How to create a sustainable men’s shed membership?


Helping men with their health and well-being issues is an important aspect of a men’s shed.



If men are taking care of men, membership is more likely to be sustainable

This is achieved by:

  1. Creating physical, mental, social and spiritual activities for men.
  2. Focusing on the health and well-being of men.
  3. Involving men in their community.
  4. Improving economic activity for men and their community.
  5. Maintaining the sustainability of the men’s shed a men’s place.

The trust between people and sense of community have been lost in recent times.  Global markets and governments have taken over many of the things people used to do for themselves.

Men’s sheds are about creating a ‘Place of Belonging’ for men, a place to help men move forward within and atmosphere of support.

A men’s shed requires many types of members and with many types of skills in order to function well. There will initially be members who can manage the men’s shed through the various phases of its development.

As with many things, the members who take the men’s shed through the startup phase will not necessarily be able to take it through the growth phase and still, others will be required to take it into a long-term sustainable men’s shed.

The old saying ‘it takes all types in this world’ certainly rings true for a men’s shed. There are many people who can recognise a problem but there are few who can and will show you how to fix it. A well-run men’s shed is able to anticipate any problems before they arise.

Starting a men’s shed to suit your community can be very exciting and rewarding, but it can pose some difficulties. Do not be overwhelmed by the volume of work involved, you do not have to do it all at once and our Helpdesk is there to assist you.


Health benefits start to flow from the activities of the men’s shed

A primary reason for becoming a member should be the health and well-being aspects. This is achieved in a practical hands-on way through activity and involvement which goes a long way towards improving men’s overall health and well-being.

Taking care of men in the community is what a men’s shed is really all about. However, we must attract the right members, particularly in the early days to ensure that the men’s shed will be successful into the future.


Key membership sustainability issues to be addressed

Obviously, there are many issues involved with the membership of a men’s shed. While membership of a well-functioning men’s shed is not a problem, it can become one if the memberships are not managed well. Here are some of the issues to keep in mind:

  • Types of members.
  • Types of activities undertaken.
  • Space in the premises for all activities.
  • Having enough good quality equipment.
  • Variety and balance of membership.
  • The mix of skills.
  • Personality types – Temperament.
  • Critical mass to provide for future stability.
  • Member’s subscriptions.
  • Member induction and retention programs.
  • Men’s health and well-being programs.
  • Foster a teamwork approach to projects.
  • Avoid conflict. Resolve as quickly as possible.
  • The socio-economic differential should not be an issue.
  • Build tolerance to improve member relationships.
  • Disability access and toilet facilities.
  • Word of mouth referrals can build membership quickly.
  • Involvement of women and families with the men’s shed.
  • Retaining good members must be a key priority, no one likes to lose members.


The value of men’s shed membership to members

The real value to members is that they can meet with other men of similar values and interests, even though there may be several different activities (Wood working, metal working, leather working, art, model building, gardening, photography and so on, the list is endless).

The right mix of members will provide a more exciting and rewarding environment for members.

The men’s shed is a place for men to belong to and do their thing and it is a way to help men to become involved in the community in a meaningful way, even when men have better equipment in their own backyard shed, they still like to be part of a well-run men’s shed.


A fast start induction program will help to retain members

Every new member wants to get off to a fast start, get involved quickly and start to feel that sense of belonging, but few men’s sheds do the necessary preparation and have any sort of induction program.

Review this list with the Help Desk and adjust to your circumstances accordingly.

  1. As the leader introduce the new member to all the members personally.
  2. Review materials available to members.
  3. Help them to understand the men’s shed and community needs.
  4. Review their approach to what they want to achieve.
  5. Set an initial training program for each new member.
  6. Review the purpose, vision, objectives and values of your men’s shed.
  7. Advise on systems and process and prepare them for the working environment.
  8. Identify a mentor for each new member.
  9. Have the member introduce their family and make them feel welcome.
  10. Establish a clearly defined schedule of involvement for the first few months.
  11. Discuss the enthusiastic and passionate behaviour he will experience.
  12. Identify and discuss the speciality that the member wants to pursue.
  13. Explain the housekeeping rules.
  14. Monitor and review each member’s progress.


Retaining good members

It’s no good having good new members coming in the front door if you are losing good members out the back door, Make sure everything works well for the members all day every day.

What really motivates good members to leave? Simply put, they tend to leave because they are significantly discontented. That may sound negative, but in the absence of strong discontent, good members normally won’t leave, despite some very tempting opportunities beyond the men’s shed. With the turnover of members, pain is generally a bigger motivator than gain.

Are you about to lose one of your best members? It’s a good question to consider. Good members can be restless, ambitious achievers with unfulfilled dreams. They set high standards for themselves and, spoken or unspoken, for the people who lead them. When things are not going particularly well, they often become open to outside influences.

If you want to retain your best members, you must invest the time and energy required to provide them with a trusted mentor, to guide them, to draw out their real concerns, and to be their advocate on an ongoing basis. If you do these things consistently over time, they will rarely leave.

As the leader or manager, you have far more influence over the retention and turnover of members than you might imagine. In most cases, it’s your decisions, your actions that determine which members you will retain and which ones you will lose.

Don’t just assume good members will not leave. Reach out to your members, by making a difference in their lives and at the men’s shed. Make sure that they are happy with their involvement. Try giving them more responsibility or special projects they can become involved with.

Find a committed member willing to take responsibility for member recruitment and retention.


Establish Membership Policies and Procedures

The members will want to know how best to fit in with the men’s shed, so a simple handout which outlines the men’s shed purpose, vision, objectives along with the values can assist. Quality materials should be available for the members to discuss with their families.

  • Define the target groups of people your men’s shed wishes to serve.
  • Document how your respond to members wants and needs.
  • Detail the men’s sheds health and well-being program.
  • details of any other programs available to members and their families.
  • Train this person on how to induct a new member.
  • Stress the importance of patience during the first few months.
  • Why you appoint a mentor to each new member.
  • How you monitor and evaluation the activities of the men’s shed.
  • Why you keep accurate records of members, for reference and guidance.
  • Discuss how you maintain enthusiasm and momentum.


“Your men’s shed is a local community organisation and should have every right to set its own membership and standards of operation”. Peter Sergeant


Create a critical mass of members

Like any club or membership organisation, there is a critical mass of members, at which point they function well. Below a certain membership level, they start to flounder. Where there is a small membership a men’s shed can be very vulnerable if a key member leaves.

Most people have felt the disappointment and feelings of inevitable failure when a key person leaves. The protection against this is to maintain a critical mass of members.

A critical mass for most sheds should exceed 50 members, knowing that not all members will, turn up every day. Obviously, this is not possible in some very small communities. Why not discuss your situation with an advisor.


[read more=”Personal Experience” less=”Personal Experience”]

Personal Experience

I caution you not to go on a big recruiting drive for members too early in the process of establishing your men’s shed. If you do, you will only be disappointed as new members will be looking for something to be involved in and it won’t be there.

You and your management team will know enough people to get the men’s shed up and running as you will in many cases know and understand the sort of members you wish to attract in the start-up phase.

You need to be a bit selective in the first instance until you have established the core activities of your men’s shed and have established a sufficient level of activity for the men to be involved with.

Unfortunately, there are a number of men’s sheds that are exclusive when it comes to their membership, they cater for a select group of people only. In some cases, they are unable to have a good mix of members because their facilities are too small.

I believe that the best men’s sheds are inclusive of all types of men, of all ages.




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