Running a membership campaign and having some new students turn up at your bridge club is exciting, but it is only the start. Our goal is not just to teach people bridge (good though that is), but to strengthen the membership of EBU clubs so that bridge continues to thrive.
We do quite often hear about clubs who run classes with apparent success but end up a couple of years later with hardly any new members from those classes. Needless to say, this can be dispiriting. What is going wrong?
Some dropouts are inevitable. One person may start with enthusiasm but discover bridge is not really for them. Another may enjoy it but prefer to play without the formality of a normal club session. This is all to be expected.
Other things though are avoidable. The most obvious is that clubs must have a strategy for taking students all the way from the first class through supervised play, gentle play and then to join in a standard club session. We encourage clubs to develop a culture of mixed ability sessions, so that it is not too intimidating for a less experienced pair to join in.
There is another thing too, which is to make sure that students feel part of your club from the beginning. They are not just attending a class on your premises, they are joining a club and need to be made welcome. What this means in terms of membership fees and so on is something for a club committee to consider, but the EBU’s position is clear: any member of an EBU affiliated club is also a member of the EBU with a number of benefits including the English Bridge magazine, eligibility for EBU events, My EBU section on the EBU site and so on.
For this reason, we recommend that clubs themselves run classes, working with local bridge teachers, rather than simply letting teachers use their premises and equipment.
There are a few subtleties to EBU membership. One is that we do not offer printed magazines and diaries to everyone, but only to our more active members. This is measured by what we call magazine points. The details of how this works are explained here (PDF), but the quick summary is that you need 12 magazine points to get a printed magazine and diary, and you get a point for every regular session, so playing once a month is sufficient. Bridge classes and novice sessions do not count for this though.
Another facet of membership is that each member normally has a primary club. Many belong to multiple clubs, but only one is primary. The primary club is the first club the member joins, or can be changed by the member (not by the club) if they belong to several clubs.
The process of joining a new student to your club (and therefore to the EBU) is normally straightforward. First, you should get the student to complete a membership form. This is important as it indicates the person’s agreement to have their personal data recorded. See here for more details.
A club secretary or other administrator logs on to the My EBU section of the web site, selects Members, and hits Add Member.
When you do this, you get a dialog asking if the person has an EBU record:
If you click No you add a new member with full name and address details and so on. If you click Yes you search existing records in our membership database to find the one you are adding.
If you are not sure, you can always start by searching, then go back and add from scratch if you cannot find the person.
It is possible to register a student with the EBU without joining them to your club. To do this, you must uncheck the option “This player is a member of your club”. If you do this, the person is joined as a potential member. If they later become a full member, you must not forget to confirm their membership! This is suitable for trial members or people just trying out the club.
What if the student leaves the club after just a few classes? If their membership of the club ends, you must remove them from the membership list on My Ebu. To do this, click the “Revoke membership” option in the member list. They remain on the EBU’s system as a contact, unless they are also a member via another club or via direct membership, in which case their status is not affected.
Try to avoid adding new members and then immediately revoking membership as this can cause complications for our office staff.
Teachers can add members too
There is another approach, which currently has advantages. A teacher can also add a new member to the EBU, using the Teaching – Students menu in their My Ebu site. This generates a magic web link which the teacher sends to the student. The student clicks the link and adds themselves to the EBU member database.
If you use this approach, there are two important things to note:
First, the student will benefit from a special offer. They get one year’s membership of the EBU complete with printed magazine and diary, even without any magazine points. And they get the Ruffian magazine, which is designed for newcomers to bridge.
Second, the student will NOT automatically be joined to your club. Once the student has joined, the club will need to go to the Add Member screen described above and add them to the club.
Currently then, the best way to add a student to your club is via the teacher route, and then to add them separately as a club member.
Is this a little more complicated than it should be? Possibly, but we are working on it!
The important thing though is that new students DO join your club and are made to feel part of it at the earliest opportunity. Then they will enjoy the learning experience more, and will be more likely to go on to join full sessions.
Tip: a pro-am session where experienced club members pair up with a novice for a special event is a great way to introduce existing members to the students, as well as giving the students vital experience of the mechanics of a normal duplicate session. Use UMS code 11 to upload this to the EBU and it will not count for NGS or Master Points.