professional in building community relationships, in working with marketing and PR and  building a support network in Local Authorities and Community Sports Partnerships……just like other Sports have being doing for years.

In all our meetings with local Authorities and Community Sport Partnerships we have not met a single person that has any idea about Shooting Sports in general, nor would they be able to direct anyone that enquired to a suitable club. Shooting as a sport remains remarkably well hidden. 

Recognising this, our Club has made significant progress.  In the last 12 months North Walsham Rifle and Pistol Club have:

Created a permanent committee role of Development Officer
Found a brilliant club member who has put together our Marketing plan and handles PR and press releases.
Trained a number of new NSRA Coaches and volunteers
Moved from having one range open once a week just for beginners to having five ranges open on 2 different nights for beginners
Created a welcoming website to attract new members
Received a Big Society Fund Grant from North Norfolk District Council for £4600 for new equipment for young members.
Have been offering “Introduction to Target Shooting” taster sessions with Sportivate funding of £680 providing training for a total of eighteen 15-25 year olds, many of whom will become full members.
Have trebled our female membership
Increased our number of Full members by 26%
Substantially increased our probationary junior membership
Have created lasting relationships in the local and sports communities

So growth is possible and the British Shooting Club Tool-Kit is a brilliant starting point. It will help clubs understand the breadth and depth of the challenges facing them in the future.  The sections on Attracting new members – Section 1,   Marketing-section 2, and       Funding-section 4 we found particularly useful.

We will continue to work on growing our Club and anticipate it will be another 12 months at least before we have the “evidence of growth” required to make another ‘Inspired Facilities’ grant submission for the funding of a new clubhouse.

We would like to express our thanks to British Shooting for both the support and advice we have received and its  efforts in producing an in-depth and readily useable Club tool-kit.   At last, shooting clubs have the support and impetus they need to raise their profile in the community and provide a facility which is valued and valuable in the growth of our sport.

Mike Kirkham
Development Officer
NWRPC
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