By the very nature of the private club industry, membership within any given private club is a very coveted title. Due to the popularity of being a member of a private club, existing members give great detail to protect the overall composition of their club. In short, the existing members view their existing club as an exclusive community that mirrors a common value system. It should be understood that the following definitions apply to an equity club type of operation versus that of a non-equity club.
Another understanding is that the following membership classifications are designed with the specific purpose of satisfying the needs of the club membership. It should also be understood that not all equity clubs will offer these classifications, however these membership categories are readily accepted within the private equity club sector.
When a club member is scheduled to be out of the country for an extended period of time (e.g., a year or more) an absentee membership can be
granted in accordance with the club’s bylaws. This category is a perfect example of how a club must remain cognizant of member usage needs, so by offering this classification the absentee member might be entitled to reduced monthly dues as a direct result of not utilizing club services.
1. An associate membership: also known as a nonresident membership, applies to out-of-state members that desire to use the club on a seasonal (e.g., infrequent) basis. Due to a lower usage pattern, this type of club member pays lowered initiation fees and monthly dues as set forth in the club’s bylaws.
2. A clergy membership: is offered to local clergy. Under a clergy membership the member does not have voting rights or hold office. In most cases this type of membership is associated with no initiation fees and a lowered dues structure.
3. A founder membership: applies to an individual or individuals that provided the funds that established the club. Naturally by this definition there are very few individuals that would fall into this classification. The granting of a founding membership must be in accordance with the club’s bylaws. A founding member has voting rights relative to club operations, and they pay dues (monthly or annual).
4. Golf Memberships: Some clubs offer a golf membership for individuals who want nothing more than to use the golf course facilities of the club. For many private clubs the mere presence of full golf facilities is a major attractor for local residents either located near or within the immediate community.
The preference of golf-related activities cannot be discounted based on the notion that a golf member often does not have access to clubhouse services (e.g., food and beverage services). There are initiation fees and monthly fees that correspond with this classification.
5. Honorary memberships: Are offered to individuals that are respected leaders in the community. The primary purpose of offering an honorary membership is an act of goodwill. Members that fall in this category may be entitled to lower dues but with restricted voting rights.
6. A junior membership: applies to individuals who are under a specified age as noted in the club’s bylaws. This classification only applies to the children of club members. A junior membership plays an important role in maintaining a constant stream of interest within those families that have been loyal members. Therefore, the junior membership is primarily a marketing tool to maintain a certain membership level. Individuals holding a junior membership do not have voting rights relative to club operations.
7. A regular membership: within an equity club means that members pay an initiation fee to join a club of preference with either none or at least a partial part of the initiation fee being refunded upon the member’s separation from the club.
In addition, there are monthly dues (on top of initiation fees) that are required as part of membership. The regular member has full access to the clubhouse and all recreational services offered by the club. This type of membership is influential because the member exercises voting rights relative to club conduct.
8. A reciprocity membership: is an agreement between clubs that are commonly geographically remote. A reciprocity membership is essentially a reciprocal agreement between two private clubs whereby members of either club can use the other club’s services, at times convenient to the member, while the member is in the area.
9. A senior membership: is available to individuals that have been members for a specified number of years and have reached a certain age. A senior membership is a sign of respect to members who have stayed loyal to the club for a number of years. There are monthly dues for this type of membership; however they are at a reduced rate in comparison to a regular membership.
10. The social membership: classification appeals to those individuals who seek out social functions within the club while not desiring to use recreational services (i.e., golf course, tennis, racquet, etc.). This type of member is commonly restricted to using the services offered within the clubhouse, which basically means that the social member is not entitled to use the recreational services offered at the club.
Given that the social member is not entitled to use full club services, the initiation fees and monthly dues that apply to this membership category are less than that for ‘regular’ membership.
11. The surviving spouse membership: classification is a special membership where the surviving spouse of a member assumes the membership classification of the deceased member. In some cases the surviving spouse classification is entitled to reduced dues. However, at some clubs the surviving spouse classification is restricted in terms of voting privileges. Some clubs offer a temporary membership category in cases where visiting dignitaries are in the area.
The main intent of this ‘temporary’ classification is offered as a professional courtesy with no initiation fees or monthly dues being levied. When a temporary membership is offered it is often done so to establish goodwill and to bring recognition to the club.