There is no question that the AKC is known as the “Club of Clubs.” Without the local as well as the National and performance clubs the AKC would have no events to put on.
Each time we enter a show, trial, match, or any other AKC event we all should know that the only reason we have that event to attend is because of the dedicated members and volunteers of that sponsoring club that give generously of their time, talents, and resources to put on the event for the fancy.
Clubs are without a doubt the backbone of our sport. When I see the number of exhibitors that participate in our events, I often wonder why do the local clubs struggle to attract members to assist in putting on these events?
When I was first introduced to the sport I was encouraged to join and participate in both my local all-breed club as well as my local breed club. Joining those clubs provided me an opportunity to learn and interact with people from all walks of life with many different views and experiences to mold and educate me on everything to do with purebred dogs. I cannot think of any time since I began in the sport that I have not belonged to a club.
The dynamics of clubs can often be diverse, and I think it is safe to say no two are exactly alike. Yet all clubs have one thing in common, and that is the mission to promote the sport of purebred dogs positively and responsibly.
When you become a member of a club you now become part of a group of people dedicated to a sport that you love. Clubs come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are conformation only, others obedience, agility, and performance events only, while many embrace all aspects of the sport.
Membership in any club usually offers an individual an opportunity to learn and grow in the sport as well as fellowship interactions with like-minded enthusiasts.
Clubs offer many opportunities for learning through various programs and seminars at monthly or occasional meetings. Some offer Conformation classes, Obedience, and Rally classes, some teach and promote agility and other performance events. Many clubs also recognize the achievements of their members with plaques or other types of awards to signify their accomplishments in the show ring as well as in the performance arena.
For clubs to succeed and continue to put on events as well as provide other local educational events and programs while also promoting responsible pet ownership they need members. Every individual that participates in our sport should belong to a club and be an active member to "Give Back" to the sport.
I often see and hear exhibitors, judges, and breeders making comments and complaining about things at shows and trials, and when I ask them if they belong to a club the answer is way too often "NO". At that time, I usually say you have a responsibility to give to the sport that is giving you so much. You should not be criticizing those people that are giving freely of their time, knowledge, and efforts to put on the show or trial you are complaining about. None of these volunteers are being compensated for their time or efforts. Many members are often using vacation time and their own monies to help the club.
All of us that exhibit or judge owe a great deal to the efforts of these individuals for without them or their clubs there is no event.
Why Belong? Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote “The only true gift is a portion of thyself to others.” Giving your time, talent, and knowledge to a club is a great way to give the gift of yourself to the sport you love.
Belonging to a club and mentoring new people is also a way to “Pay it forward” in maintaining and developing people to carry our sport into the future.
Many rewards come with membership to any organization. However, being a member also has a variety of responsibilities that come with it.
First, in our club, the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club and with many others, we have numerous people that visit and attend our meetings. We also have some type of educational or fun program every month. We welcome everyone and tell them they are welcome to attend any or all of our meetings, but we don’t want them to join the club unless they are willing to commit to becoming involved in our events and willing to attend our meetings with some form of regularity. We do this because we don't need names on a roster that affect the quorum numbers, we need people willing to work together for a common cause.
Every club has a different make-up of members, and I am confident that each collection of members has unique dynamics and people issues.
When you join a club, you need to understand you are one voice. You have the right to express your thoughts and opinions but that does not give you the right to dictate or try to push a personal agenda. Clubs should be a democracy where every voice is heard but, in the end, it is the wishes of the majority that matter and should be followed.
When individuals within a club step up and take responsibility for an office or position working within the club they should be encouraged to perform and be given the tools to succeed. In our club, we try not to assign more than one job to any member so that we can have as many people as possible involved in our club and our events. We let them do their job and let them know we are all here for support if they need it, but we encourage them to take ownership of the job and accept the responsibility to get it done correctly and on time. All too often in many clubs, some individuals want to tell everyone how to do a job or what they don't like, yet these are the very people that never step up to the plate and volunteer for the job. It is also important for members to understand that even though they may be the Chairman of an event or a committee the club should have the final say in how things need to be done. No club needs to be run by a dictator. When one or two individuals impose their agenda in any club it is a recipe for eventual discord and disaster.
It is also important for clubs to have people in positions as a “Back Up” just in case a situation presents itself where the principal in charge has an emergency or some other event that causes them to not be available when needed. This is especially important in show and event chairs. Life does not let us know in advance when things happen, so it pays to be prepared with people in place to step up when needed.
It is vital to the survival of all clubs to encourage new membership from people that are dedicated and share the clubs' mission. New members should have "mentors" made available to them to help them along and encourage them to pick an area of interest and get involved.
Older, long-term members should always welcome the newcomer with open arms. Also, just because someone is new does not mean they do not have great ideas or experiences that can help the club so listen to them, sometimes they don't know the rules or the ins and outs, and with the right kind of mentoring they will become a vital part of the club moving forward.
Important Points for club members:
• Check your agenda at the door. All members need to work together to make things work for the betterment of the club.
• Volunteer for office or join or lead a committee in your area of interest
• If your time and availability are limited be sure to try to volunteer at shows and events whenever possible.
• Attend meetings whenever possible. Remember you count against the club's quorum and no business may be conducted without a quorum.
• Pay your dues on time.
• If possible, support your breed or group by sponsoring a trophy for the show. We all know how much they are appreciated especially by the newer exhibitors.
• Encourage and support your fellow members and be willing to mentor those that ask for your help.
• You may offer your ideas and share your concerns but never attack those of others especially if you are not willing to do the job yourself.
• Always accept the vote of the majority even when you don’t agree. Clubs should always be unified to the general public.
• Support and encourage the mission of the club.
• Always support and encourage responsible animal ownership
Being a member of a club will provide you with many new supportive friends. It will also help to keep our sport alive well into the future.
If you don’t belong to a club, start today, and do your research to find one that you feel comfortable in and join. You will be glad that you did