During a branch visit by the writer in January 2007 to the Mopani branch at Phalaborwa the branch chairman, Pierre Terblanche was despondent about the future of the branch. Participation in branch activities was very poor in spite of the best efforts of the management team and the management members were starting to lose hope.
The successfull management of a SAHGCA branch, with satisfied members, demands enthusiasm, dedication and a lot of hard work. Poor attendance of activities by members is an important indication that a branch is not “healthy”.
Pierre was elected the new branch chairman during September 2006 and the following was the important shortcomings that he identified:
No record keeping of agendas, minutes of meetings and attendance registers, no budget, no finacial control, no annual program, no training, no utilization of the branch subsidy available at the national office, no contribution towards Branch News, no communication with members except for meetings and no or very poor attendance of the National Branch Chairmans’ Forum and Congress by branch management! If this is not a recipe for failure, what will be!
My advice to Pierre during our meeting was to focus on the following basic aspects to bring the branch on the right track again. First of all, to ensure that he has the right person with regards to enthusiasm and skills in every management position, that he as chairman support and develop them in their respective positions, that together with his management team they focus on quality activities that they present in an interesting way and to ensure proper communication with members. Do this correctly and the rest will follow aotomatically!
During Oktober 2007 the SAHGCA branches reported contrywide on activities of the previous 9 months in preparation for the awards to be made to Branch Champions at the annual Congress of SAHGCA during November 2007. It was immediately apparent that huge changes was made at the Mopani branch! The average attendance at branch meetings increased with 50% and the attendance at shooting days increase threefold (roughly one third of branch members attended monthly shooting days – at that stage Mopani branch had 139 members! I phoned Pierre to congratulate him and his management team, but also asked what they did to engineer this remarkable turnaround. The following is based on a report that I received from Mopani branch management:
The national document – “Policy for the development, organization and management of branches” – was issued to all the branch management members to ensure that everyone know what his/her job entails. Pierre also followed up after issuing of this document to ensure understanding and implementation by every management member! Proper recordkeeping ensured that information was available when needed – eg. minutes of meetings, shooting awards based on shooting results were being handed to members for the first time in years, data was available to report on branch activities to Inyathi Park. A planned budget for the forthcoming financial year was prepared timeously. Financial discipline and control soon enabled the branch to start projects eg. the development of their existing shooting range and stock of promotional items – eg. hunters logbooks – are being kept at branch level to be available to members. For the first time a dedicated training officer was appointed and the course for dedicated hunters was offered regularly. Where the branch previously did not have any qualified range officers, they soon had17 qualified range officers! A dedicated shooting coordinator is responsible for the planning and execution of shooting days and the junior training officer started by successfully developing junior interest and participation at the shooting days. The official shooting exercises are offered regularly (up to 3 shooting days per month) and the increase in the shooting standard of members are evident in the hunting reports received from members about “one shot” kills on animals. The spirit and camaraderie at the shooting days are such that members even visit just to be part of the day and the good food available!
Communication to members are addressed by e-mail – agendas of forthcoming branch meetings, the minutes of the previous meetings and reminders about shooting days – use of the local newspaper, the “Phalaborwa Herald” where e-mail communication are duplicated and the results of shooting days with photos are published! Readers of this newspaper (the community at large) cannot miss the presence and activities of the Mopani branch of SAHGCA in Phalaborwa!
The year end function at the end of 2007 was a huge success with 54 people attending, certificates and awards were presented to 19 members. During branch meetings, DVD’s are shown or guest speakers are invited to address the members and shooting awards and the monthly shooting trophy are presented.
Seven years later – what is the current state of affairs at Mopani branch – a few statistics:
- Close to 500 members
- SAHGCA Branch Champion in their category for 2009, 2011 and 2013
- Average monthly attendance during the past 9 months: 94 members per branch meeting, 189 members at shooting days and 40 juniors participating at branch events
Congratulations to the management team of Mopani branch over the past seven years – this is what a branch of SAHGCA is about. Focus on communication with and quality activities for your members and they will reward management with their attendance, participation and enthusiasm! Thank you Mopani branch management and every branch of SAHGCA for the dedication and hard work to make our Association such a great organization! This is the reason why we are all proud to be members of the SA Hunters- and Game Conservation Association.