Dons Trust SGMCommunication, communication, communication

Dons Trust Board member Cormac van der Hoeven look at ways in which the Board is looking to improve how it gets its message across and how it interacts with its members and with the wider fanbase.

Since the 2011 consultation of members about our identity, general meetings of the Dons Trust have been dominated by the sharing of Plough Lane news. Over the past twelve months we have been exploring a new style of hosting at general meetings, though there has not always been the chance to set aside time to allow the members to dictate what issues to discuss.

“Good communication and consultation are central to the process going forward to deal with changes in our practices and procedures.”

In the New Year there will be two consultation processes led by the Dons Trust Board (DTB): one to identify the type of club we want to be (Mark Davis explains more here), and the other centred around Plough Lane (Sean McLaughlin explains more here), to give our members the chance to shape our club’s stadium back home in Merton. Good communication and consultation are central to the process going forward to deal with changes in our practices and procedures. More than ever, we need to ensure that we communicate and consult with our members more effectively.

If you read the minutes of DTB meetings that are published on the Trust’s website, you will see that there is a diverse range of engaging issues that we discuss, but perhaps we need to find more forums to allow members to be part of these discussions and feel valued.

Ways to talk with DTB members

On a match day there will always be at least two DTB members present at the Dons Trust kiosk on Jack Goodchild Way. (Who is there is decided by rota – being out in the elements is balanced with the chance to represent the Trust in hospitality at home and away games a couple of times a season.) Fans have the chance to speak to us informally before a match. Those on duty will also proactively approach fans about whether they are Trust members – and if not, why not!

Via Webjam, Trust members are able to access summaries minutes of DTB meetings in advance of the formal minutes being published on the Trust’s website. Questions can be posted and answered, ensuring an online interaction between members and the Board. Webjam has provided the space for a dialogue to happen, with responses from Board members coming more efficiently as this forum is increasingly used and better understood.

In April this year, our scheduled general meeting was preceded by a football club open meeting. This meeting was a forum where – after the fans had been challenged by Erik Samuelson to generate a positive matchday atmosphere – fans came forward and spoke their mind on a range of issues.

Improving communication with members

“If there’s one thing that unites Wimbledon fans, it’s overcoming challenges.”

Perhaps a greater willingness to utilise open meetings will foster a more effective two-way communication between the DTB and the members. There will always be frictions within any organisation – often they will come about because of previous successes. In these situations, though, it is vital that face-to-face meetings happen, as with other forms of communication, such as emailing or tweeting, there is a bigger risk of misunderstanding. That’s why we need to learn how to use meetings to solve issues. At their best, these forums should allow us all to work better as a team. Members would leave feeling they’re up for the challenge and perhaps be more likely to contribute. And if there’s one thing that unites Wimbledon fans, it’s overcoming challenges.

Trust members have always demonstrated a willingness to vote on issues when asked to by the DTB. For example, the success of the Back In Two Ticks campaign and, we hope, our current campaign about share issues demonstrate how members know when their efforts are needed to support the Trust.

The forthcoming general meeting on 8 November will provide an opportunity for further discussion with members. But in addition, we should hold an open meeting in Wimbledon town centre in the near future to provide an important opportunity for a frank discussion on issues coming up. These issues should be identified by members in advance to allow for an honest dialogue.

This is about getting away from engaging people in our current circle and empowering members whose views we respect and want to learn from. And in the periods between general meetings (which are held every four months) it is important that we should hold face-to-face meetings with members who have expressed concerns or raised issues.

There is no doubting the efforts of DTB members – and Trust members. But opportunities for increased engagement should always be taken.