As the wave of catch-up renovation projects continues at a lively pace for clubs that emerged unscathed from the recession, management has recognized that Involving membership from start to end in all key aspects of renovation decision-making isn’t just a method of people-pleasing, but an essential part of the process, to ensure that members’ voices are properly heard and their needs are fully validated.
At The Madison Club in Madison, Wis., a $2 million overhaul of the club’s event space in June 2018 was fueled by a desire to keep up with the city’s expanding dining, entertainment and event business. “We knew that increased banquet usage would help us control dues and increase sales overall, which would result in more benefits for members,” says General Manager Mary Gaffney-Ward.
For the Madison Club management team, keeping members in the loop throughout the entire process was identified as critical to the project’s success well before construction began. “Our marketing and membership director had a detailed plan so that members felt informed from beginning to end, starting with focus group findings, forum feedback and then info and photos all through construction—in total, for about a twelve-month period,” notes Gaffney-Ward. Photo and interior design boards were displayed in the lobby and elevator spaces, providing visual reminders for daily visitors.
Because the club’s lower level had not been renovated in over fifteen years, member input on how best to maximize this space was more than welcome. In addition to 2016 strategic planning sessions and focus groups that followed, members were invited to register for one of two forums in August 2017, during which they could provide feedback on proposed ideas. Spearheaded by both management and Board member participation, these sessions included a member-produced video that “helped members visualize how we got to this place, and how the club has changed over the years,” says Gaffney-Ward.
To further market the renovation and drum up excitement for potential new business, the club created a special Century Membership that commemorated the building’s approaching 100th-year anniversary. “We came up with one hundred reasons to join, and reduced fees for members for their first year,” says Gaffney-Ward. “Our members really embraced this, as we brought in over 100 new members on the promotion.”
In addition, a contest was held to name the new lounge that generated over 100 entries. Voted on by staff and Board members, the winning selection—5 East Lounge and Tap Room—is a compilation of the club’s street address and history. “The Tap Room was the original name, and we felt it was important to incorporate it into the name, as many of our older members had fond memories from the space,” says Gaffney-Ward.
To mark the official unveiling of the new space—just in time for the June wedding season kickoff—a grand opening attended by roughly 400 members showcased the results. Party goers dined on complimentary cocktails (featured on the new bar menu) and hors d’oeuvres, while gazing upon a photo display that chronicled the facility’s rich history. “This was another way we had member involvement, as we had asked them to send photos in of their favorite times at the club,” says Gaffney-Ward.
The night garnered attention from local bloggers and wedding planners, and even made the front page of the local newspaper—a first for The Madison Club.
Members that had provided support for the project were acknowledged for their efforts, amd local business partners offered such services as photography and video, floral and décor and focus group facilitation.
As a parting gift, attendees were sent home with a gift bag containing the club’s signature cookies; a brochure outlining the benefits of the event space; a punch card with a description of a new loyalty program in the club’s restaurant, and a $100 gift certificate toward future event space rental.
After such a successful renovation venture, management decided to continue the same assessment amount for 2019 ($500 per member, vs. the standard $250 annual assessment) and recently completed a remodel of the club’s entire first floor. Twelve additional weddings have been booked for this year, amounting to 60 for the fiscal year.
“Restaurant sales are up and banquet, membership and overall sales are on budget, so we have been able to meet the loan requirements and increase membership satisfaction,” enthuses Gaffney-Ward.
Keep pace at The Madison Club with the city’s vibrant dining and entertainment scene, by creating event space that speaks to members’ interests.
Involve members from start to finish in the renovation project, by soliciting feedback on design plans, providing constant updates on construction progress and showcasing the results at a grand-opening celebration.
Increased restaurant sales, additional bookings for weddings and a level of member satisfaction that led to sustained capital support for additional improvement projects.