Case study: Haverhill name change

Martin Waldron, of member group Haverhill Singers, explains how they approached changing the group name in order to recruit new members.

Background

We are a non-auditioning choral society of around 50 singers, founded in 1860. The aim of the Society is to perform choral music of many genres in and around Haverhill, Suffolk for two reasons.

  1. To enable as many as possible to sing in a group for enjoyment.
  2. To contribute to the cultural life of the area.

To achieve these aims we present two or three major concerts a year and a number of smaller events in co-operation with local organisations.

The challenge

Like many choral groups we have had difficulty recruiting new members (although the retention rate is high) and increasing audience size.

We felt that the current name ‘Haverhill Choral Society’, although succinct might be off-putting to new recruits and audiences. A change of name might be one step to present a friendlier and less ‘stuffy’ image. We also wanted name to reflect the wide range of choral music we perform beyond the ‘standard’ choral repertory.

What we did

We took suggestions from members for a new name, many of which were very good . The committee decided on 'Haverhill Singers' because it retained the historical connection to the town in which we are based (our President is a descendent of our founder), and we felt ‘Singers’ is a friendlier and more easily understood term than ‘Choral Society’.

The results

It’s early days to decide whether the change of name will have a long term effect –the change was only effected in November 2017– but we have recruited three new members and have two returning ones.

Other than the administrative hassle of informing outside bodies of the change, the only objections came from a small number of members who felt a change was unnecessary or were upset that their own name suggestion did not prevail.

We explained to the dissenters, on a one to one basis, the reasons for the committee recommending the name change. This was to try to project a less stuffy image than we felt ‘Choral Society’ did, particularly because we perform music beyond the standard choral repertoire. We also hoped that a less formal name might attract new members and we have had some success in that area, assisted by a new website.

Generally, objections were based on reluctance to change the name at all –“It has been okay for the last 150 years, why change” or because it was felt that the term ‘Singers’ was too informal and would not be taken seriously.

However, after some mutterings in the ranks, it has all settled down now and no one has walked out in disgust. 

What we learnt

  • Take time to think about your current name and what is good and bad about it.
  • Think clearly about why you want a change, including the downsides.
  • Be clear about what you want a new name to do – what do you want it to say about your group?
  • Try and talk to organisations or supporters outside the society for their thoughts.
  • Ensure that the committee has the courage to take flak from dissenting members.
  • Keep members and interested parties up to date with deliberations.
  • Be brave and risk change!

Visit the Haverhill Singers website to find out more.


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