Sharing Good Practice: KFO Attracting and Welcoming New Members

In the last two years Kingdom of Fife Orienteers (KFO) have tripled their membership. In this good practice article we explore how the club has attracted and welcomed so many newcomers into our sport. 

KFO Chair Claire Duncan successfully obtained a grant from Persimmon Homes to organise beginner orienteering sessions at Duloch. Being a small club with a limited volunteer base at the time, the grant money allowed KFO to hire a coach and try holding activities they wouldn’t normally have the capacity for. Outside, coach Kieran Watts led two sets of three introductory sessions for 12 juniors in April and May 2022, followed by an additional set in the autumn. These sessions, supported by KFO members, attracted numerous juniors and their families. This resulted in juniors and their families joining the club. 

Juniors with their certificates after the first junior coaching series 

After the coaching sessions, KFO has been focusing on holding high quality local events. KFO made sure that newcomers from the coaching series were helped on the next step of entering these events and that any newcomers that come along to their events feel welcomed and are signed posted on how to be involved. 

Matthew Clark club secretary says, “As a club we decided to focus on good quality local events. “We brought in sign-up in advance. We attracted plenty of members from surrounding clubs as well as new people from the local area via Facebook posts.

“We maintained a list of people who had come to our events before who we could then invite to future events.  

“We made sure we offered a warm welcome to new people at their first event and helped them to register for their second event. Everything we did was to show how orienteering is a great sport for individuals and families, and to make it easy for everyone to take part. Most people are not familiar with orienteering and therefore they might not know they are going to love doing it until we show them.”

In just two years, KFO’s membership skyrocketed from the mid-20s to the mid-60s, highlighting the positive impact of beginner sessions and their personal approach to newcomers. This year KFO had their largest team ever at the Jamie Stevenson Trophy. KFO member Christopher got a silver medal at the Jamie Stevenson Trophy and started orienteering back in 2022 during the first Spring junior coaching series. The club also managed a great turnout of new and experienced members for the CompassSport Trophy at Faskally.

Team KFO at the Jamie Stevenson 

Matthew Clark shares his six top tips to help get beginners established in orienteering. This has supported KFOs growth:

  1. Make sure you have someone in the club whose job it is to look out for new members. They should spot who has enjoyed their time orienteering and make sure they are helped to take their interest further.
  2.  Mentor new participants. Show them previous maps. Discuss their day. Talk about your personal entry into the sport and what you get out of it.
  3. Communicate in normal language. Send people translations of other orienteering documents they may have had (Final Details documents are incomprehensible. It will be a surprise to newcomers that Registration, Start, Finish and Download are in four different places. And who knows what “download” is, let alone, “collect your bib and follow the tapes to the start”).
  4. Email new participants afterwards to explain anything quirky about the day, and to highlight the next event.
  5. Send people information specifically badged for them, for example “you might like this event. This will suit you.” 
  6. Always include at the bottom of your emails the simplest link you can find to become a member. This should just be the SiEntries link to the SOA/Club membership. Nobody wants to work out the British/Scottish thing. And you can send it every time. We buy stuff that is advertised to us on Facebook only when we have seen the advert approximately 2,300 times.

Thankyou to KFO for sharing their growth over the last two years. It’s been great to see the club expand over the last two years! KFO are now working on consolidating their current membership, encouraging everyone to try more challenging events further from home, to develop their enjoyment and to make the club even stronger.