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The Growth of the B.E.C.


The fifth article in our series on the growth of the club, which takes the story up to the present day.

The period of time covered by this instalment is that stretching from 1962 to the end of the survey, in 1975.  This is the longest stretch covered in our review, and the graph is shown below….

It appears to reveal a very slowly growing club, with a few more bumps than we have generally found so far. If we were being lazy, we could well leave it at that, and conclude that at last the club had settled down to the sort of steady but slow growth that we might well expect.  However, all is not that simple.  To start with, quite unlike the previous periods of time, when the number of new members arriving was very steady, this period has been one in which they have fluctuated considerably, from a maximum of 39 in 1963 to a minimum of 19 in 1966.  If we want to find out what has really been happening over this period, we have first to remove the effects of this fluctuation.  If this is done, then the result becomes like the curve shown below….

…..which now reveals two pronounced dips in 1974 and 1967.  If the figures are now examined, the dips can be shown to be the result of what I have, called 'frighteners' - which are things which have suddenly upset the members for short periods of time.  What a frightener does is to frighten away all those members who were wondering whether to stay with the club for another year, or to leave.  They are things which represent the 'last straw' and provide the reason for leaving amongst members who were a bit undecided anyway.  This causes the sudden dip.  After a frightener, very few people leave during the next year, because those who were not frightened were going to stay anyway.  Thus a frightener compresses all the leavers for two or three years into a single year.  Total membership thus recovers but there is an overall loss as explained some time ago because the loss of an older member does not balance the gain of a younger one in terms of future subs.

We can now go a stage further and remove the effect of these frighteners and this will give the curve as shown below.

………which may be compared with the rate of increase at this stage of the club's life as predicted by the average model used for earlier predictions and which is shown on the graph above as a dashed line.  We can see that the rate of increase over the period of time being considered is, in fact, what we would have expected in the first place.  Thus, although the period has been a confusing one because the rate of new arrivals each year has been very erratic and the frighteners have further complicated matters, as far as the basic satisfaction of members with their club is concerned, all is well - or was well up to 1975.

It has already been explained that the figures can show us what happened in some detail and whether any increase in total membership was due to more people arriving or to fewer people leaving.  We still have to make some deductions as to why the satisfaction of members with the club has varied - and it is this sort of thing which can give analysis a bad name. People say that anything can be proved by figures.

What they mean is that anything can appear to be proved by figures.  One has to be very careful at this stage as to how one interprets the figures.  To take an example, the rate of increase in the period 1957 to 1963 was not quite as great as that from 1945 to 1949.  It would be easy to conclude that members were not quite as keen on staying during the later period as they had been in the earlier one.  The figures would apparently 'prove' this.

As a matter of fact, they do not.  The reverse is, in fact, true.  Before we go on to the final part of this series and try to determine just what caused the changes during the lifetime of the club, it is thus necessary to narrow down the field of speculation as far as possible.  To this end, the model we have used for prediction, based on average values throughout the life of the club is not accurate enough.  A new model has thus been made which fits the real curve in eleven places (the old one fitted in only four places) and with the aid of this more realistic model, it should be possible to come to the right conclusions in the next and final article of this series on the Growth of the B.E.C.