How to... attract and retain families


The family unit is a valuable commodity for any club since they can provide participants, revenue, volunteers and networks for the club.

We know that a family is worth between £200 and £1000 a year through the purchase of membership, events, merchandise, food and drink over the bar etc.

Therefore it is essential that the club is proficient in

a) attracting the family to the club and

b) retaining them - since every family is potentially worth a minimum of £200

It is also therefore essential that the club attracts the whole family and that the children aren't simply "dropped off" before training and picked up afterwards with only a junior membership being purchased.

Key Points

The club needs to understand the "wants and needs" of the parents for their children.

When trying to sell the club to the parents, this information needs to be included in the letter of flyer.

If the Father is involved with rugby it is usually him who will bring his child/children along to rugby.

If the family doesn't have any involvement with the game, then it is usually the mother who decides if her children are going to play rugby or to some other sport.

The club's aim is to get the whole family involved with the club.

This will involve the parents staying during the training and not simply dropping off their child.

If one or both of the parents is already involved with rugby this is straightforward. If not, then it is essential that the club communicates with the parents (especially the Mother) and tells them what's the benefits are if they do get involved.

This might be simply a coffee and bacon sandwich in the club house or a fitness session for parents.

Once the club has involved the family, it must work to retain them because of their value in all of the areas highlighted above.

What are the wants and needs of the parents for their children?

We know from research carried out by Kellogg's in Ireland that the 'wants and needs' are:

  • Challenge for the children
  • Experience success and failure
  • Develop confidence and self esteem
  • Learn about team work
  • Make friends
  • Have fun
  • A Safe Environment
  • Coaches who understand child development

This information needs to be included in any sales letters that go to parents to encourage them to involve their children in the sport.

We know that rugby does develop positive attitudes in children but we don't always tell people this when encouraging them to become involved.

What are the wants and needs of the Mother?

As was mentioned previously it is essential to consider the wants and needs of the Mother if you want to get the whole family involved.

As a basic starting point, she will need to be told what's in it for her to come into the clubhouse and to become involved.

The main areas to focus on are;

  • Social - is it possible to create a social gathering at the clubhouse during training? Can you run events just for parents?
  • Communication and organisation – does the Mother know what is happening and when?
  • Welcoming and informed. Is the Mother welcomed into the club house and are the people she meets informed and have an understanding about her wants and needs
  • Safe - for the family and the child

Retaining the Family

This really comes down to offering customer service - since the family are customers of the club since they have chosen to spend their time/money with the club. The points that need to be focussed upon are:

  • Understanding the customers wants and needs
  • Does the club understand what the Family wants and does it strive to deliver it.
  • Fulfilling their expectations
  • If the club offers the customer one thing then delivers another it will lose the customer to the competition.
  • Does the training start on time and finish on time? Is it fun, challenging etc. as was promised in the "sales letter."


Make service personal

When the new family arrives at the club they need to be welcomed, it needs to be recognised that they are new and any follow up needs to be personalised, not just a general letter to “Dear New Parent”
Establish an excellent customer experience.

If the "customer experience" is good then not only will they stay with the club, they will tell others about it.

Develop staff understanding of the importance of customer service and commitment to customer service.

The volunteers aren't expected to be customer service experts but if they understand

a) how important the service is and

b) make sure that the areas in which they are involved embrace customer service, then it will make a massive difference.

The point made above emphasises this; if a player or family is new to the club, welcome them and spend time understanding what it is they want from the club.
Strengthen the bond with your customer – communication

Resources will dictate how often you will be able to communicate with your customers and through which channels.

However the basics are

1) collect data whenever you can from your “customers” and build up some basic profile information (what do they come to events, did they book the room for a birthday party etc.)

2) use the relevant channels – Social Media is the relevant channel for young adults whereas e mail is probably more relevant for older people

3) keep your customers informed generally but if you have some basic profile information about them, target them with specific messages e.g. we know that your children came to the summer school last year and it is being run again this year. Here is the information…

Evaluate your service through questionnaires

Listen to your customers and if you have the resources send out a basic questionnaire to find out what they do and don’t like about the club. Many clubs are using Survey Monkey which is a free resource and which is available on the Internet