• Steph Pendlebury
    20
    Hi everyone, I'm really interested to hear from Guilds/Associations/Societies that have moved to Direct Membership, rather than the traditional mechanism of membership via a particular tower. I think Surrey might have done this (using Membermojo) - anyone else?

    Did you have a shake-up of your rules and/or membership categories and/or membership benefits as part of this process? What did you change?
    Any comments on how you went about making the change, how you communicated or discussed it, and how the change was received by the wider membership?
    Pitfalls or things to think about in advance?
    Did you lose a significant number of members when you went from membership by tower to direct membership? And does it actually matter??
    What membership system do you use (I'm already familiar with Membermojo; are there others that are reasonably priced and work well for ringing associations)?

    Thanks in advance :-)
  • John de Overa
    362
    I'm a member of three different diocesan associations (due to geography), only one of them is through the tower, the other two have email/online membership systems and subs are paid directly to the association. But I don't think it's universal within an association, there's a mix of direct and tower subs. I'm not aware of any differences in categories or benefits that depend on how you pay, in any of them. When I asked about paying subs for the 4th association I ring in, I was told not to bother - I think that's a fair reflection of the state of diocesan associations in general...

    My favourite association and the one that's helped my ringing the most is a non-territorial and free one ;-)
  • Tristan Lockheart
    109
    Hi everyone, I'm really interested to hear from Guilds/Associations/Societies that have moved to Direct Membership, rather than the traditional mechanism of membership via a particular tower.Steph Pendlebury

    Mine (which I think may be the same as one of John's) is fairly simple, although still (sort-of) the traditional tower model. There is a digital PDF form which can be completed and emailed back to the membership manager, and then the fees bank transferred/or cheque posted. The admin could be reduced with a small amount of additional tech. Alternatively, this can be done on paper and with cash at any district event. Sometimes individuals are emailed about subs, sometimes towers, depending on who is the membership manager at the time.

    I don't think you need to move one way or the other. In my association, you have to opt-in to be listed as being under a specific tower. Whether they'd object if you declined to give your home tower is a question of debate. Combined with the option of doing memberships both as a tower or individually, I don't see that there would be any objections other than potentially a concern over the erosion of tower control. Direct membership would definitely reduce the admin burden at a tower level, and helps cut back on some of the redundant admin and lines of communications established long before the digital era.

    I don't think transitioning away from tower-based subs would be confusing; I suspect most of us newbies are more surprised by the member<tower<district<association model than just paying the association!

    Did you lose a significant number of members when you went from membership by tower to direct membership? And does it actually matter??Steph Pendlebury
    I wouldn't know if this has had an effect with more people paying individually, but I would suggest that if people despite prodding can't do their own subs once a year (obvious exceptions aside), then they are unlikely to contribute much to association life and thus their loss is not something which matters. The money which they pay in would perhaps be missed, but if it was just coming out of tower funds, then perhaps the money would be put to a more productive use?
  • John Harrison
    333
    most comments so far seem to be about payment mechanisms, whereas the question was about membership.
    In most territorial societies most members are affiliated to a tower, with only a few members 'unattached'. By 'direct membership' I would assume members were not tower affiliated but just 'members'.
    That woild also probably mean members were not be affiliated to a branch either, since the branches are defined by the towers within them. So if branches are still needed some other means would be needed to fund their activities. One might be tempted to 'do away with branches', but in the societies I've been involved with, the branch is the unit that runs most activities for members, and the one that members associate with rather than the more remote central society. (I realise that might be different in smaller societies.)
    Direct membership would also require a central payment mechanism (which others have commented on) but the reverse isn't true - it's quite possible to implement a central payment mechanism with tower/branch based membership. We are currently running a trial to do just that.
    What other effects would direct membership have?
    It may well strengthen the link between members and the society for those who remain, but if membership becomes just a personal choice then I suspect far fewer would join than do in the current regime, where all members of a tower are encouraged to join. You might argue that societies would be better with a much smaller, but more committed and active membership than they are with a much larger membership diluted by inactive ringers who hardly ever participate in society activity - but it would be very different.
    With no link between members and towers the idea of a territorial society would be weakened, so societies could develop fuzzy borders based not on carving up the territory but merely on how near the activity ringers need to live to be interested. And without a well defined patch of land to define them, some societies might fade away while the more proactive ones expand.
    How much of the above would be good or bad can be debated - probably some of each - but it would be quite a different landscape
    Going one notch up the ringing structure, the question of 'direct membership' is mor usually discussed in relation to the Central Council. Post reform, it's constitution requires it every few years to consider whether the ringing community would be better served if ringers were direct members rather than being indirectly represented by the ringing societies. That would be a significant change, with potentially significant benefits.
    At the first review the Execitive concluded there wasn't support for it yet. But i suspect if we already had it then most people would see it as normal. It's the change that seems impossible.
    We've been here before. Twenty years ago I dropped the proposal for an Instructors Guild because although a lot of people wanted it a lot of others were strongly against, and too few supported it. At the time I said it would seem quite normal if we already had it and I predicted that in ten years something like it would arise bottom up. The timing wasn't far wrong, we now have ART.
    .
  • Tristan Lockheart
    109
    So if branches are still needed some other means would be needed to fund their activities.John Harrison

    I'm not sure how long it has been the case, but in Yorkshire, the branches receive a grant from the association, rather than receive the funds from their subs directly.

    With no link between members and towers the idea of a territorial society would be weakened, so societies could develop fuzzy borders based not on carving up the territory but merely on how near the activity ringers need to live to be interested. And without a well defined patch of land to define them, some societies might fade away while the more proactive ones expand.John Harrison

    I would argue that local associations would still be in a much better position to support ringers than ones some distance away, even if technically feasible. A degree of natural selection may well occur, where a strong association neighbours a weak one, with people going where the activitiy is. But I would worry that losing territorial associations would lead to gaps in coverage, and with a post-local-band world, there would be no-one who is there to look after each tower and local ringers - the results of which have been seen on Facebook today.

    Going one notch up the ringing structure, the question of 'direct membership' is mor usually discussed in relation to the Central Council. Post reform, it's constitution requires it every few years to consider whether the ringing community would be better served if ringers were direct members rather than being indirectly represented by the ringing societies. That would be a significant change, with potentially significant benefits.John Harrison

    I suspect that in the long run, a DMO Central Council would be incompatible with territorial guilds and associations. Getting people to pay 2+ subs would be a challenge, and the CC would need to offer something for its sub, rather than simply the 'big picture' as offered now. Sounds like a difficult ask, but as you've said, ART has found its feet. Perhaps you would need area committees or the like.
  • Steph Pendlebury
    20
    In the Sussex County Association, all subs go directly to the central organisation - Districts do not have separate bank accounts or separate budgets. So there would be no change there.

    And with a DMO a member could still be primarily associated with one particular tower. Or several towers.
  • Alison Hodge
    146
    The St Martins Guild had a major review of their constitution and rules a few years ago - i am sure that their members who led that could tell you how they went about that. It is no longer a territorial association but most of their activities are still in the Birmingham area. There are only about 40 towers in the area so the Guild is the size of many branches / districts in other societies. Some of those towers also affiliate to the WDCRA.

    A single central organisation for ringing need not be incompatible with a more local association
    / guild / district / branch). Many other voluntary organisations operate this way with a central HQ alongside local / regional units. The enormous benefit is that the central HQ administers all the major matters like safeguarding, GDPR, insurance, legal etc, as well as the major liaison roles and PR, leaving local groupings and reps to focus on what suits the local area as is appropriate to their wants and needs.
  • John Harrison
    333
    A single central organisation for ringing need not be incompatible with a more local association / guild / district / branch). Many other voluntary organisations operate this way with a central HQ alongside local / regional units. /quote]
    There is an important difference though. An organisation with central and regional units is different from a lot of independent organisations, each with a history. You have to overcome the pride in that independence and history.
    Alison Hodge
  • Tristan Lockheart
    109
    What are you trying to achieve? How do you administer it currently? What are your concerns? If you include the option for towers to continue to manage their band's memberships on their behalf, then I don't think there is a massive learning curve or potential for controversy.

    You seem to have already introduced a fair amount of tech to the process, but for those without an online system, this can be a benefit of a DMO. Less admin for towers too if they want. Otherwise, there really is little difference; you can still give the option to nominate a home tower(s).
  • Tristan Lockheart
    109
    A single central organisation for ringing need not be incompatible with a more local association / guild / district / branch). Many other voluntary organisations operate this way with a central HQ alongside local / regional units. The enormous benefit is that the central HQ administers all the major matters like safeguarding, GDPR, insurance, legal etc, as well as the major liaison roles and PR, leaving local groupings and reps to focus on what suits the local area as is appropriate to their wants and needs.Alison Hodge

    Are you suggesting that the regional units would be part of the CC? Would they be arms-length? I would hate to be the one drawing up a transition plan, or indeed establishing a sense of authority to replace/take over the territorial societies...

    Ultimately, a DMO needs selling point above and beyond what the council organises today. Those selling points would likely overlap with the territorial societies and that would cause discontent. Perhaps we need to work on keeping the associations relevant. A detailed manifesto for the role of territorial societies in the 21st century? Ofsted-style inspections to highlight success and provide support for improvements?
  • Simon Linford
    305
    Surrey definitable has a very good membership system which I was talking to someone about on Saturday night. It overcomes GDPR concerns too.

    CAMRA is a model which, if we were starting from scratch, is what we might well invent. Membership of the national organisation, regional branches, which are split if any branch becomes so large that it is no longer meeting the needs of its members. Local branches don't generally hold their own funds (or are not supposed to hold too much) but if they have a major promitional activity like a beer festival they get a loan or grant from HQ.

    There is a network of Regional Directors, each responsible for 20 or so branches. They don't interfere but they are helpful.
  • Steph Pendlebury
    20
    Really helpful to have the "newbie" view, thanks Tristan
  • Lucy Chandhial
    51
    The Middlesex has a few unattached members but mainly relies on membership via a tower. It’s definitely less important than it used to be when it comes to the admin and collecting subscriptions as people want to pay via bank transfer instead of cash to a tower contact.
    And in the end it makes very little difference to the experience of ringers as the mailing list, website and newsletter are open to all so anyone can join in with ringing anywhere, regardless of whether they are a member or which tower is their ‘home tower’.
    For me, administrating the subscriptions for the district, a tech supported process would be great so it sits on the backlog list of things I will research when I have time! So I will be interested to hear any solution you find for Sussex.
  • Alan C
    82
    The Surrey membership online system seems to work quite well.

    https://membermojo.co.uk/surreybellringers
  • Roger Booth
    65
    I researched this a couple of years ago and found that in addition to Surrey, the D&N had introduced the LoveAdmin system. Rather than a fall in subs it actually increased the number of people paying subs. Perhaps someone from D&N could comment.

    I think the important issue here is engagement with the total membership. My experience is that few people nowadays take up ringing as it is a service to the church. It is no longer seen as a duty to their parish which means that they have limited interest in anything other than their local band. They take up ringing because they perceive it as an interesting hobby. They are quite surprised when they find out about our antiquated ways of doing things compared with other activities that they could take up.

    In addition, I know that many tower captains talk about how difficult it is to recruit young people, but just look at the response when we took the Charmborough Ring to the Cambridge University Freshers fair last week. Ringing could have a bright future if only it got organised, brought itself up to date and promoted itself better.

    The problem with the traditional system is that too few communications get down to the ringers at grass roots level. Because posts in societies are dominated by long term ringers, there is also a fixation on peals, striking competitions and business meetings, which appeal to a minority. We have just carried out a survey in my local district and these are the bottom three things that the members are interested in.

    Communication by direct mail is the #1 thing that they wish to see. Google groups and Facebook groups are only half as popular. However, it's not surprising that WhatsApp groups targeted at those with specific interests (e.g weekday ringing, training events, surprise major practices, handbell ringing, quarter peals etc) are significantly more popular.

    If people can pay their subs on-line and receive regular communications about activities that they are interested in taking place nearby and which are of interest to them, ringing will flourish. Activity would be driven in a modern bottom-up way by the membership, rather than the old rigid Victorian top-down way. Certain activities will flourish, and groups may need to split (as in CAMRA) and new previously un-heard of activities might emerge. This might present a challenge to some of the arbitrary boundaries that we have but is something that should be encouraged and welcomed.
  • A J Barnfield
    215
    "Ringing could have a bright future if only it got organised, brought itself up to date and promoted itself better". If only it had. And in that order.
  • Phillip George
    64
    My experience is that few people nowadays take up ringing as it is a service to the church. It is no longer seen as a duty to their parish which means that they have limited interest in anything other than their local bandRoger Booth

    . My ringing is a hobby (I hate that term!). I always ring for church services as I see that as an important part of ringing but it tends to be an "also ran", being only about 10% of my total. We never major on service ringing or church for new ringers.

    The problem with the traditional system is that too few communications get down to the ringers at grass roots level.Roger Booth

    I am currently trying to promote discussion about communications in my Association.

    However, it's not surprising that WhatsApp groups targeted at those with specific interests (e.g weekday ringing, training events, surprise major practices, handbell ringing, quarter peals etc) are significantly more popular.Roger Booth

    WhatsApp is an excellent platform. Currently I only use it in my own tower situation, but it is quicker and easier than email and lends itself to instant communication and interaction. It is also very flexible being able to quickly accomodate new groups/subgroups for specific projects/events.

    If people can pay their subs on-line and receive regular communications about activities that they are interested in taking place nearby and which are of interest to them, ringing will flourish.Roger Booth

    I collect subs from everyone in the tower and pay online. That's the best we can do but it saves a dozen individuals submitting them. I am left with gathering cash. Not ideal and perhaps many Towers Secs would not want to do this! I am not sure if members have been canvassed about what ringing activities might interest them!

    Activity would be driven in a modern bottom-up way by the membership, rather than the old rigid Victorian top-down way.Roger Booth

    In general we prefer to be lead than to lead. Your modern concept, with which I agree, requires more effort from more people, not only Association and District officers. The first step in any change is to wake up and see that we need to do it, and we are still asleep on this one!
    It is important that I point out that I am speaking in general terms. In my Association there are some successful initiatives but at a local level we are still fairly Victorian. .
  • Roger Booth
    65
    "I am not sure if members have been canvassed about what ringing activities might interest them!

    Have a look at this graph from our recent district survey.Interests.png
  • Roger Booth
    65
    Your modern concept, with which I agree, requires more effort from more people, not only Association and District officers. The first step in any change is to wake up and see that we need to do it, and we are still asleep on this one!Phillip George

    If only those who cling on and try to do everything themselves would learn to let go, it would make a huge difference. There are lots of talented people out there who could step in, they just need encouragement. They may make mistakes at first, and they may try new ideas, but in the longer term as more people are contributing, the workload for individuals will be less, not more.

    I'm pretty sure that a lot of people are awake on this one and have been for some time. It's just that the existing culture is very good at reinforcing itself, and is averse to change.
  • Phillip George
    64
    Have a look at this graph from our recent district survey.Roger Booth

    Thank you, just the ticket! Please may I use this as a reference document for future discussions in my area?

    There are lots of talented people out there who could step in, they just need encouragement.Roger Booth

    It's just that the existing culture is very good at reinforcing itself, and is averse to change.Roger Booth

    You are right on these points but in our local area it is very difficult to get people involved, probably because the Victorian system hasn't anything to offer! (Note for self, expedite my recent enquiries!)
  • A J Barnfield
    215
    So plenty of aspiration, then. Just that we have an aspiration crushing set up.
  • John de Overa
    362
    Because posts in societies are dominated by long term ringers, there is also a fixation on peals, striking competitions and business meetings, which appeal to a minority.Roger Booth

    Which seems to have been the case for many decades:

    The Whiting Society was founded in 1968, and takes its name from its founding father, Arthur Whiting (1908-1975), who was a ringer at All Saints, Marple, Cheshire. Arthur was frustrated with the boring and seemingly interminable business meetings of the Chester Diocesan Guild at that time, which not infrequently overran into, and sometimes wiped out, the time allocated to evening ringing. He determined to form a group dedicated to making ringing enjoyable and actually getting on with it, rather than debate and discussion.

    Clearly it isn't the same set of people running things now, but the same modus operandi is still in place 50 years on - I'm a member of the CDG and I receive emails about the same events - except now the majority are about cancellations due to lack of numbers.

    About The Whiting Society of Ringers

    If only those who cling on and try to do everything themselves would learn to let go, it would make a huge difference. There are lots of talented people out there who could step in, they just need encouragement. They may make mistakes at first, and they may try new ideas, but in the longer term as more people are contributing, the workload for individuals will be less, not more.Roger Booth

    Most of my ringing friends who have stepped up and tried to contribute at association level have eventually given up in frustration. Why would recent recruits have any interest in propping up an obsolete Victorian leftover when most of what does happen of any note in ringing happens despite the associations and not because of them?

    I'm pretty sure that a lot of people are awake on this one and have been for some time. It's just that the existing culture is very good at reinforcing itself, and is averse to change.Roger Booth

    It's the only thing it is good at. In particular, if the current associations crumble, good riddance. They have long passed their sell by date.
  • Sue Marsden
    33
    "Because posts in societies are dominated by long term ringers, there is also a fixation on peals, striking competitions and business meetings, which appeal to a minority."
    — Roger Booth
    The long term ringers in my district are desperately trying to give up office in favour of the newer recruits, with very limited success. There is certainly no fixation on peals - it would be hard to get a district band for a peal. The number of active peal ringers (ie ring more than 2 in a year) in the district is fewer than 4. Business meetings are 2 a year and are brief. We may or may not have a striking competition. District practices are aimed at learners and improvers so they can get to ring things they cannot in their own tower, but attendance is still low. Many ringers are only interested in ringing at their own towers and do not want to progress, let alone improve. However the training sessions at the Teaching centre using the simulator seem popular.
  • John de Overa
    362
    The long term ringers in my district are desperately trying to give up office in favour of the newer recruits, with very limited success.Sue Marsden

    What have they done about that? Have they actually considered why newer recruits aren't interested, rather than just bemoaning that they aren't?

    District practices are aimed at learners and improvers so they can get to ring things they cannot in their own tower, but attendance is still low. ... However the training sessions at the Teaching centre using the simulator seem popular.Sue Marsden

    There's a very clear disconnect there. It's not that there's no demand for training, it's that the "traditional" style of training is no longer fit for purpose. If I turn up at a district practice I have no idea who will be there, how many people there will be there or what level they be ringing at. I might get a chance to ring with some more experienced and kindly ringers who would support and encourage me, I might get thrown in out of my depth and crash out, I might get a bunch of top rank shouters or I might be the best ringer there. There's simply no way of knowing. On the other hand if I go to a simulator practice the content is pretty certain to be advertised in advance and I can decide if it's right for me.

    I don't ever go to branch practices as all the ones I've been to are a waste of time. I've been to far more simulator practices, because they fill a need. And the success of the various residential ringing courses is more proof that there is a demand for quality, targeted training.

    Many ringers are only interested in ringing at their own towers and do not want to progress, let alone improve.Sue Marsden

    No, many towers and ringers have been led to believe that they aren't capable of progressing any further either collectively or individually, and their experience of the "outside" at events such as branch practices had been humiliating and demotivating, so they stay where they aren't made to feel inadequate and where they can enjoy themselves, at whatever level they are at.

    If what you are doing clearly isn't working than the sensible thing is to take a step back, ask why and try another course. But in my experience, that isn't what most associations do, they keep doing the same irrelevant things over and over and then complain about people not being interested.
  • A J Barnfield
    215
    Sue: "However the training sessions at the Teaching centre using the simulator seem popular."

    Well, then, there we go...
  • Sue Marsden
    33
    The long term ringers in my district are desperately trying to give up office in favour of the newer recruits, with very limited success.
    — Sue Marsden

    John de Overa
    "What have they done about that? Have they actually considered why newer recruits aren't interested, rather than just bemoaning that they aren't?"

    Slightly unfair. We haven't just sat around moaning, but have tried encouraging newer ringers to join the committee. A few have, but not many. There aren't that many newer ringers anyway. Most of the slightly younger ones are busy with work/family. It's not that we haven't tried; also asking what things they want.

    "If I turn up at a district practice I have no idea who will be there, how many people there will be there or what level they be ringing at."
    and their experience of the "outside" at events such as branch practices had been humiliating and demotivating,"

    We generally know exactly who will turn up - usually the committee members plus a few other long time ringers, plus a few newer recruits who are welcomed kindly, certainly not shouted at or humilated, but asked what they would like to ring and not forced out of their comford zone of they don't want to, and they seem happy with what they have rung. I have never actually witnessed learners being humiliated at meetings. We have tried changing the time of practices, and having a particular focus- such as Bob Doubles, or whatever. Learners also get the chance to ring with good bands -and also hear more advanced ringing. You might think this is 'humiliating' but I think that it is good for less experienced ringers to hear better ringing so they know what they can aim for -if they want to.

    ""No, many towers and ringers have been led to believe that they aren't capable of progressing any further either collectively or individually, "
    Again this is not the case round here. If people want to progress or improve (the two are not the same) then they are given the opportunity to do so. But a number of ringers at some towers make it quite clear that they are only interested in ringing at their own tower and are happy with the level they are at. And that's fine- they are maintaining ringing at a tower which is the whole point after all.
  • John de Overa
    362
    We generally know exactly who will turn up - usually the committee members plus a few other long time ringers ... I have never actually witnessed learners being humiliated at meetings. ... You might think this is 'humiliating' but I think that it is good for less experienced ringers to hear better ringing so they know what they can aim forSue Marsden

    I fully believe that nobody tries to directly humiliate ringers at branch practices but it's not about how you or other branch committee members see things from your side, it's about how less experienced ringers see if from theirs. I can assure you that many ringers in the lower ranks don't participate at branch practices because they find them very intimidating, even if that isn't the intention. "Hearing better ringing" can be a huge demotivator if it appears to be unachievable - it needs to be accompanied with "And here is how you get there", which is seldom the case.

    But a number of ringers at some towers make it quite clear that they are only interested in ringing at their own tower and are happy with the level they are at.Sue Marsden

    Yes, my home tower has been one of those for the past 40+ years. And it's recently changed, the band are now ringing simple methods and have even arranged an outing to ring at other towers. That change has been brought about internally, by a couple of us who have rung elsewhere telling the others "If I can progress, so can you". The first time we rang a simple minimus method as a band had an electrifying effect, because after that people believed moving forwards together was not an unachievable pipe dream.

    I know that some towers really are stuck in the mud, but how many others are there like ours who don't believe things could ever improve? I think it's great that ringing for the Coronation is being promoted, but who is going to train the recruits and how many are going to get beyond Rs&CCs? Of course PR about ringing and training is necessary, but I think a good proportion of it needs to be directed at existing ringers, otherwise we aren't going to fix the current problems, we are just going to produce another tranche of ringers with the same issues that we already have,
  • A J Barnfield
    215
    If someone wants to ring for the Coronation where are they going to learn?
  • John Harrison
    333
    I think it's great that ringing for the Coronation is being promoted, but ... how many are going to get beyond Rs&CCs? ....otherwise we aren't going to fix the current problems, we are just going to produce another tranche of ringers with the same issues that we already have,John de Overa
    Have we forgotten what happened with recruiting for the Millennium?
  • John Harrison
    333
    This discussion seems to be going down the path of blaming everything on a nonexistent caricature of ringing. I'm sure a lot of branches are doing similar things to us. We run separate practices aimed at different groups, elementary, advanced and young ringers, as well as a general practice, and in all cases we know who will be there because we ask people to say if the will be. The practices are appreciated by those who attend, but there are still many who don't.
  • John de Overa
    362
    If someone wants to ring for the Coronation where are they going to learn?A J Barnfield

    The press release tells people to contact ART:

    https://www.englishcathedrals.co.uk/latest-news/ring-for-the-king/
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