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The Growth Of The B.E.C.



The improve model representing the growth of the club over the years is shown above and compared with the actual figures.  As may be seen, the fit between the two is not bad.  The improved model is in three parts.  The first of these, from 1943 to 1951, has a slightly lower slope than reality over its earlier portion, but the actual point at 1951 is correct.  The second part, from 1951 to 1957 is pretty accurate throughout and needs no further comment.  The final part, from 1957 to 1975 is slightly too high in its later years but, for various reasons, it is very difficult to correct this in a meaningful manner, and – taken in all – the model is good enough to explain the main features of the club’s growth which have been described in detail earlier in this series.

The changes between the three portions of the improved model have been made just by changes in the decrement (which represents the amount of satisfaction that members have in their club at anyone time).  It is possible to base a number of scales on the value of the decrement, and the one used is one in which the figure of 100 would represent perfect satisfaction - a state of affairs which can be defined, one where nobody ever leaves the club once they have joined.  A figure of 0 would represent complete dissatisfaction - with no member ever renewing his or her subscription.

On this scale, we would naturally expect to see a figure of satisfaction nearer to 100 than to 0. For instance, a figure of 50, if applied to the B.E.C. would have produced a club which would have built up to about 60 members with about 25 of these leaving and another 25 joining each year. In fact, the simple model gives an average value for satisfaction of 77.

The improved model has, of course, three different levels of satisfaction.  From 1943 to 1951 it is 80.  From 1951 to 1957 it is 70 and from 1957 onwards it is 86, although there is some evidence for a very slight drop in the early 1960's to possibly 83 or 84, but this is too fine for the analysis to tackle.

With this recording of satisfaction, we have gone about as far as we can with the figures and from here, we must guess.  What we are looking for are two, preferably related events which took place in 1950/1 and in 1957 which could have led to the changes we have noted.

Nothing can be found in the way of external events, such as the advent of the five day week or the end of petrol rationing.  Caving has already been eliminated, as have any changes in life at the Belfry.  The only thing which seems to fit is the B.B. itself.

In 1951, Harry Stanbury - the founder of the B.E.C. and currently Hon. Secretary, Hon. Treasurer and Editor of the B.B., resigned from the club committee and all his offices. Reading the B.B. before this date will show that it contained a great deal of news of club members and of social and other events on Mendip as well as caving news.  In other words, the B.B. formed a strong link between the club on Mendip and in Bristol and those members who could only appear at infrequent intervals.  Members thus tended to hang on to their membership so that they could find out what their friends were doing and what was going on 'on the hill'.

After Harry's resignation, his posts as Hon. Sec. and Hon. Treasurer were ably filled by the (then) young Bob Bagshaw.  The B.B. proved more difficult to get anyone to take on and for a year or so it was actually run from London by Don Coase and John Shorthose.  Even when Harry was persuaded to come back and edit it again, it was not the same. As Secretary, he had previously run features like 'From the Hon. Sec's Postbag' - which he could no longer write. Even members addresses were not published over most of the period 1951 to 1957.

In 1957, the B.B. was handed over by the A.G.M. to a group of active club members who produced most of the 'chat' which members said they missed and also gave the B.B. a facelift. It is interesting to note that the even more bigger and better B.B. produced under the editorship of Dave Irwin did not have a corresponding change in satisfaction.  It seems that while the club demands a minimum standard from its magazine, a great increase on this has no proportionate effect.

If any reader wonders why the portions of the curve flatten out when there has been no change in the figure of satisfaction, this is a natural function of this type of curve and does not actually mean that the club is doing any worse.

It only remains to explain the two 'frighteners'. The second of these obviously reflects the sudden doubling of the annual subscription in 1974.  The first can be associated with the opening of the campaign to collect money for a new Belfry.

Thus, in 1975 when the survey ended, the club still appeared to be 'on course' with its satisfaction at a high level.  It would seem that as long as its B.B. continues to give its members the sort of information they basically want and the club avoids sudden financial shocks to its members, there is little cause for concern.

What we cannot forecast is any change in the number of new members arriving each year.  The figure just announced by the Hon. Sec. is one of the lowest in the club's entire history.  It was worse in 1957 and, like then, the low figure this year may be an isolated case.  If it is a trend, then it will have to be watched and acted upon, but here we must be very careful.  At 34 effective years of age, the club has reached a stage where exactly half its members may be considered as 'permanent' and this percentage will rise so that it will become more and more important not to drive these members away.

What, then, can we do in the future?  It may well be that we live in times that are changing too rapidly for the type of analysis talked about in this series to be any of further use.  However, if this exercise has taught its author anything – it is that guesswork must be reduced to an absolute minimum if we are to take sensible decisions about anything which may affect the growth of the B.E.C.