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Who's in the alley?

Discussion in 'The Clown Forum' started by WillyNilly, Feb 9, 2017.

  1. Clementine

    Clementine New Member

    I joined an alley, as much to have a group to hold myself accountable to. I then joined MACA and WCA. In each case, I'm interested in helping keep those organizations around: I want it to be as easy for other folks to enter the craft and sustain it forward as it's been for me. The scary clown phenomenon can be most effectively battled if there's a thriving community of true clowns, sharing tradecraft with each other and growing the practice overall. I've debated joining COIA, as well: the reason I joined WCA, frankly, was to allow me to vote to support a clown who I respected who was running for office. I haven't had the same reason in COIA as yet, and since I'm still in the 'not-yet-earning money', I'm attempting to make smart choices as to where I direct funds.

    Magazines vs. online: the magazines don't wow me, but the websites are really not amazing... I say that as a person whose day job is software development. That said, though, I'm not joining the organizations to get their publications, but more to support their mission. Instead of a charitable contribution to NPR to help spread news, mine was effectively a charitable contribution to help spread clowning. I do honestly enjoy seeing the ads in the magazines: they're exposing me to suppliers I might or might not have otherwise stumbled upon, many of whom have some really neat stuff! Since I haven't seen ads up on the websites as yet, I'll put forward that advantage to a newbie-ish clown..
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  2. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    I think that this is a key insight to transforming these sort of traditional organizations from social based to mission oriented. People are, perhaps, more likely to support something which they see doing positive good in an area they believe in, even if the benefit is more for others than themselves.

    An example....in Chicago there is a group called the Saints. Those who belong, often older adults, act as volunteer ushers for much of the city's thriving theater scene. In return for their efforts, they get to see the show at no additional cost. But, in order to belong, they also pay an annual membership fee (about $75, if I recall correctly.) These funds are, then, used to offer grants for special projects and needs of theater companies. So, the community building aspect is extended beyond just being a fun club, to being a valuable resource for the arts.

    Acting more as "mid-stream" is, in some sense where it is at in opportunity for these organizations. Too often, they see themselves as the end product. But, really, connecting communities and product providers with consumers is where their greatest resourcefulness may exist.

    Rather than being restrictive in membership, then, they would do well to be more expansive, since the more people they can reach and for whom they have market/demographic data, the larger the likely customer base they can provide for advertisers. Offering free email newsletters, for example, are a necessity. (And, of course, that isn't entirely free, anyway, as an email address is a valuable commodity, providing a "warm contact" to interested parties who both consume and offer support.)

    Additionally, advertising (that is to say, investment expecting a return at a certain profitable percentage rate as distinct from simply sponsorship that says thank you for the valuable work you do, but perhaps writes it off as a tax deduction) need not only be associated with the sort of thing an organization represents. For instance (to be cheeky) if the demographic of an organization includes a lot of old people, perhaps you ought to be selling Ben Gay and Viagra. Or luxury cars.

    Information like geographic area and age, as well as specific sub-interest of genre to a general area, also enables better target marketing.

    These are largely unexplored areas for most traditional membership organizations.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017
  3. Sir Toony Van Dukes

    Sir Toony Van Dukes Well-Known Member

    I wonder if COAI and WCA should be more active at the national (or international) level. I suspect their charter are more as a social/membership organization rather than one that is a charity or special interest group. I don't keep up with the activities of the Circus Fans of America, but I do see them taking action or suggesting membership take action to protect the circus and the ability of the groups to perform at locations around the country.

    I keep hearing the membership is a problem. COAI had a campaign to have members donate membership to people to increase membership. If COAI had someone doing "business development" maybe advertising at the national level in publications for other types of entertainers (magicians, puppets, jugglers, etc.) they could attract membership to both the local alley and national organization. They might also target groups like hospital workers, nursing homes, or other places where clowns perform. The local alley won't have the resources to reach a national organization, but COAI as a whole might.

    Maybe if COAI and WCA had a formal relationship with Ringling, the Big Apple Circus, and Cole Brothers Circus, those groups wouldn't have stopped operations. COAI could have a presentation to Ringling in every major city, helped organize trips for the local clown alley to meet the circus alley, had some type of ad where the circus directed the audience to join a local clown alley and train to become clowns.
    • Useful Useful x 1
  4. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Unfortunately, I don't think that the ultimate limited reach of these sorts of groups would have gone very far is "saving the circus." But, this is also why numbers matter. The traditional membership groups probably need to think a bit less in terms of adding a thousand members and more in terms of marketing to a hundred thousand, with the idea that they'll increase awareness, generally, and gain contacts for a certain percentage of patrons, and (to a lesser extent) membership and donations. Look at what successful not for profits in the arts, education, and entertainment do. They want numbers. Even if those numbers are in smaller level commitments and donations. Numbers speak significantly to foundations and donors who make major grants, when they see that an organisation's work is making difference and reaching a lot of people who believe in it.

    But this requires a transformative vision for traditional membership groups, which were founded in a different era and still largely exist as if the internet has not been created and the year is 1955.

    That said, yes, collaborations are critical and should be more widely sought, for mutual benefit.
  5. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    I do think that the success of entertainer events, such as twist and shout; kiddabra; and kapital kidvention are instructive in understanding what people might be looking for.

    Part of the challenge in the clowning community is that it tries to do so many things.

    Clowning is unique. It doesn't necessarily have anything inherently to do with the family entertainment business that a lot of clowns are in. These are distinct. Now, one can bring their clowning to bear upon their entertainment performance. Or one can entertain appearing as a clown. But the two just are not equal. Similarly when it comes into other current outlets for clowns, be that hospitals/nursing homes; circus; the stage; the street; work with balloons, face painting, magic......or wherever. These are all tools, as well as their own individual skill sets and arts.

    Consequently, clowning organizations don't always have the best focus, as they are spread thin stretching in many directions, while having a hard time, too often, even clearly defining or agreeing upon what it means to be a clown and what clown education should entail. And, they therefore, frequently fall short in standing out and being the best that they can at any one thing.

    This, too, is likely the result of the times moving past the organizations. Perhaps, in the past, all of these distinctions and directions were not so complex. At a certain time, when such organizations were founded and thrived, it may have been more clear what the expectations and job of a clown was. But, in our own times, things have outgrown those understandings while the groups haven't quite been able to either keep pace nor have they been able to find their own identity entirely, as the art and entertainment world have evolved around them.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
  6. AMagicClown

    AMagicClown New Member

    I'm a member of COAI, WCA, SEC, N.A.M.E., S.A.M., BBB & Osceola/Kissimmee Chamber of Commerce.
    I'm a member of all these organizations because I like to be involved in the community and also they're good more marketing purposes. :)
    I enjoy going to the local meetings and meeting new friends. I also want to help in keeping the art of clowning & magic alive.
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  7. BalooBaphoon

    BalooBaphoon Active Member

    so many great ideas that may never get to the right people. so sad.
  8. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Not to be too critical, Baloo. (I'm not intending to knock some very good people involved with and committed to these groups.) But, perhaps part of the problem is also some of these traditional organizations don't have the right sort of people even involved, let alone in leadership, who can grasp effectively where the world is going and what is required to respond. Too often, in all sorts of organizations which age out, the challenge that exists is in lamenting lost youth. People look back and wonder how they can recapture their glory days. They dismiss contemporary youth as uninterested. Well, yes, they're uninterested in being old with these types. And they can't just go back and relive someone else's youth. They must live in the real world of today and face challenges of the time effectively. They must be allowed to have their own youth and days of glory. Often, they better grasp what is needed for growth today. Yet, without their voices at the table and in leadership, long time members tend to not want or even understand forward movement, preferring to simply hold the line. Then they just die off or shut down. Traditions can be passed on if a more established or older group unites with younger vision, however. Their memories and experiences can become part of today's experiences for the younger generation. And, so, things (and even organizations) will be passed on and live, even as they evolve.
  9. BalooBaphoon

    BalooBaphoon Active Member

    Discount for members that the general public do not get
  10. BalooBaphoon

    BalooBaphoon Active Member

    And I absolutely agree with you! This is the main reason I left the shrine clown unit I was with. Too old and set in their ways, no room to give the new guys a voice.
  11. V

    V Well-Known Member

    I think one of the major issues is that these groups don't really have a clear direction. I don't know what any of the groups are trying to do.. I'm a member of various (non-entertainment) groups and all of them have clear mission statements and collaborative efforts. I don't see anything at all similar in variety groups/associations.

    COAI claims clowning education as their primary goal, but I've never seen a standard for said education. Frankly, I've read some of the contributions in their publications and it seemed like they would essentially take contributions from anyone - that, and most of the information was simply regurgitated information from previous sources (that may come from quality, or not...)

    WCA - The World Clown Association exists to serve the needs of the members of the Association... wait, what? And then... to serve the needs of local affiliate clown alleys (small groups), and to promote the art of clowning throughout the world. Once again - how? Broad, generic statements with no real direction. Even if I didn't have disdain for groups like this - I likely would after reading their 'about us' information..

    Kidabra - being the exception. I think this is probably the 'best' variety entertainers option for education and information. I like Kidabra (although I no longer attend) and given the option of buying tickets/hotels to this versus even a completely free attendance to one of the various clown camps/conventions (moose, uw-lacrosse, coai, etc) I'd hands down recommend Kidabra. Clown colleges should be ashamed of themselves. Imo, you're just as well off sending that cash to the poor refuge Nigerian princess that emails us than to squander your paychecks on them.

    IBM as a group isn't much/any better than the clown groups, although IBM does offer an archive of their digest as part of their membership - that does hold some value as education.

    Realistically, none of the groups above really offer anything of value that you can't get elsewhere for free (youtube, internet-at-large, etc) and I can't justify the expense to join one - much less attend one of their events. As far as a "discount that the general public do not get." I'd wager against that. All of the insurer groups want your business and will give you at comparable rate if you just ask. Even if they don't, the 'general public' rate is probably cheaper once you minus the membership fees for the various groups. Also, in concluding - I feel that the clowning associations do more harm to the industry of clowning than good, largely (as tim suggests) do to their antiquated methods, but also by their narrow definition (and by extension, promotion and education) of what a clown is.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  12. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel


    And, in an era of "mission based" direction appealing to Millennials, it is even more important/valuable to be able to have focus.

    I see this in the traditional (here I mean "longstanding" as distinct from style of circus, though the two are typically closely related simply because of older membership who grew up with a certain sort of thing which is all that interests them) circus groups, too. They'll tell you all about their magazines (in an era when such publications aren't typically appealing as incentives) but it is difficult to define any sort of clear purpose. I, personally, started talking about things in terms of "audience development and circus arts advocacy" or "research and education" to try to bring a bit of focus. Though I don't think that anyone else picked up on that. The former pair, especially, are terms that are likely too current for them to appreciate/understand, despite it being the sort of language which any other arts organization would use these days, and actually summing up pretty well what that organization has done for decades.

    One youth circus endeavor with which I am familiar, while sincere in effort and with dedicated intent, doesn't seem to have any direction at all, beyond posting photos online occasionally, or sharing a little history, and generally saying that kids involved with circus is a good thing. It could be so much more. It might have a niche in truly developing a support system for social circus or something. But I don't think that those conversations even occur. I guess the idea is to give the kids a pat on the back and sense of connection, somehow. To show some sort of support and appreciation. But, what exactly it seeks to accomplish or how well it's doing that (whatever it is) isn't all clear.

    Moreover, most refuse to embrace modern methods of communication much at all. Often, their justification is fear that this would dilute the value of what people pay for, and discourage the buy in. They don't realize that there isn't much of value to pay for, anyway, and that the tease of providing a bit of information is really just valuable modern marketing that expands potential reach and customer base. There really is a reason why everyone else does it. I mean, a "free" email, for instance, isn't going to hurt them as much as they think. Shucks, it isn't really free, either. They have bought in to being offered your product, repeatedly.

    Another organization, I understand, expects members to belong (and pay dues) to the major group in order to participate in any local guild events. Realistically, local leaders are often happy just to have anyone extra showing up. So, they overlook this "rule." But that angers others, who feel that they are costing the organization money. The secretary even tells local leaders that they need to remind these folks to pay up, or throw them out. But, the reality is that the market has set a value. People will get involved locally, and pay any related cost, because it is providing something of worth. They won't pay the full dues, as it doesn't offer them enough benefit. (And they certainly aren't going to pay the full dues plus local costs, as such an increase reduces value of what they are receiving to a point that it is no longer cost effective.)

    So, the bottom line is that there is a need to offer real/better value to cost, if one wants to increase sales/membership.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  13. Special K'z

    Special K'z Well-Known Member

    I know this is kind of off topic but in defense of the comments about antiquated policies COAI does have an active online alley that does meet monthly via zoom meetings. It has been a great way to use technology to reach those members who might not have the ability to join a local alley. I will also be presenting next week via zoom to a junior joey group. I felt this was pretty forward thinking in getting people to connect.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2017
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  14. Special K'z

    Special K'z Well-Known Member

    COAI also has a very well run in my opinion junior joey program with you tube videos, a fun badge program etc. I can see where they are going with this and I can see them being a great resource to other children's organizations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H etc. Both WCA and COAI offered a performance category for competition. Since us working clowns offer more of a performance rather than a skit this is a welcome addition. At COAI this spring I plan to be teaching bubbling as an entertainer at the convention this year offering both indoor and outdoor bubbling shows how every much time I get to pack in as much as I can. While professional bubble shows have been quite common in Italy, England and overseas I have just recently seen bubble entertainment start to take a hold in the USA. COAI is forward thinking to offer these services to the clowning community. It may have been long time coming but there is change for the better.
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  15. The NORMAL One

    The NORMAL One Active Member

    I am a member of the Heart of Illinois Class Clown Alley. We like other Alley have a decreasing membership and no longer have meeting. I Truely miss the monthly meeting and the others events we did as an Alley. I wish we could again get something going in central Illinois.

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