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Heads Above Water…Just Bobbin’ Along

From The May, 2010 Archives Of The Canine Chronicle

by Dr. Bob G. Smith

As I travel around the country enjoying judging assignments and visiting large and small communities, I marvel at this wonderful country that we call home.  I also wonder at the number of clubs struggling to make ends meet, struggling to keep their small membership together, and struggling to put together a dog show with small memberships and limited funds.  Recently I judged at a show where the club had lost their show site due to the doubling of the rental fee by the local municipality.  They were scrambling to find a suitable site for next year’s show as they had already contracted their judging panel and knew how much the costs would be for that group of judges. Now the club is struggling to find a facility it can afford that will also attract exhibitors (a major consideration) since the annual show date is during a traditional spring rainy season.  Knowing this, the club is saddled with finding an “indoor-outdoor” facility for its conformation and performance events that won’t drive exhibitors away to a more suitable site.

The economy is difficult in just about every city and state in this country.   Monies are short, show entries are down for some clubs, and costs of putting together a show and paying for judges’ expenses are rising.  I do not mean that judges’ fees are rising.  I have NOT heard of a judge increasing the fee for judging under any circumstances!  Most judges are very aware of how much it costs to put together a show and do not want to “bite the hand that (sometimes) feeds them” by pricing themselves out of judging assignments.  If anything, many judges do not list all the expenses that are incurred in getting to and from a show including meals and incidentals.  I hear judges discussing some of the expenses they “eat” in order to save the club money.

I would like to digress a moment to list some of the expenses that a judge incurs for judging  a show.  This is, by no means, an exhaustive list and as soon as I submit this article I’m sure I’ll remember several other expenses.  Some of the expenses include:  mileage to and from home to a nearby airport, parking for the day before the assignment (travel day), the days of the show, and the day after the assignment ends (travel day); meals during the travel days including the meals not provided by the club during the assignment; if necessary because there would be no one to pick up the judge(s) at the airport, costs of a rental car for the judge to drive from the airport to the show hotel/show site or mileage for a judge who’s close enough to drive; the lodging expenses; and the judge’s fee for judging an assignment.  Because the costs of airfares are always rising, judges/clubs are at the mercy of airlines regarding costs of tickets.  Judges shop around for the cheapest tickets among airlines serving the area where a show is being held. Consider for a moment that a club has a panel of 7 judges. Imagine how much the club has to pay out in judges’ expenses. Judges might incur other expenses that are not covered by a club including: boarding their pet(s), house sitters, etc., clothing and cleaning of those wardrobes after returning from an assignment, etc.  These are personal expenses and are not usually included in a bill submitted by a judge.

Cutting back on hiring of group judges and hiring less experienced (and maybe less costly judges) usually results in reduced entries because the lesser-known judges are not often sought out by exhibitors, consequently resulting in reduced entries and less profits for the club.  Viscous cycle isn’t it?  I just wanted to digress for a moment to write about some of the expenses that clubs face that cannot be reduced very much.

Fortunately, there are some clubs in the US which are weathering the economic downturn and the reduced entries/monies for kennel clubs.  How are these clubs surviving?  Surely, they don’t have deep pockets (large treasuries) or club benefactors to keep their coffers flush.  What are their secrets?  Let’s explore some ideas and see if some can ignite sparks of interest in trying something new to increase entries and eventually have more money pouring or even “trickling” in the club bank account.

Many clubs have begun to offer special classes to draw exhibitors to their shows.  In an earlier issues of The Canine Chronicle, I discussed at length the Amateur/Owner/Handler class competition and how one club is using this competition to increase entry monies.  The Conawango New York cluster in July reports that in a prior year their entries in the AOH class over the four day cluster brought approximately $4,000 additional monies into their treasury from those entries alone.

Other clubs are offering Bred-By Exhibitor and Best Puppy competition to entice breeders to bring their puppies and entries they breed to show in these special classes.  One day is often devoted to Best Puppy competition and another day is for BBE judging with a Best Puppy selected on one day and Best Bred-By Exhibit on another day.  Veteran dogs/bitch competition is sometimes added in the mix at all-breed shows and seems to be a regular staple for Breed Specialty shows.

Enticing exhibitors to attend a show and bring additional entries might be as simple as becoming more “user-friendly” as a club.  I can’t think of a gesture more enticing for an exhibitor other than ALL show-giving club members handing out money as exhibitors unload their dogs than having all club members identified as “helpers” and sporting a welcoming smile.  Even if the club is small, as many are, having club members identified and in a great mood from the “set-up” day to the “break-down” day does wonders for visitors in their perception of that club.  Showing exhibitors and visitors that the club is a “caring” one will certainly entice some of those wavering visitors to return again and again.  With them comes their pocketbook with spendable dollars.  Want to know if your club is considered “user-friendly?”  Prepare a small survey—1-5 questions—and have those surveys around the facility for exhibitors and visitors to complete.  Simple questions inquiring about the facility, the variety of vendors, the quality of the concessions, adequacy of the parking, the number of restaurants/lodging facilities, and the rating of the club as an entity on its helpfulness might provide major insight into the perceptions of the people your club wishes to return each year.  The survey might tell you what your club is doing well and what improvements are needed, if any.

Some clubs have the good fortune to have a Boy/Girl Scout troop in the area which can provide some much needed help for exhibitors to unload, to be directed to certain aspects of the show site, and even run errands for the exhibitor.  Many university clubs/fraternities can offer the same assistance and some do it as a service project.  One club I know trains a university club to be stewards and the club uses the project each year as a service project for the members, saving the show giving club money and securing community service hours for the university organization.

Another way to become known as a friendlier club is to award “certificates” for Clean Areas or for “Pig Pens” for exhibitors’ set-ups.  Guess getting a PP certificate isn’t as friendly as getting a CA one.  However, before the BIS on the last day of the circuit all the CA certificate winners have their names drawn for a $25 or $50 prize.  A similar activity is used when armbands are deposited in a designated area and a winning armband is drawn and an appropriate monetary prize is given.  Some clubs are using the 50/50 raffle to raise money.  The award is based on the number of tickets sold with the club retaining half and the winner receiving the other half of the money collected from the sale of the raffle tickets.

Clubs with members who fly frequently and have excess mileage points could donate a certain number of points and raffle off a free round trip ticket.  A similar activity could involve the raffling of a night or weekend at a hotel of a national chain where points/nights are donated for the raffle. Having a local dog-friendly hotel/motel offer a free weekend the next year of the club’s show and raffling that as a prize might entice exhibitors to buy a ticket and return the next year with free lodging.  At a large show, where grooming/setup space is at a premium, some clubs have sold reserved blocks to raise needed funds.  This is an activity used by many specialty breed clubs to raise funds. Having chaired the American Spaniel Club’s Specialty, I can strongly suggest that you have someone who is well-organized, pays attention to every detail, and has lots of friends who can mark off the areas, display posters around the grooming area with assigned blocks, and names prominently displayed so exhibitors can find their reserved space.  The ladies and gentlemen who did this for the Spaniel Club were as described above: a dream team and received many, many compliments for their work from exhibitors and $$$ for the club.

Adding Performance events has been a money maker for some clubs.  Agility and Rally have seemed to overtake Obedience entries and bolster the entry money received by the club.  It is often difficult to find a facility that is large enough for a club to add the Performance events without pricing the facility out of the reach of the club.  However, when a club is able to find a facility that can accommodate the Performance events and has lots of room for vendors, the club usually makes some money and continues to remain fiscally sound.

There are hundreds of successful ways that clubs have found to raise money in order to continue to promote the sport of pure-bred dogs, bolster the economy of the area, and provide a venue for breeders and owners to compete with their dogs.  I would enjoy hearing from other clubs about activities they use to raise money and increase entries at their club.  I would use this forum to publicize the club and activities to assist in promoting the fundraiser and the “user-friendly” club. From The May, 2010 Archives Of The Canine Chronicle


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Posted by on Feb 21 2022. Filed under Dog Show History, Editorial, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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