Perhaps that’s jumping the gun and we should first address the why. There is a critical mass point of membership quantity that gains advantages for all.
For example, with increased numbers you can consistently do events that require a minimum participation level to be safe and viable. The load for planning and running events gets spread, minimizing burnout. You qualify to have access to some facilities and enjoy discounts from retailers. And, you have some political clout with questions of access and other issues. Now we can get to the how.
It all starts at the portal. If you gear to those who already paddle, you limit the pool. If you cast your net wider and make it easier to enter the sport and follow a “career track,” you augment your potential.
Opening up that portal involves facilitating the acquisition of skills and equipment. This can be done through coaching and swap meets, as well as through strategic alliances with providers of training and retailers.
I believe you need to maintain a decent schedule of recreational paddling to retain the portion of members who are satisfied with that. For others, you should include intermediate paddling outings that will enable them to ramp up.
Aside from structure, the human element is a key. Think of ways to make everything more fun. People like fun and stick with what provides it. Focus on paddling and fun because there is almost always a small element who want to introduce diversions and issues. Don’t be shy about keeping the banter upbeat and on point.
While there are many possible nuances, I have found the basic building blocks are the critical success factors. My lab is Cincypaddlers, which has grown to over 2,200 members in ten years. Here’s video sample of our 2012 events: Cincypaddlers Year in Review 2012 (VIDEO)