The next generation

It’s the younger supporters in our present fanbase who will be running AFC Wimbledon in years to come – so how can we encourage them to get more involved in the Dons Trust now? Charles Williams, who was co-opted onto the Dons Trust Board in September to focus on this important task, sets out his ideas.

My favourite thing about being an AFC Wimbledon fan is that I own the club. I still remember my anger and feeling of utter powerlessness when the club I supported, Wimbledon FC, was ripped away from its roots and fans in 2002, when I was in my early twenties. I never want football to make me feel that way again.

That’s why I take our ownership of the club very seriously, and why I’m proud to have been co-opted onto the Dons Trust Board to help get younger people more involved with the Trust. There are three main areas, all of them linked, that I think we need to focus on as a Trust to make sure we’re engaging with our younger supporters as effectively as we can.

The first is information. The membership survey carried out by the Trust earlier this year revealed that younger supporters have much less information about the Trust and awareness of what it does. Of the under-30s who responded to the survey and were not Dons Trust members already, 28% said they were not familiar with what the Trust is or does, compared to 14% of over-30s. So we’ll be looking at how we can explain what the Trust does more clearly and consistently and in a way that engages younger supporters.

The second area is communication. According to the survey, members under 30 were particularly interested in more regular communications. We know there’s a lot more we could be doing as a Trust to talk to, and hear from, members more regularly through digital channels like email, our website, the Dons Trust Webjam and, particularly, social media.

And finally, we want to look at participation. Are we clear enough about how members can contribute to and interact with the Trust? And are we making the opportunities to do that attractive enough and available to younger supporters? And here at least there is some good news: the membership survey revealed that only 3% of non-members under 30 said they weren’t interested in joining the Trust. We know that younger supporters are open to getting more involved in the Trust – they just need to know a bit more about what it does, why it’s important and how it can benefit them.

Fundamentally, I don’t think improving younger supporters’ engagement with the Trust is about carrying out a load of niche activities for younger people, although clearly there are some more targeted things we can be doing. Rather, it’s about making sure the Trust as a whole is inclusive of younger supporters in how it functions day to day – and that means taking into account their perspectives and preferences, and taking advantage of their skills and ideas.

And on that note, I’d be really keen to hear from any supporters under 30, and particularly those under 25, who’d like to share their thoughts and maybe lend a hand with this project. This is your club, and we need you to help us make it better. Please contact me with your thoughts or questions, or to volunteer some time: send an email to charles.williams@thedonstrust.org.

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