Grassroots sport is at the heart of Australian culture and communities, and sadly community sporting organisations are facing pressures like never before. In the current climate it’s more important than ever for community clubs to have an eye to the future, to be adaptable and to take steps towards guaranteeing their future viability.
The Australian Sports Foundation recently released their Clubs Under Pressure report which highlighted some frightening statistics. The report which combined the perspectives of nearly 3,000 clubs showed that 63% of clubs Australia wide do not have enough volunteers to operate normally, 27% of clubs are struggling financially thanks to dwindling participation and membership, and that one in four small clubs (1-199 members) are considering closing. These operational and viability issues are often a bi product of having no plan in place, no roadmap for the club’s future.
In the current climate it’s more important than ever for community clubs to have an eye to the future, to be adaptable and to take steps towards guaranteeing their future viability. While we know that running a club doesn’t have to be hard, we acknowledge that it entails a large array of important roles, more so than ever before each requiring specific skills and experience to succeed. Without proper structure and planning, the organisation and execution of these individual areas of the club is not guaranteed; and clubs are often left in situations where there is a lack of accountability, responsibility and ultimately success.
To ensure the long-term success and sustainability of sporting organisations, the vital first step is to have a strategic plan in place. A strategic plan is what guarantees the club’s future by aligning every smaller decision to a higher-level goal or objective. These goals and objectives are agreed upon by the executive committee or board, and are ideally reflective of the club’s mission or purpose, long-term vision, and values. A great strategic plan serves to remove all doubt as to the direction the club is taking, where the club would like to be in 5+ years’ time, and clearly defines a path to get there.
Experience or expertise with planning
Without a strategic plan, community volunteers often get stuck in the day-to-day minutia of running a club, which can result in a feeling of going around in circles and not getting anywhere. Before knowing it, a number of years have gone by and the club has made little progress towards any long-term vision or goals put in place.
Planning is always the first step towards any major change, be it recruiting more volunteers, increasing participation, improving facilities, or raising more funds. It can be a daunting task however, without any planning experience or external expertise to guide the process. You don’t know what you don’t know, especially with something as important as a strategic plan, and you want to get it right. Filling in a strategic plan template might not provide the guidance required, or exactly what the club needs to achieve its goals. Even club committees with sound planning experience and business knowledge can greatly benefit from having a third-party to offer direction and support.
Setting clear goals and objectives
A strategic plan enables community sporting organisations to set clear goals and objectives that align with the club’s overall purpose. These goals provide committee members, other volunteers and participants confidence in the club’s direction going forward. Through defining and communicating goals, community organisations can create a framework for progress, track their progress and measure their achievements.
Clear goals and objectives keep your club on track; they help in focusing efforts, managing people’s roles and responsibilities, and they ensure that everyone at the club is on the same page and working towards the same vision.
A strategic plan is crucial in defining the roles, responsibilities of volunteers within community sporting organisations. Proper planning will highlight which areas of the organisation need more resources, and what the people within that area should be focusing their efforts on. A large problem in community sport is the notion of too few people doing too much. This is primarily due to poor, or non-existent, planning.
If your club were to identify increasing fundraising from new revenue streams, such as sponsorship, as a major objective; then your strategic plan would outline the necessity of a someone to focus solely on sponsorship, and would set measurable goals that served to clarify and guide the sponsorship manager’s role within the organisation. Often time clubs struggle to recruit volunteers because of a lack of clarity in roles and a general confusion regarding what it means to volunteer in community sport. A great strategic plan should steer clubs in the right direction to alleviate these concerns.
Larger facility and infrastructure projects
Strategic planning plays a crucial role in community sport when it comes to planning for, funding, and completing major facility and infrastructure upgrades. Strategic planning allows community sport clubs to communicate their objectives and priorities with key stakeholders and create alignment between the two or more parties.
By establishing a clear vision for your facilities and infrastructure, the club can engage in productive discussions with the council, co-tenant clubs and MPs, highlighting the significance of the facility upgrade for both the club and the broader community. This alignment ensures that the upgrade project receives the necessary support and resources from various parties. A strategic plan also allows the club to map out the revenue streams that will fund the project.
By breaking down and analysing all available funding sources, including grants, sponsorships, fundraising activities and more, the club committee can make more informed decisions on how to contribute to the project. A great strategic plan will turn the idea of facility upgrades from a pipe dream into a reality.
Overall improved operations
Strategic planning plays a pivotal role in improving operations and administration within community sporting organisations. One of the key benefits of strategic planning is that it helps community sporting organisations define their mission, vision, and values. This clarity of purpose guides decision-making and ensures that all activities and operations align with the organisation's core principles. Strategic planning also highlights areas which areas of the club need attention. For example, if participation is lacking, strategic planning would incentivise clubs to assess why, and agree on what steps should be taken.
In addition, strategic planning fosters a culture of soft accountability and continuous improvement within the organisation. By having a visible plan that is followed, everyone in the community can track the club’s progress and be sure that the club is moving in the right, agreed upon direction. Having a growth mindset and embracing change is important to maintaining a successful community club.