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RobertI

How to make the club more appealing

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Posted (edited)

I recently attended the 50th Anniversary of the Clacton Astronomy Club (see full report) and the chairman noted how it was very difficult to attract younger members these days. When I was a teenager attending the club in the early 80's there was definitely a much wider range of ages. I think the reasons are fairly obvious (people now get information from the web and communicate with each other via social media) but I would be interested in people's thoughts on how the club could be made more appealing to a broader spectrum of ages.

Some thoughts I have include:

  • Having a more active on-line discussion capability - currently there is nothing and I was thinking that a sub-section for the club on SGL would be a start, I think it might be a struggle to get people to start using it but I can nag....
  • More frequent observing sessions - again currently there is nothing regular, I am an observer so I might be overstating the appeal of observing nights?
  • Raising awareness by adding news of the club and astronomy in general in local social media (eg: community facebook groups) 
  • Raising awareness by giving talks to schools/scouts/brownies,etc - I believe these currently happen on an infrequent basis

What do people think? Any ideas or experience of things that work, particularly at the monthly meetings themselves?

Thanks!

Rob

Edited by RobertI

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Probably point three , or outreach at  summer event , solar viewing , viewing late evening along the promenade whilst kids are with their parents, most kids or is it just mine log on at weekend 8.30am and you have to prise him off 12 hours  later , they just aren’t interested in getting out and climbing trees these days , it is quite hard obviously you need it dark for them to see the wonders in the sky , 

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We hold the following outreach events

  • Monthly observing sessions, but only if clear.
  • A yearly solar observing session at a 'Science in the Park' day organised by the local branch of the Institute of Physics
  • A stand at a yearly 'Space Day' at our local library, organised by our local branch of the British Interplanetray Society

There are loads of kids at the latter two events.

 

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Hello Rob. At most clubs, you’ll find that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the members. Sounds harsh, but unfortunately it’s true.

With observing sessions, it can be an uphill struggle to get folks to come along, especially with the usually iffy forecasts we have to use. First of course you need a location to observe from. If it’s remote, it may be darker but fewer will turn up, so best to compromise and find somewhere closer.

With talks, best to vary those if poss to include beginner stuff, intermediate, just occasionally something advanced. Too much advanced stuff will be a turn off for the majority.   Try to recruit speakers from your own members, perhaps ask for a short talk from folks with a varied astronomy related subject to combine into an evening, this should interest the audience more. Perhaps occasionally spend a bit to invite a well known speaker, then advertise the event in advance.

A sub section on here is free and may help, well worth a try.

Visits to other groups is a great idea, but you’ll almost certainly struggle to find volunteers.

It sounds like a lot of work, but a few people could share the work and it’s very worthwhile to keep a club going.

HTH and good luck, Ed.

 

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If it wasn't for outreach we would hardly ever see youngsters at the Astronomy Centre, most new members are mid life or older, much as the regulars. We run sessions for kids, support the Cubs, Scouts, Brownies etc for their "Astronomer" badge and give presentations at local schools that have space themed weeks. The kids are amazingly enthusiastic but are not old enough to visit us without their parents. By the time they are old enough, social media has absorbed their interests.  😥

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Same issue at my RC flyers club, kids live in a virtual world where getting together means logging on to some space.

kids don’t see the value in human interaction anymore.

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Being one of the 20% NGC refers to, I can only agree!!!

We (Bedford) hold a monthly meeting - and these are usually well attended, weekly observing if weather permits - again usually well attended. But that is as far as it goes...

Getting any feedback/input on the website, on what members would like to see/do at the society is a real challenge so we end up trying to second-guess what members want!

 

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1 hour ago, NGC 1502 said:

At most clubs, you’ll find that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the members. Sounds harsh, but unfortunately it’s true.

That's optimistic!  More like 90% of the work done by 10% of the members!

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Here is an idea for outreach thing that combines multiple aspects and can be appealing to wide variety of ages.

Public EAA session combined with a talk / presentation. Talk does not need to be about EAA and can focus on particular set of astronomy targets with interesting background story related to observed object.

It will be spring time and galaxy season soon - so talk about major galaxies in our neighborhood can be interesting topic (with emphasis on what can be observed visually for example).

I did not mention main aspect of public EAA session - setup. I'm thinking about some sort of projector attached to computer, projecting on white screen / wall - and a small theater of chairs around this setup, so people can be comfortably seated while watching objects appear in real time. It is a bit more involved to organize such a thing, but I believe that club can put together list of suitable items for EAA and maybe there is a member that owns overhead (or small table top) projector that could be used. Such events need not be held indoors (with scope being outside and operated remotely), but rather "in the field" - this helps audience to relate to night sky as laser pointer can be used to outline parts of sky currently under observation.

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I went along as a possibly enthusiastic member to my local astronomy group.  I didn't know what to expect, but I wanted practical help with my telescope.  Someone to show me how to set it up/make it work and someone to observe alongside of to show me the ropes.  I thought all meetings would have a telescope being used (assuming it was clear) and that 'astronomy' or something done with 'gear' would be done during the meeting.  i.e. that the meetings would be 'practical' in nature (like a camera club often is).  I wasn't expecting an atmosphere of lectures and talks.  On the night I went the only telescopes there were a small one that someone else had bought on a first visit and my own one which I had lugged over to the venue.  I set it up, but because a talk was scheduled no-one had much, if any, time to show me anything, in fact I let the other person take a look at Venus (which I had already worked out) and I think that was the highlight of their evening too.   I then sat through the talk (on the subject of a book which I had never heard of) and paid for a years membership in hope.  I then returned for a scheduled observing evening a few weeks later which also didn't live up to expectations.  I must admit I haven't been back since.  Yet this is an apparently well organised club - they have a full programme, out-reach events, a website and have emailed circulations etc.  I do wonder if the failing was mine - which is quite possible, but it didn't tick what I was expecting. 

So the thread is about what folks might want from a club - based on my own experience I'd be looking for opportunities for practical demonstrations.  OK, I get that it's not always clear enough to carry out actual astronomy, but I'd like to look at telescopes, set-ups, maybe solar things, imagining equipment, the use of cameras for afocal work, I'd like to see the difference between the different telescope types, to try lots of EP's between the different types of scopes all that sort of thing.  I was kind of expecting an astronomy club night to be something that everyone bought their telescopes to and I'd have found that interesting, but hey!  I am not everyone! 

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2 hours ago, vlaiv said:

Here is an idea for outreach thing that combines multiple aspects and can be appealing to wide variety of ages.

Public EAA session combined with a talk / presentation. Talk does not need to be about EAA and can focus on particular set of astronomy targets with interesting background story related to observed object.

It will be spring time and galaxy season soon - so talk about major galaxies in our neighborhood can be interesting topic (with emphasis on what can be observed visually for example).

I did not mention main aspect of public EAA session - setup. I'm thinking about some sort of projector attached to computer, projecting on white screen / wall - and a small theater of chairs around this setup, so people can be comfortably seated while watching objects appear in real time. It is a bit more involved to organize such a thing, but I believe that club can put together list of suitable items for EAA and maybe there is a member that owns overhead (or small table top) projector that could be used. Such events need not be held indoors (with scope being outside and operated remotely), but rather "in the field" - this helps audience to relate to night sky as laser pointer can be used to outline parts of sky currently under observation.

Thanks Vlaiv,  some really  interesting ideas there.  Interestingly the talk that I have volunteered to do in November is going to be about EAA.  I think a live demo won’t be possible given where the club meets (although I would like to try this somewhere else at some point),  but your suggestion has made me think that I could do an interesting talk based using videos of some live captures during a session,  showing how an image can build up and be adjusted and talking about the objects themselves at the same time. Just need to get the videos now!  👍

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2 minutes ago, JOC said:

I went along as a possibly enthusiastic member to my local astronomy group.  I didn't know what to expect, but I wanted practical help with my telescope.  Someone to show me how to set it up/make it work and someone to observe alongside of to show me the ropes.  I thought all meetings would have a telescope being used (assuming it was clear) and that 'astronomy' or something done with 'gear' would be done during the meeting.  i.e. that the meetings would be 'practical' in nature (like a camera club often is).  I wasn't expecting an atmosphere of lectures and talks.  On the night I went the only telescopes there were a small one that someone else had bought on a first visit and my own one which I had lugged over to the venue.  I set it up, but because a talk was scheduled no-one had much, if any, time to show me anything, in fact I let the other person take a look at Venus (which I had already worked out) and I think that was the highlight of their evening too.   I then sat through the talk (on the subject of a book which I had never heard of) and paid for a years membership in hope.  I then returned for a scheduled observing evening a few weeks later which also didn't live up to expectations.  I must admit I haven't been back since.  Yet this is an apparently well organised club - they have a full programme, out-reach events, a website and have emailed circulations etc.  I do wonder if the failing was mine - which is quite possible, but it didn't tick what I was expecting. 

So the thread is about what folks might want from a club - based on my own experience I'd be looking for opportunities for practical demonstrations.  OK, I get that it's not always clear enough to carry out actual astronomy, but I'd like to look at telescopes, set-ups, maybe solar things, imagining equipment, the use of cameras for afocal work, I'd like to see the difference between the different telescope types, to try lots of EP's between the different types of scopes all that sort of thing.  I was kind of expecting an astronomy club night to be something that everyone bought their telescopes to and I'd have found that interesting, but hey!  I am not everyone! 

I totally get that, and I am in exactly the same boat as you. I am a practical observer so I love telescopes and observing! So I am thinking that so could do some practical demonstrations of my telescopes and other equipment (indoors).  However I might be deluded as I suspect the vast majority of members are armchair astronomers (I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense) and may not find it as interesting as I. But it might help to retain those members that do visit and are interested in that kind of thing.

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Posted (edited)

I can only go from the experience at our Society.

We set up a FB page that is very active. We meet every thursday and sunday with about 20+ people on cloudy nights. Lecture/talk 3rd sunday with regularly 50 people. 

We set up a text service years ago that all paying members are subscribed too (GDPR is acknowledged)  with reminders about talks, workshops and observing sessions at either the Obsevatory or dark site.

We regularly do tutorials EG Star Adventurer set up, Synscan WiFi dongle best use, Astrophotography for beginners. Members volunteer or ask for them. A text is sent out informing the members it is taking place.

For newcomers we have designated meeter/greeters so anyone new is immediately made welcome and shown around while the greeter answers any questions. We then buddy them up with someone that has a similar interest until they become comfortable going solo.

I find it is all about the initial welcome and making them feel included.

We do a lot of outreach both at schools and at the observatory (mainly cubs, scouts etc). again we have a designated events coordinator who receives the emails from our visits/events email responses from our website, Makes contact and arranges the visit. This works very well. Once a few groups have done it then word gets around.

Edited by m.tweedy
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Posts by JOC & Robertl  -

I do fully understand what you are saying here.

But there’s a problem with doing introductory talks when new folk come along.  At my own local club we regularly get new people attend, and if we did introductory talks each time that happens then we would be repeating that often, this would be a turn off for our regular members.  We’d get comments like “but we did that recently.....”

The program for our weekly meetings tries hard to include something to please all kinds of people. We hope to provide evenings that appeal to all over a period of time, but that can’t be achieved at every meeting.

It’s actually a lot of work running a club, much happens behind the scenes that’s not readily apparent to folks who attend.

And yes, we meet weekly.  We do have a 6 week summer break and a two week Christmas and New Year break, but that leaves 44 meetings annually to fill......

Hoping that explains a bit,  Ed.

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Hi Rob,

I'm a member of Bristol Astro Society.

We already do your 1st, 2nd and 4th bullet points. Not quite so good at the 3rd one yet.

We run a introduction to astronomy course aimed at youngsters (9-11 years) and also at least two "scope clinics" per year where folks (not members) who have a scope but are not sure how to set it up and use it are invited to come along with their scope and we will help them get up and running.

We have an out of town observatory and do regular outreach sessions for school, youth groups and other groups.

All this takes quite a bit of planning and volunteer time though and thats the constraint on how much can be delivered of course.

Here is a link to the Bristol AS website if it's of any help:

http://www.bristolastrosoc.org.uk/www/index.php

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Well it is difficult in today's comfort driven society meaning folks don't like it too hot or too cold don't want to walk too far prefere a phone more than real actual personal contact with other humans so club organizations do need a strong online recrutement presence I do agree.

I think a much heavier push in the good weather months with short trips and a heavy focus on planets moon, EAA, solar and double stars with challenges and prizes of a sort to concentrate recrutement in a intense fashion rather than a single platform that uses the same methods in different environments throughout the year. More of a focused approach when the fruit is riper and more ready for picking.

Don't know what the rules are for raffles and such in the UK or EU but a single more expensive yearly grand prize should certainly help to attract members, ribbons as awards also give folks a sense of pride and accomplishment as well are reasonable pricewise.

For the young crowd appoint a young person to coordinate recrutement and be involved in meeting and supporting younger members you could give this individual a title and maybe give the appointment by vote with the youth doing the voting. Young folks will participate more readily if they have a say and they are also big unity players meaning they like to be with and involved with other young folks more than not.

One poster said 20% of the members do 80% of the work, assign responsibilities for new members to complete initiation critera by which an award/ribbon is presented at ceremony, all awards should be presented in this fashion it gives weight to the circumstance.

              Best of Luck 🙂

                      Freddie...

 

 

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You must excuse my ignorance but what is EAA please?

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Posted (edited)
27 minutes ago, Geoff Barnes said:

You must excuse my ignorance but what is EAA please?

Electronic Assisted Astronomy, or viewing not through the eyepiece but some electronic means such a video monitor or computer usually employing a camera. Eyepiece protection using a camera phone and phone adapter is also EAA if for observation only and the one way I know of where eyepieces are used in EAA not directly but via a camera. 

Edited by SIDO
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Posted (edited)

 

Thanks, although I’ve done visual astronomy for decades, I didn’t know what EAA stood for.   One of my local club members does that and live views of the night sky are shown on a monitor at our observing sessions.

This works wonderfully for two wheelchair bound members who have great difficulty in viewing directly through an eyepiece, but can easily see the monitor screen.

Ed.

Edited by NGC 1502
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Thanks for all the great suggestions and helpful responses, some good ideas there.  I guess I can’t change the world and I need to be mindful of the time I am able to spend. Attending the sessions and giving a couple of observing based talks would be a good start, and then decide which of the others ideas would work. One slight fly in the ointment is that my other local club NEAS are very active with regular observing sessions at a local nature reserve (one this weekend, I found out via Facebook!) and an observatory. From a selfish point of view I would rather spend my time attending that club but I feel a duty to help out Clacton Club. Not sure I can do both....

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3 hours ago, RobertI said:

Thanks for all the great suggestions and helpful responses, some good ideas there.  I guess I can’t change the world and I need to be mindful of the time I am able to spend. Attending the sessions and giving a couple of observing based talks would be a good start, and then decide which of the others ideas would work. One slight fly in the ointment is that my other local club NEAS are very active with regular observing sessions at a local nature reserve (one this weekend, I found out via Facebook!) and an observatory. From a selfish point of view I would rather spend my time attending that club but I feel a duty to help out Clacton Club. Not sure I can do both....

 

Well done for supporting two clubs.  I don’t think you’re being selfish attending a club that meets your needs. As a person who sounds like you are helpful, you are entitled to something in return.

Ed.

 

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17 hours ago, JOC said:

I went along as a possibly enthusiastic member to my local astronomy group.  I didn't know what to expect, but I wanted practical help with my telescope.  Someone to show me how to set it up/make it work and someone to observe alongside of to show me the ropes.  I thought all meetings would have a telescope being used (assuming it was clear) and that 'astronomy' or something done with 'gear' would be done during the meeting.  i.e. that the meetings would be 'practical' in nature (like a camera club often is).  I wasn't expecting an atmosphere of lectures and talks.  On the night I went the only telescopes there were a small one that someone else had bought on a first visit and my own one which I had lugged over to the venue.  I set it up, but because a talk was scheduled no-one had much, if any, time to show me anything, in fact I let the other person take a look at Venus (which I had already worked out) and I think that was the highlight of their evening too.   I then sat through the talk (on the subject of a book which I had never heard of) and paid for a years membership in hope.  I then returned for a scheduled observing evening a few weeks later which also didn't live up to expectations.  I must admit I haven't been back since.  Yet this is an apparently well organised club - they have a full programme, out-reach events, a website and have emailed circulations etc.  I do wonder if the failing was mine - which is quite possible, but it didn't tick what I was expecting. 

So the thread is about what folks might want from a club - based on my own experience I'd be looking for opportunities for practical demonstrations.  OK, I get that it's not always clear enough to carry out actual astronomy, but I'd like to look at telescopes, set-ups, maybe solar things, imagining equipment, the use of cameras for afocal work, I'd like to see the difference between the different telescope types, to try lots of EP's between the different types of scopes all that sort of thing.  I was kind of expecting an astronomy club night to be something that everyone bought their telescopes to and I'd have found that interesting, but hey!  I am not everyone! 

Identical experience here. A talk or two is interesting and informative, and probably the best way to spend a cloudy night with fellow enthusiasts, but nothing that can't be obtained from the internet. But being able to try different equipment, where else can you do that all in one night? Or be shown how astro-imaging is done? Or a workshop on how to collimate, clean, maintain scopes and other equipment? All that experience in members', and they want to sit down and listen to a speech they've probably heard before!

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Many thanks for the positive responses to what I put above.  Initially I was rather worried when I hit the send button in case it all sounded too critical, but I thought the best way of explaining what would have held my attention, was to show, by example, what hadn't.  In no way did I want to appear too ungrateful or critical.  Anyone that decides to give up any personal time to try to do something for a larger interest group deserves a medal in my book.  Just because it didn't float my personal, boat doesn't mean that it was bad or that someone else wouldn't appreciate it.  All club organisers are worth their weight in gold imo.

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