Clubs, groups face membership crisis

Many Dunedin clubs and community groups are facing membership crises which could lead to some ceasing to exist. One club at risk of disappearing is the Green Island Toy Library, which has shrunk to having just two people on the organising committee and 10 members during the past year.

”Closing is a reality if we don’t get the membership up,” committee member Tracey Kelly said.

”It would be a real loss for the community.”

Miss Kelly had been involved with the toy library for nearly four years. When she first started, the group was ”massive”, families filling the library every time it was open.

While she was not aware of records of past membership numbers, she estimated there were between 30 and 50 members at the club’s height.

Now it was up to Miss Kelly and her friend Fiona Rae to keep the club afloat.

Dunedin Council of Social Services acting executive officer Alan Shanks said declining membership numbers were a concern for many membership-based organisations, including his own.

The council had 135 member organisations, but Mr Shanks estimated there were about 1500 groups in the community.

Mr Shanks did not think the recession was a factor in the declining membership as most subscription fees were ”very minimal”.

Members were asking themselves what the benefits were of being involved in clubs, he said.

The Council of Social Services was working on a ”marketing strategy” to combat declining membership, Mr Shanks said.

The Saddle Hill Community Board recently held a community expo, where clubs were invited to network with community and business leaders who might be able to provide them with some support.

Board member Scott Weatherall said the board was aware some local clubs were struggling to attract members and were having to find new ways to carry out their functions.

Otago Chamber of Commerce general manager Warren Chambers said the chamber offered free training courses for non-profit organisations in conjunction with the Otago Community Trust. The courses taught skills such as book-keeping and applying for funding.

In many cases people wanted to help out with organisations but did not volunteer because they did not feel confident about being able to do what was needed, he said.

”Our goal is to raise the skill level in the community,” Mr Chambers said.

To get involved with the Green Island Toy Library call 022 669-8633 or visit To find out more about the training courses offered for non-profit organisations visit

– by Jonathan Chilton-Towle

Source: The Star