Play Bowls Month success stories

by Team BV

Play Bowls Month ran for the very first time in October 2016. 
Clubs didn’t know what to expect, Bowls Victoria didn’t know what to expect.
But we can tell you one thing … one in 10 people who visited a bowling club as part of Play Bowls Month, joined as a member. That’s a pretty good conversion!
55 clubs took part, and there were over 190 events run during September, October and into November as part of the month. We’re still collecting data from many of the clubs but as it stands, all signs point to the inaugural Play Bowls Month as a great success.
Here are a few club success stories. 
Chirnside Park BC
“It was beyond all of our expectations; our flyer said no need to book, so we were a bit concerned how many might come. We started at 11am, ten turned up at 11:15am, and then another 10 and they just kept coming!”
Kevin Wells, Chirnside Park Play Bowls Month Co-ordinator, said the atmosphere at their Come & Try Day was great, ‘we had a great cross-section of ages and the helpers created that environment for people to enjoy themselves. We had one green prepared, but had to open up the second one as well.’
‘We started from scratch and went through and read all of the Play Bowls Month material, we emphasised that the whole idea of having this day is to introduce people to the game, not sign them up for a membership straight away. The Bowls Victoria material helped the club recognise this.’
The club collected details from 60 people on the day, and flyers for the club’s social bowls were distributed. Each club member out on the green made sure they created a bit of fun, they pushed the social bowls aspect of the club instead of pennant, and 12 people put their name down on the day.
Chirnside Park found the key to promoting the day was having coverage across all of the different media channels; Facebook, direct email, flyers throughout community hot-spots and the local real estate agent and club members assisting with a letterbox drop.
Donvale BC
Donvale tried a few different things to make sure the day was a success, and Play Bowls Month Co-ordinator Rob Fairweather shows how trying something different can definitely pay off.
‘The coverage and distribution with our marketing of the club was most important, we are tucked away, no visible awareness from the road.’
‘We provided a free barbecue (all day), for those attending and we ran a small raffle to cover all the outgoing costs.’
Perhaps the most successful part of Donvale’s day however was the experience they provided once people did come into the club.
‘We also closed the side entrance to ensure all the visitors could be greeted and registered once they were inside the main entrance of the club.’ They also had bright and enthusiastic “meeters and greeters”, ensuring all who arrived at the club for the first time, enjoyed a warm and welcoming experience.
Donvale’s volunteers on the green then took over, giving a basic knowledge of the game, lots of fun and enjoyment, importantly lots of positive encouragement. All rinks were occupied most of the day.
‘As each visitor registered to join, we rang the bell, adding some light hearted fun to the day. The joining fee at our club is normally $185, for those who signed up on the day; we offered membership for $50.’
Donvale’s Come & Try Day started at midday. By 5pm the club had registered 18 new members, two weeks later they had 25 new members.
Rob explained ‘an important “Buddy System” has been introduced, a simple scheme ensuring new members are partnered with an established club member to safeguard we maintain regular contact during the early stages of the association.’ The club also put together a Welcome Pack with everything a new members needs to get settled.
‘We are extremely fortunate at Donvale, nothing is possible unless you’re surrounded with great people, all volunteers, all prepared to put their hand up when called upon or needed. We did learn a good deal from this day, opportunities to improve and do things better. Trust you agree, if we did nothing, nothing would have happened.’

Harcourt is a small town, just out of Castlemaine. They’ve got a post office, a service station, a football club, a pool, a pub and a bowling club.
The bowling club is aiming to be the central meeting place for people to go in town, according to Play Bowls Month Co-ordinator Christine Anderson, ‘the key is to open your doors and be welcoming and inclusive of everyone.’ Although they’re a small club in a small town, they had their own success during Play Bowls Month, just on a slightly different scale.
Chris is the Publicity Officer at the club, and also sits on the club’s board, and when she put her hand up to run a Come & Try day she was enthusiastic and ready to go. ‘I worked through all the Play Bowls Month resources by myself, the flyers in particularly were fantastic.’
The Club President and Secretary then took the letterbox drop one further and door knocked throughout the district, which resulted in more than a few invitations in for afternoon tea and the opportunity to talk about the club and their upcoming event.
‘We didn’t know what to expect, but the club has agreed to put a Come & Try Day in the calendar every year. It was great to have contact with and see the enthusiasm of the locals having a go.’
They attracted a diverse group on the day, 13 people came as well as two kids that had been involved in Jr. Jack Attack that the club had run at the school earlier in the year. They dragged their Mum and Dad down after seeing flyers promoting the event.
The day was friendly and people interacted, Chris also used the Visitor Log Book to collect contact details of participants, so they could forward on information about the club’s barefoot bowls nights.
‘Four people are coming back regularly. We expect to have a few players sign up eventually. It’s isn’t about signing them up as members straight away, but it’s great they’re now spending time down at the club.’
Harcourt might be a small club, but they’re proactive; working with Regional Bowls Manager Josh Thornton last year to secure a VicHealth Active Club Grant last year to purchase six sets of bowls to help with new bowlers and to be used as part of their Come & Try and barefoot bowls programs. They’re also linked in with the Regional Sports Assembly Sports Focus, and are getting involved with the Good Sports Program.
‘We’re definitely going to be involved in Play Bowls Month next year, and it’s great to see more club members enthusiastic about helping out as well!’