In November and December 2022, Committee Member Rhys McCrosson managed an in-depth survey of Queens Park Chess Club Members.
With the Chess Club having undergone massive growth in the summer of 2022, the purpose was to explore views and preferences from our many new Members, on everything from how we should communicate, and what activities we provide, to long-term chess goals, and what Members want from a Chess Club in general.
The 25-question, anonymised survey, provided in electronic and paper formats, was completed by 31 of our then 40 members – a healthy 78% response rate. In addition to multiple choice options, we encouraged specific comments on many key aspects. The Club Committee are extremely grateful for all contributions.
The survey outcomes have been discussed by the Committee in our early 2023 meetings, and are being used to inform decision-making in a host of areas. In this post, we:
- Share the survey outcomes in full
- Highlight key findings
- Clarify the actions the Committee have taken in response
- Confirm what other action points are under active consideration
- Invite further views and comments
Six Key Findings
- The Club is perceived as successful, with an average score of 4.67 out of 5 on from 31 respondents, and many positive comments about different aspects of the Club. This indicates that radical change is unwise and unwanted.
- Most members feel, definitely or to some degree, that the Club: is good value for money (95%); is inclusive (92%); is having a positive effect on their mental health (73%); is helping them improve their chess (67%); and is transparent (60%).
- 74% feel highly informed about Club activity – and another 23% “to some degree”. However, some responses and comments highlighted dissatisfactions with various areas of Club communications, including message frequency on WhatsApp.
- There is a wide spread of chess interests – but a clear preference for rapid (45%) and classical (29%) time controls – and three leading priorities: casual OTB chess (selected by 23 as a top priority for the Club), league matches (21) and the Club Championship (17). Many suggestions on activities are put forward, from Chess 960 and ‘Hand and Brain’ tournaments to guest lectures and Christmas parties.
- The Club has a large pool of potential volunteers – 26 of the 31 Members that completed the survey said they would consider volunteering in some capacity.
- The comments suggest Members particularly value: the Club’s friendly, welcoming ethos; its community atmosphere; and its mix of casual and competitive chess interests and activities.
Click here to download a PDF summary of the full survey.
The following actions have been taken as a direct result of the survey feedback.
More Focused Digital Communications
WhatsApp is a clear preference for direct communications (74% of Members selected WhatsApp as their preferred choice, followed by 12% for email and others at 3% or lower). The Committee therefore decided that WhatsApp will continue as our main direct communications channel.
Most Members said they want to hear from us once a week (58%); a further 24% selected once a fortnight or once a month. As a result, we reduced frequency of WhatsApp Member communications from several times a week towards once a week.
We also experimented with a weekly Club Newsletter over eight weeks in the initial months of 2023. The Newsletter was produced in PDF format and shared via WhatsApp and email – see the final issue here. It was, however, time-consuming to produce, and we received feedback that it was not being widely read. We now share weekly messages, usually on a Sunday, to our announcement-only Members WhatsApp group with information on upcoming activity. As not all Members use WhatsApp, we support this with occasional emails about key events.
More Relevant Content
Staying with communications, there is a clear preference for hearing about Queens Park Chess Club activities (30 of 31 over-the-board, or OTB, and 24 of 31 online) in our updates, and about other OTB events in Scotland (24 of 31). We now focus on these in WhatsApp Members updates, and on our website and social media. Other topics e.g. general chess resources and top level chess news, are minority interest, and we do not cover these regularly in Club communications.
The QPCC Website (which 20 of 31 respondents regularly engage with) is the most popular secondary communications channel, and some commenters welcomed content and features such as Member interviews. The Committee will continue to provide regular blog updates on our website, shared on our Facebook and Instagram.
In response to specific requests, we also created dedicated overview webpages on the Club Championship and on our league and Cup teams.
Delivering Weekly Announcements
71% of respondents said they would value a brief welcome from a Committee Member at each Club night, and we started doing this in January 2023, since we made the move to The Bungo. The announcements are currently made by the President (Caitlin), Secretary (Derek) and Social Media Manager (Rhys) on rotation.
The announcements welcome newcomers, provide brief information on that night’s activity, and highlight any notable recent results and upcoming events. To minimise disruption, announcements are made between 6:45-7pm, close to the start of the night, and last no more than two minutes.
Some comments indicated that people felt puzzled about what to do on their first visit to the Club. Each Committee Member now makes extra effort to approach anyone coming into the Club for the first time, to welcome them, explain how the Club works, find out about their aspirations, and ideally pair them with someone for an initial casual or Leaderboard game.
When interacting with newcomers, we clearly explain that it will always be free to play casual chess at Queens Park. We clarify that we offer a paid Membership for those looking to participate in competitive chess, and Members-only events. We will also signpost those interested to our local partner, the Thursday Chess Group, and to our Chess in the Park summer and autumn Sunday morning meetups.
Dropping Plans for Online Events
With only 2 of 31 Members choosing online chess as one of three top priorities, there is clearly low demand for online tournaments and similar. The Committee decided to leave our chess.com and Lichess Clubs available for Members to use to find and challenge each other, but not to invest any time in their development or setting up online events – contrary to original plans. The Committee agreed it is very easy for individuals to find online opponents – and that the purpose of Chess Clubs likes Queens Park is to provide over-the-board opportunities. Our focus and energy is now fully directed towards OTB chess.
Constitution & Restructuring
With a high pool of willing volunteers, and administrative pressure on the existing Committee given the sharp growth this season, we decided to create a suite of new voluntary roles, develop a Constitution, and elect the Committee at our AGM, beginning with the next one in August 2023.
Our new President, Caitlin, has been appointed for a 16 month term to oversee these significant changes. As of this summer, all Members can put themselves forward for a Committee role, and vote on who is elected to join Caitlin on the new Committee for next season. In addition, we will be establishing a number of non-Committee voluntary roles in season 2023/24. Further information on how to self-nominate and vote will be provided at the end of the current season.
The Constitution will set out the Club ethos – including a provision that it will always be free to play casual chess with us – as well as the role and remit of the Committee, and expectations on Member conduct. It will also include a complaints procedure, as requested in a couple of survey comments.
This section indicates additional actions that the Committee have discussed on the back of survey outcomes, and are considering acting upon in future. Much of the decision-making here will be passed over to the new Committee, elected at the August 2023 AGM.
A Second Club Championship
In response to rapid being the most popular chess format (45%), the Committee may decide to create a Rapid Club Championship over two or three evenings next season (one format could be three 15+0 games per evening). The 2023/24 Committee would need to decide whether they have the capacity to administer such a tournament, to create enough diary space between league, classical Club Championship games and other events, and manage software and digital screens to generate and display pairings between rounds.
A Fourth League Team
In response to league matches being the second top priority overall (21 of 31 Members) after casual over-the-board chess, the Committee is considering operating a fourth regional league team next season – we currently operate three. This would provide more playing opportunities to the 48% who answered no (13%) or yes to some degree (35%) when asked if they were happy with the number of official graded games we offer, and allow for potential membership growth.
The trade-off is a challenge in administration, including managing complexities of separate player pools, player availability, the potential of having two teams play on the same evening, and of teams meeting each other in the same division. With more home games, this also leaves fewer free dates across the season for additional activity. An additional concern is low demand for certain fixtures this season, and that any fall in Members next season would lead to a strong possibility we may not have enough active players for four league teams, plus participation in the National League and Cups.
An Interactive Members Group
60% of survey respondents would like a new digital space created to interact with other Members, and the Committee is open to establishing one. There is however, no consensus on platform. WhatsApp (8 of 19 who want a new space selected this as a preferred option) and Discord (5 of 19) are the two leaders, and Facebook, Reddit and a website forum were among other choices.
WhatsApp is more popular and widely used, but lacks functionality and is intrusive. Discord is much less familiar but allows e.g. creating separate sections for subjects like games analysis, finding an online partner, highlighting upcoming events, and off-topic interests, which Members could find more useful, if willing to take the time to download it.
One of the reasons for a lack of action to date, is the Committee noted a number of conflicting views on WhatsApp – as evidenced in negative comments such as “too many messages”, “too many different groups”, “intermittent and unexpected messages”, “off the cuff”. We are also unsure about how to moderate for poor etiquette on any instant messaging platform, such as a Member using a large group to communicate with one other Member only, to promote non-chess interests, or to use bad language. The feedback will be passed to the new Committee for potential action in 2023/24.
Publishing Accounts & Minutes
At the beginning of each season, starting in 2023/24, the Committee intend to publish an annual statement of accounts for the preceding season, and the minutes of each AGM, on our website. The purpose will be to improve the lowest scoring ‘general views’ metric of transparency on decision-making and expenditure, where 16% said the Club is not adequately transparent, and 23% were unsure or preferred not to answer.
Raising the Membership Fee
The survey shows the Club undoubtedly provides excellent value for money. Given the Committee expect additional costs next season, including rent and more/higher competition entry fees, the 2023/24 Committee are likely to discuss raising the annual membership fee.
This may not be a particularly popular action point, but given the current £40 (£20 concessions) annual rate, any raise is likely to be modest, and would still present strong value for money compared to other Chess Clubs in Glasgow. An increase would also provide more resources for ongoing activities if Membership levels stay the same or rise, and minimise any fall in income in the event of a drop in Members.
We are again thankful to those who took the survey. The outcomes have already added value to the Club, and have provided a great deal of valuable information to the Committee on how Members would like to see it develop in future.
The rest of the Committee wish to express particular gratitude to Rhys for his time and expertise in producing, managing and sharing the survey, and in illustrating the responses.
If any Club Members, including those who missed the original survey, or who joined in 2023, have any comments or concerns about any of the above, you are welcome to email them to a Committee Member.
Additional email comments will be fed into future Committee planning discussions.
Images created with artificial intelligence using DALL-E