Membership Building at the Sedona Bridge Center

The year 2008 was not a good year for the Sedona bridge club.  The attendance had declined due to loss of players from attrition, plus the lack of a good recruiting and education program.  Board member, Marsha Helton, proposed an education and recruitment program to the members at their annual membership meeting in 2008 and then enrolled in an ACBL sponsored TAP (Teacher Accreditation Program) at the Palm Springs Regional in December 2008.

They obtained Cooperative Advertising funding from ACBL and began to advertise in the Sedona area newspapers and posted flyers in libraries, grocery stores and churches, getting 140 people to show up for the “kick-off potluck dinner”.

Marsha called for a meeting of the membership and informed them of the plan to save the Sedona club.  She told them that she could work a year to train a new member, and it would only take one unkind gesture or comment at the table to make that player leave the club.   The members overwhelmingly supported her with this concept, which was a very critical part of the process!

For the next 7 years, Marsha and her assistants taught classes to new students, resulting in 66 new members added to the Sedona club, representing 64% of the current membership.  What is quite amazing is that most of these are very competitive players today!

They decided to keep the lessons affordable by having the first month of lessons free of charge and then to charge only $6 for each 2-3 hour lesson from then on.  They used volunteer teachers who assisted the students with problems at the tables.   This proved to be essential for their success.

Lessons covered 18 months of weekly 2-3 hour classes using 5 Audrey Grant books: Bridge Basics 1, 2, and 3, 2 Over One Force, and Defense.  They also added Seagram’s book, 25 Bridge Conventions You Should Know.

They learned a lot from their efforts.  One of the most important things was to “stick to the script”, because bridge professionals and their staff comb the text and sample hands for accuracy.    In addition, you should not have a policy of “leave no student behind.”  It is entirely okay to let a student know in a kind way that they might be more successful in other endeavors.    They also learned to integrate celebrations into the lessons, and above all, have fun!

Teaching a large number of students with a rather complete set of lessons was a tremendous amount of work for Marsha and her assistants.  She is extremely satisfied with the success of this membership building process, and rightly so!  Her approach can be used by other clubs with declining memberships.

You can contact Marsha for more information at


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