Priorities for clubs

Below is the report from the club priorities exercise carried out earlier this year.

Summary of key themes, priorities and issues

Most clubs are back up to pre-covid levels of activity hosting a range of events, socials and activities. Clubs not back up to pre-covid activity levels tend to be those who had areas devastated by Storm Arwen or clubs with little or no activity in covid. Some clubs found new energy and revisited what they were doing. 

Generally communication is targeted at members rather than newcomers and people who may want to find out more about orienteering. Clubs see an important role for SOA/BOF here ensuring wider external communication.

Key priorities for clubs are: growing membership focussed on young people and families; consolidation – both keeping the long term members they have and retaining new members; getting local events up and running again; encouraging travel beyond the local; participation in training not just events.

Succession planning is highlighted as a key area of concern and an area requiring support.

Club Conference 2020 – Pre-Covid 


Staff undertook a club listening exercise during early 2023. We spoke with 15 of 17 active mainstream clubs meeting face to face where possible. One member of staff facilitated the meeting, the other scribed and asked supplementary questions. 

The aim was to find out: how clubs are faring now compared with pre-pandemic; what the club priorities are going forward and; what support clubs seek from SOA. 

The themes and areas we explored were:

  • Overview 
  • Communication 
  • Recruitment 
  • Club Activity ( Events, coaching, training, socials etc.)
  • Volunteering 
  • Development plans 
  • Working with others/collaboration 
  • Club priorities 
  • Support from SOA 

Each theme will be explored below.

Overview – clubs pre-pandemic and where they are now

For some clubs it made a difference when you had  to be a member to take part in activity in lockdown. Some clubs gained some members as there was little else on. Some have drifted back to their original sports but some have stayed.

As the club chart below shows in terms of membership – a litmus test of the health of a club: some gained (5) some lost (7) and some stayed around the same (5).

Losses were mainly in BOF members with there being an overall increase in SOA only membership.  


We asked clubs to tell us about how they communicate and engage with members and beyond.

Almost all clubs have Facebook and a website. Most have regular email communication and 7 do newsletters going out weekly to members.  WhatsApp is used for internal communication around lift sharing and social type elements. 

Generally communication is targeted at members rather than newcomers and people who may want to find out more about orienteering.

‘Instagram- not great at communicating with local members but good for a more global audience.’  SOLWAY


We explored what capacity, if any, the clubs had to recruit more members in the next 12 months.

Clubs generally target families and try to involve both the parents and children. Some clubs also target 16-35 year olds but have found this a more challenging demographic. Clubs generally have capacity for new members and are looking to recruit in the next 12 months although there are concerns from clubs about sustaining new members. 

‘We’ve seen a steady increase in people attending local events. Recently ONLY 80 people at local event whereas a few years ago we would have done cartwheels at that number! 100 is the norm.’ ELO

 ‘We would like to add another 10 members so as to keep the growth going but do some consolidation’ KFO

Club Activity ( Events, coaching, training, socials etc.) 

We compared the club schedule for 2022 with the pre-covid schedule looking at events and activities,   coaching, training and socials.

Most clubs are back up to pre-covid levels of activity hosting a range of events, socials and activities. Clubs not back up to pre-covid activity levels tended to be those who had areas devastated by Storm Arwen( e.g.MAROC/SOLWAY). The impact of Storm Arwen was worse on these clubs than the pandemic. 

Many clubs took the pandemic as an opportunity to engage newcomers as we were one of the first sports back in action. 

Of the clubs we spoke to, 8 hold training and events aimed at newcomers on a regular basis. 

Clubs highlighted that the Jan-March period of the SOA calendar was too busy this year making fitting in club activity a challenge. This was particularly the case for the central belt and Lothian clubs who also have to coordinate activity around each other. 

Orienteering is more than events – clubs that are thriving and rebuilding are those that have more than events – coaching, training, socials, links to others. ​​The highest percentage growth was within clubs with local activities, not just events. Some small clubs stand out for their efforts to recruit and sustain new members e.g.  KFO and ELO.

Some clubs changed their approach and re-thought what they were doing e.g. INVOC who adopted a new coaching model

Clubs with little or no activity in covid found it harder to get going.

INVOC Junior Coaching


We explored if clubs had enough people to deliver what they wanted to deliver as a club. 

Clubs are generally  reliant on a core of volunteers who do most of the work. It’s easy to get volunteers for specific jobs but harder for key roles e.g. organiser and controller – especially for the larger events. Planners are easier to source. It is also difficult getting people into committee positions, especially for the smaller clubs.  3 clubs specifically said that they don’t have enough volunteers for the size of club they want to be. 

In terms of coaching, it is a very mixed bag- with around half the clubs having enough coaches and half not enough. Clubs with few coaches tend to be reliant on people who already do a lot for the club.

 ‘Plenty of helpers but officials a bit lacking’ ESOC

 ‘Most keen orienteers are getting older and while we get new ones in, they are not so experienced.’ BASOC

Development plans 

We asked clubs if they had a development plan and if so, how they used it. 

Most have a development plan (12 out of 17 clubs spoken to). Some use it actively, most have used it but many don’t do so regularly. 

‘ It’s about to be redone.  It was very useful for focus.’ ECKO

‘No, we don’t have a development plan. We know what we want to do and how to recruit people so there is a general consensus rather than a formal plan.’ ELO

Working with others/collaboration 

Often clubs have good relationships built up with other clubs especially around events that they are working on together (area based)  and leagues  etc. and junior training (East and SWAT) Some clubs have external links: Schools and active schools;park run; hill running clubs; uniformed organisations;youth groups. A number of clubs felt the conversion rate via schools was not great and not worth the effort. They also found getting people to attend events from taster sessions etc. an issue.

The occasional club works with wider partnership organisations in the area for instance ECKO work with Adventure Oban, a wider collective of organisations and clubs focussed on the outdoors. This has been to mutual benefit. 

Joint SWAT and East Area training

Club priorities – going forward

Top priorities for clubs were:

SUCCESSION PLANNING:  more volunteers to spread the load ( committee, organisers. planners); increasing coaching capacity.

MEMBERSHIP: growing membership ( young people; families); consolidation both keeping the long term members they have and retaining new members; getting local events up and running again; encouraging travel beyond the local;increasing participation in training not just events 

OTHER priorities flagged up included: performance – developing skills at grassroots level; mapping more areas/revising existing areas; building links with Duke of Edinburgh groups and related organisations such as uniformed organisations etc. 

Support from SOA 

As a small organisation with a small staff team we are unable to meet all expectations so we asked where SOA can best direct energies within its constraints.

Actions have been proposed and are being considered by the Board. Actions that have been agreed are noted below


1.More tutor CPD + SI training ( 2 levels -setting up events; dealing with issues). Using the SI app could be explored in the context of simplifying systems. 

Date set for this 23rd September Kinnoull Hill. Date to be set for SI training (Staff)

2. Event safety workshop support: 

Clubs had people trained up in lock down for this role and staff can facilitate where a club needs support to run a course by finding a tutor and more participants where that is helpful.

3. More Controllers – not just training but better coordination of controlling as well ( who controls what); 

There is a new controller advocate in place. SOA facilitates training but maybe a clear mentorship process is needed after training?


  1. Club dispatches – clubs want to know who dispatches are going out to 

 Staff now send to all committee members where they are notified of who is on the committee.

  1. More support with general marketing and publicity – media/TV coverage ( WOC)

One under active discussion.


  1. Change mapping info on the website. This is out of date. 

A new one is currently in preparation

  1. Better photos on website; 

This is an issue and ties into wider communications.

  1. SCIO help and template and advice on SOA website; 

Slides from workshop on this are available from staff and have been sent out to clubs asking for information 

4. Make benefits of joining SOA/BOF clearer

Staff team to action 


Collate and share what works

We have been producing good practice examples based on what clubs do over the past year and sharing and will continue to do so. They need to be added to the tool box and flagged up more as resources for clubs. (Staff)

Development team to share templates and e.g.s  of development plans revisit toolbox and update then share specific examples.

A Community Conversation was held early July on this and recently reported on


Permission support- for the association to have agreements with large organisations such as NTS some issues around land owner expectations re charging. Relates to what happens at 6 days where a higher rate is attracted.

Some agreements are in place. Community conversation in the autumn on access will look more at these issues.


Revise calendar for Jan-March as it has been way too busy this year 

This is being addressed for next year.