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What would your ideal astronomy club include?

Clubs Outreach
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#1 Miggystardust

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Posted 14 November 2023 - 07:27 PM

What elements would your ideal astronomy club contain?

Here's where I'm coming from: I'm considering running for an officer position in my local club. I have my own ideas about areas to focus, expand, grow, etc. but would like to hear other perspectives on this question. You can interpret it as any variation of "what is your own club currently lacking or could do better", or you could interpret it as "if I were to start my own astronomy club, what would it look like?" but ultimately, I'm curious what things the astroscente here would have in a club.

 

I'm definitely aware of challenges that seem common to clubs, many of which are discussed in the forums here: growing involvement and interest of younger hobbyists/millennials/GenZ; nurturing newbiesmaintaining websites/content/newsletters; streamlinining/automating membership processes; etc. 

In addition, post #4 in the topic "Why are you a member of your club?" really goes into the different needs of a club and how people see the needs differently. I found that post eye-opening and it's what prompted me to want opinions from the larger group here.

 

So with all of that in mind-- what would your ideal club look like in terms of offerings, how it's run, what it provides, what it addresses, etc? I welcome any responses to this, whether thorough (like a list) or just a single item along the lines of "it should definitely include [something]".


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#2 Barlowbill

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Posted 14 November 2023 - 07:36 PM

A rocket ship!


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#3 maroubra_boy

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Posted 14 November 2023 - 08:15 PM

Here's something:  the dark site that a club uses - have the appropriate feasibility studies been carried out to show that the site is actually the best possible for astro?

 

I say this as most astro clubs alas have not done these studies.  Most people don't have more than looking for an open field as their selection criteria.  Site selection is an exhaustive process that needs time and an objective mind to identify the local conditions that give a site the microclimate that is best for astro.  Just because a site is "dark" does not make it good for astro.  As a hint, dew and astro are NOT inseparable bedfellows.  And part of this is being able to identify good transparency vs everything else.

 

Thing is all club members assume that the requisite site selection work had been carried out, but truth is few clubs have and few people know what to look for.

 

My own Club has undertaken such work in finding its first site and subsequent new locations.  Took us a while to identify these conditions wholly because we didn't know we had to find this out!  But once we knew, everything changed.  The first site my Club selected was in a Bortle 4 site.  Another club has a Bortle 2 site, but the difference in the routine quality of transparency between each site is staggering.  We can see dimmer stuff in the sky than that "dark" other site.  Our site in 16 years experienced dew only 7 times, of which only twice did it affect our optics, while heavy dew is the norm at this other club's site.  Both site are at the same elevation, but the difference is the geography and surrounding land use.

 

So, If you want to put astronomy first, investigate the actual TRUE quality of the dark site your club uses and see if there is not better available.  But be warned, it may cause discontent within the ranks...  Did with the first club I was a member of, ended up forming our own with my observing buddies when we got sick of the never ending dew issues and finding out that there were far better locations available.  I approached the entire membership about this but club refused to listen even when they lost access to the site they were using and then found a new site themselves that is even worse...  Go figure.

 

So, what element do I want from my ideal astro club?  One that puts astro first, understands what this means for site selection and works to this.

 

Alex.


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#4 TOMDEY

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Posted 14 November 2023 - 08:24 PM

Very good, stepping up to the plate. Indeed many/most clubs have a hard time recruiting ready, willing, and able volunteers/candidates for their board positions. Preloaded and researched ideas for improvement are of course appropriate. On the other hand, "how I will make our club better" generally isn't a good election campaign strategy, unless things are terribly wrong. The improvements topic naturally ensues once the post-election board convenes. They will typically address current health, planning the upcoming seasonal events, and then short and long term goals. It's that last one that generates the most controversy, and requires debate and input from both the board and general membership.     Tom



#5 Miggystardust

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Posted 14 November 2023 - 09:14 PM

Very good, stepping up to the plate. Indeed many/most clubs have a hard time recruiting ready, willing, and able volunteers/candidates for their board positions. Preloaded and researched ideas for improvement are of course appropriate. On the other hand, "how I will make our club better" generally isn't a good election campaign strategy, unless things are terribly wrong. The improvements topic naturally ensues once the post-election board convenes. They will typically address current health, planning the upcoming seasonal events, and then short and long term goals. It's that last one that generates the most controversy, and requires debate and input from both the board and general membership.     Tom

 

I'm *very* mindful of this... and I do believe the "preloaded and researched" is key. I have past experience with organization of a (non-astronomy) nonprofit that relied heavily on volunteers. And whose constituency was *very* vocal with 'brilliant' ideas that were not always thought through in terms of feasibility. Constraints, "the art of the possible", and the basic labor concept of "great idea! Who's going to do it?" are all critical. Conceptually (and not just for an astronomy venture), I'd take a half-baked idea with a plan (or from a person willing to give it a go) than a brilliant idea without one, every time. And of course there are always a myriad of other situational factors, personalities, and opinions to factor in. 



#6 therealdmt

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Posted 15 November 2023 - 04:09 AM

I'd like meetings with the option of remote attendance/participation, dues not too high, easy access to a better site than I can get to on my own, a chance to do a presentation or two (as well as watch those of others), a friendly, collegial atmosphere that is welcoming to others (including those of different backgrounds and those with different gear), not-overly-strictly enforced but good awareness and practice of light discipline at the observing site, and finally, occasional outreach activities. Nothing overly burdensome.

 

On clear nights, could maybe have unstructured BYOT (bring your own telescope) after-meetings observing sessions from right near the meeting place (example, the parking lot, especially if the lights could be turned off) where attendees without scopes could also be given a look.

 

Some group ATM projects could be interesting, such as I'd love a mirror making workshop. Anything like that would have to match group interest and resources, of course.

 

Club size/participation should be neither too small nor too big (lol -- not sure how you'd control that). Enough so that it wouldn't seem like just a few overly officious people pretending to have a club (like 5 club officials bossing one member around lol.gif), but not so many that members would feel like they didn't matter, couldn't have a voice or otherwise be reduced to permanent anonymity unless they started throwing elbows


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#7 No N in collimation

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Posted 16 November 2023 - 11:19 AM

• young people

• old people (we have enough of those)

• science-based presentations

• culture-based presentations

• star parties

• moon parties

• a Messier marathon

• a remote site

• public outreach

• an annual trip to a national park


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#8 Freezout

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Posted 16 November 2023 - 03:42 PM

A nice site with easy parking and light protection.
Some events open to the public to recruit.

#9 Phil Cowell

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Posted 16 November 2023 - 07:24 PM

100% online. Multiple monthly zoom type presentations. Streamed EAA. No formal leader structure. Online streamed star parties over the course of a couple of days using follow the night to cover all time zones and around the world. 


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#10 Chris K

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Posted 16 November 2023 - 07:27 PM

A welcoming committee or orientation: When I joined ours, it's a bit awkward to walk in, especially when everyone knows each other.

 

Ways to volunteer with low commitment: we started "mini-tasks"... big help with small commitment. There's so much to be done, every bit helps.

 

A newbie learning program: everything I read that recommended joining your local club did not come true. You either have a program for newbies or they'll be left ask for help which is intimidating to many because people don't want to look silly.

 

A young astronomers program: new members are important but youngsters joining a club of us stargeezers probably loses to hanging out with friends.

 

A lending program: try before you buy is always good

 

Robust outreach: provides ways for people to feel helpful, can be a source of new members, and is good for the hobby

 

Low dues: makes joining an easier decision

 

Members-only activities: trips, observing nights, holiday parties are all good ways to build cameraderie


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#11 geovermont

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Posted 24 November 2023 - 12:46 PM

Just be welcoming--everything else is details.


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#12 gw_dra

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Posted 26 November 2023 - 09:18 PM

An observing location that isn’t an hour away. Sure there will be light pollution, but I think it’s important for club members to have a place they can observe regularly, instead of only having a dark sky site they go to once a month. I say this as an apartment dweller with no yard to set up in at home.

Frequent (maybe weekly) opportunities to observe together and learn from others. Especially as a newcomer it’s hard to get to know new people you only see at infrequent club meetings.

Some sort of organized program, like small observing “teams” that work through different observing challenges together would be cool
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#13 No N in collimation

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Posted 27 November 2023 - 09:05 AM

free pizza 


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#14 zman2100

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Posted 30 November 2023 - 10:57 AM

Not having your own website that your organization controls and updates with regularity is to me a non-starter. Lots of clubs seem to not have a website or never update their website because they're content to conduct all of their organization on Facebook. I'm not going to rant about all the ways that Facebook is terrible here, but this is a death knell for your online presence. Social media use should supplement your online organization but should not be the only or primary means of connecting with people online. Even ignoring the fact that younger generations clearly do not use Facebook and likely never will, organization in group pages is shoddy, it's impossible to find things that were posted more than a few days ago, and at the end of the day you have no control over what happens to your organization's Facebook page. All it takes is for a few people to decided they want to report your page and next thing you know the page is down as it is "reviewed" by Facebook's content moderation teams, which can take weeks or months to complete.

 

If you run a website, YOU control what goes up on it, what is easily searchable, and no one is ever going to come to you to take it down. Websites are freely accessible to anyone online without needing to give over personal information to create an account just to get access to information. Clubs should certainly strive to have a presence on popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tic Tok, and YouTube, but again, they should supplement your online presence and all point back to your website that has up-to-date info about the goings on of the club.


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#15 Freezout

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Posted 30 November 2023 - 11:36 AM

Not having your own website that your organization controls and updates with regularity is to me a non-starter. Lots of clubs seem to not have a website or never update their website because they're content to conduct all of their organization on Facebook. I'm not going to rant about all the ways that Facebook is terrible here, but this is a death knell for your online presence. 

Completely agree, it's no-go for me. What is sad is that probably the people doing it think that it is more efficient than a website to reach the youth because it's a social media, so it's modern; they don't realize that facebook is completely outdated for the youngest generations.


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#16 zman2100

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Posted 30 November 2023 - 12:44 PM

I'm 33. I joined my local club at the beginning of the year after getting my first scope. I deactivated my Facebook account five years ago and reluctantly reactivated it when I learned it was the primary way the club communicated. A lot of people won't do that, and most people younger than me 100% aren't setting up a new Facebook account just to be a part of a club.

 

Thankfully the existing club leadership was aware that this is a problem, and were already in the process of trying to move communication to a site they have control over. We now have our own forum for communication in addition to the existing website that they have been diligent to keep updated. It will still take some time for people to shift their mindset from checking the Facebook page first to instead checking the forum first, but we're getting there. 

 

Side note: If you have a website but don't keep it updated, that's almost worse than not having a website at all. People will visit it and see that the last event posted was years ago, and assume the club isn't active.


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#17 havasman

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Posted 30 November 2023 - 09:41 PM

A lot of visual astronomers with control over their egos and a well organized dark site for members' use.


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#18 UnityLover

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Posted 02 December 2023 - 02:58 PM

A lot of visual astronomers with control over their egos and a well organized dark site for members' use.

Yup. Some people on r/telescopes can NOT accept the fact that people have budgets. Its either a 500 dollar 6 inch dob or binoculars to them. At my club (I rarely go :( ), there arent any people with big egos that I know of thankfully.



#19 Chris K

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Posted 07 December 2023 - 09:15 PM

I'm 33. I joined my local club at the beginning of the year after getting my first scope. I deactivated my Facebook account five years ago and reluctantly reactivated it when I learned it was the primary way the club communicated. A lot of people won't do that, and most people younger than me 100% aren't setting up a new Facebook account just to be a part of a club.

 

Thankfully the existing club leadership was aware that this is a problem, and were already in the process of trying to move communication to a site they have control over. We now have our own forum for communication in addition to the existing website that they have been diligent to keep updated. It will still take some time for people to shift their mindset from checking the Facebook page first to instead checking the forum first, but we're getting there. 

 

Side note: If you have a website but don't keep it updated, that's almost worse than not having a website at all. People will visit it and see that the last event posted was years ago, and assume the club isn't active.

We use groups.io for message forum, file storage, and things like polls/votes. There's lots more features we don't take advantage of. Lots of folks have the Facebook aversion and it's important to consider that you can lose potential members if that's a requirement.



#20 Mike Q

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Posted 09 December 2023 - 09:14 PM

I joined my local club which is actually part of the local park district.  They have such potential.  They have a bit of everything from dobs to SCTs and they even have a Stellina they use at outreach.  What they dont have is any organization.  They have been building a roll of roof observatory for four years and it still isnt done.  I gave them six months and have not been back. 



#21 csrlice12

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Posted 10 December 2023 - 12:44 PM

I've never had a Facebook account.....I did finally break down and set up an Email account.



#22 Q36 Space Modulator

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 07:08 PM

An Earth-shattering kaboom!




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