Why did we build Clubistry?


Dialogs is in the business of building great websites and web-based business applications. So where in the world did Clubistry, an easy-to-use club management platform, come from?

At Dialogs, we’re all problem solvers

At Dialogs, our “why” is all about helping people to solve their problems using great tools. While we play different roles in our company, every single person on the team is a problem solver at heart. We’re always on the lookout for interesting problems in need of a solution. Clubistry is the result of the quest for finding such a solution for problems that one member of our team was seeing in the dog club world.

One developer’s volunteer story: a dog club website

In 2014 the new Irish Wolfhound Club of America (IWCA) website launched, built in Dialogs Framework by our premier front-end guru, Jen. As a member of the IWCA, she put in a significant number of hours volunteering her professional talent to create a site that uniquely fit the needs of the club. In the ensuing years, the site grew and added functionality (with more volunteer hours on Jen’s part).

From nearly the time the site launched, Jen started getting periodic inquiries from other clubs about doing their sites as well. “Unfortunately, there are only so many hours available for individuals to volunteer,” she jokes wisely.

Identifying a widespread problem in club management

Eventually, we received 3 inquiries in one week. So we began to discuss the possibility of developing a platform for dog clubs to build out their websites. What were the issues that dog clubs were having? There are plenty of “website builder” platforms available, so what were the problems that these clubs were encountering, and was there a space for us to solve them? We had some ideas of what clubs were experiencing, because among the team at Dialogs we have decades of experience working with clubs and small organizations. We began talking to club leaders in many clubs to find out what their trouble points were. Two things quickly became apparent.

First, many dog clubs were running into the same issues. In fact, the 3 clubs which approached us that week all shared very similar experiences, as did other clubs we reached out to. They’d either had someone volunteer to do their site, or they’d hired someone to do their site (often both, in either order). The sites were built using one of the free or inexpensive platforms. Sometimes they were happy with the initial results, sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they had issues with the design of the sites not being quite what they’d hoped for, other times there was trouble getting the functionality they wanted. Maybe it didn’t work well on mobile, or their new site didn’t improve their search engine rankings.

In almost every case, they also had trouble when they lost the person who was doing the work. We spoke with clubs who had lost their domain names because it was registered by a single person privately, and no one could get it moved. Some clubs lost access to their websites when the person with the logins for it stepped away from the work, or passed away.

None of the initial clubs we spoke with had been able to successfully get their membership data moved to their website, and member information was still being kept in spreadsheets. The sites had no member areas on them. And the clubs really wanted online applications that can be filled out and submitted without having to print off a PDF, fill it out, then send it back by email or postal mail.

The second thing we realized very early on was that it wasn’t just dog clubs. MANY small clubs, of all sorts, have the same types of issues. Art and craft guilds, car clubs, gaming clubs, and more. They are all relying on volunteers, and volunteers come and go. Club members themselves come and go. There aren’t big budgets to hire good professional developers.

Building a website can be relatively easy with one of the free platforms. Sure, you can get some content to display on a page in a browser, but there’s more to a successful website for a club than that. It’s important for each club to understand how to identify their own goals for their website, and then to understand how to achieve those goals. And any club can be guided through that process. The sticking point appeared to be getting the tools for those goals implemented on their websites.

And so we began to develop Clubistry.

We built a simple solution for clubs

With Clubistry, a club can put together a website that’s pretty hard to break, design-wise. Content intended for members-only can be safely kept behind the member login. Board members can have their own area of the website for content and resources specifically for them. Coming soon, we'll provide a document library, online event registration, ecommerce, and more. We’ve set up the system to handle having multiple people with access to manage the club’s account with Clubistry, so if one person leaves, the club doesn’t lose the account. Management of the site content can be delegated to multiple parties, as can membership/user management. And we’ll be bringing more content types and design options in the future as well.

Another core feature of Clubistry allows clubs to bring their membership management into the same website system, where members have self-service access to update their own information. Dues and renewals can be processed, and administrators can still manually manage members who are unable to log in themselves. Prospective new members can easily fill out applications online, and those applications can easily be processed into the membership roster when approved.

Solving membership and website management problems for clubs from our own experience

The team at Dialogs is very excited to provide Clubistry to clubs of all types, because we know how much of a difference a good website and membership system can make for clubs. We know, because we’ve been the ones trying to figure out the best way to post news to a club website. We’ve been the ones uploading dozens of reports and documents before a board meeting so all board members can access them ahead of time. We’ve been the ones trying to figure out how to get our club’s site to rank higher with the search engines. And we’ve been the ones trying to craft a better way for new members to join, and for existing members to renew their membership.

Reducing the amount of time and effort it takes to handle some tasks frees up time for volunteers to do the things they love doing. Eliminating the need to find volunteers with specific technical expertise (or having to hire the expertise) allows clubs to do more with the resources they have. Clubistry looks forward to helping your club get back to doing the things that are important to you!

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