Adrian Houstoun: Offer direct debit options to your members

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire November 2, 2011 17:03

Adrian Houstoun: Offer direct debit options to your members

Every club must have a policy on prices and related matters, especially at the current time. I recently met the chairman of a golf club and we discussed, among other matters, the collecting of subscriptions. I enquired whether they collected their subs by direct debit. He responded that they did not, as they considered it too much hassle to set up such a system.

Via the web I started to investigate how frequently subscriptions are collected by direct debit. It turns out that golf clubs often encourage monthly payment by direct debit but with a surcharge for paying monthly. It was not so clear how many collect annual subs by direct debit. The charity sector, for example, is particularly good at collecting subscriptions or similar payments by direct debit. Very frequently the payers are offered a modest discount for paying by such a means. For many types of sports clubs, subscription income in terms of quantum is second only to bar sales – so it makes very sound commercial sense to do all you can to ensure that members’ dues are received by the club at the right time.

In the current economic climate it could prove difficult to collect subs from people whose finances are now suffering. They are much more likely to terminate their membership when they have an unpaid subscription that most clubs will not pursue after the member has left.

Many clubs claim not to collect subs by direct debit as they are concerned that payments may be made incorrectly. To cover this, there is a direct debit guarantee scheme which provides a measure of rectification where a payment is made in error. Their second concern is the administrative burden. They are generally unaware of how simple it is to set up and run a direct debit system.

Most people offering the scheme use a one page form that requires rather less detail than you would imagine. It is a standard form and you will need your membership secretary to spend a little time setting it up when it is new. Thereafter you should not find that it is an administrative burden. Quite the opposite in fact. Most people using the scheme offer an incentive to pay by direct debit because it is more advantageous for them in terms of cash flow and administration to run a direct debit scheme than to send subscription demands and receive cheques. Some golf clubs have their subscriptions due during the holiday season and it takes quite a while to collect them as people drift back from holidays. If you have a direct debit system and subs are due on August 1, for example, you can collect a significant amount of income whilst your members are relaxing beside a pool oblivious to the subscriptions that are due.

So what other areas can you look at to improve your financial position? There has never been a better time to build better relationships with the business community. Many clubs that receive this magazine have excellent clubhouse, bar and dining facilities. Such facilities are frequently considered as wedding venues but are under-utilised for business meetings.

Your local businesses might be very receptive to talking to you about using your facilities, perhaps saving costs compared to the venues they already use. Encouraging business people to come to the club may also result in you attracting some more members at the same time.

Several months ago I wrote in another sports club magazine about Charitable Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs), of which there are now 5,000 – a relatively small increase in 18 months. CASCs are not for everyone but there are enough golf clubs that have registered to suggest that you should at least look at it. I recommend that you give CASC status serious contemplation as it may help improve your financial position.

The information contained in this article was correct at the time it was sent to Golf Club Management magazine, which was before the date it was published on this website

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire November 2, 2011 17:03
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