Ian Howard

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The OLBA is looking one more Host Club for the 2019 Championships

The OLBA needs a host for the Pairs. Single green clubs welcome.

It has never been easier to host. You can serve food or not serve food. You do not need to have scoreboard flippers.

Contact Tom Roth

for details. 

Ian Howard

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

How to reverse 60 years of membership decline in lawn bowling.


Lawn bowling membership has been in decline since the 1960s in Canada. It has not always been a straight decline with fits and starts along the way. Some clubs have recruited well for extended periods but overall most clubs have not been able to replace their membership losses with new people. Our current numbers sit at about half the totals of the 1980s.

Did lawn bowling clubs suddenly start recruiting poorly after the heyday of the 1950s and 1960s? No. Most clubs had not been recruiting well for a long time but this was disguised by immigration patterns which brought a regular source of new lawn bowling recruits from the UK. When that stream dried up, we started to hit a steady decline across Canada.

Some clubs continued to be successful in fits and starts by following good recruiting practices such as reaching out into community events, linking themselves to curling clubs, advertising and running events to promote their club in the broader community. These practices have not spread to the broader lawn bowling community in enough numbers to stop the decline. Both Bowls Canada and the OLBA have promoted activities like these consistently. I can remember articles in “The Green” from BCB about recruiting as far back as the 1970s. I remember material being sent out to clubs in club mailings in the 1980s and 1990s about best practices. Ken Simpson wrote several strong articles about how to run a successful offsite recruiting event. Our website and social media regularly promote examples of how to recruit.

What we can summarize from this experience is that every attempt to just tell clubs what to do to recruit will fail and fail miserably. Our clubs either do not read the material that we send our or they do not adopt these practices in enough numbers to turn the membership situation around. The best that we can do right now with our current efforts is to hold back the flood and keep numbers steady.

Compounding this problem is that most clubs have damaged themselves financially by only charging enough for membership to cover their yearly operational expenses. The typical club does not have a marketing budget worthy of the name. Most clubs should be spending at least $1000 to $2000 annually on promotion but the typical budget is more like $200 to $300. Finally, in all my years as a bowler, I have never seen DEPRECIATION in a club’s financial statements. Many of our clubs have become run down and the facilities are unattractive to new people.

How do we fix this?

It’s All About Money

We cannot force local lawn bowling clubs to do anything regarding recruiting and improving their facilities to make themselves more attractive to new members. However, we can create a situation where their incentive to act is so strong that they will buy in and benefit. The New Horizons grant program has existed since the 1970s and offers up to $25,000 each year to groups that support activities for seniors. It is targeted at capital projects. In Ontario, we also have the Seniors Community Program Grant – advertising and non capital item projects, Trillium, the Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund and projects to pay the wages of summer students for labour (provincial and federal). Other provinces have other sources of grant money from their respective provincial governments.

Typically, in Ontario, about 10% of clubs apply for some sort of government grant each year. We need that number to be somewhere between 60% and 80% nationwide. Impossible? In one year of strongly promoting the New Horizons grants in Ontario, we have managed to get 40 of 118 clubs to apply for a New Horizons grant in 2018. Keep in mind that this is our first year of promoting this grant actively.

To accomplish this, we did the following:

  1. Hosted workshops all across Ontario teaching clubs both individually and in groups how to apply. You have to go out and meet the bowlers. These meetings were combined with a membership workshop at the same time.
  2. Provided an easy to follow YouTube “How to Apply” video.
  3. Provided templates of successful applications.
  4. Provided follow up assistance to people writing the grants
  5. Provided generic grant applications that clubs could edit with minor changes and submit. (Never underestimate laziness.)
  6. Provided follow up assistance in answering questions directed at the clubs provided by the New Horizons grants reviewers.

What we have done in Ontario can easily be transplanted nationwide by using the same materials. Until there are people to directly lead grants workshops in other provinces, it is possible to do conference calls or webinars with clubs to answer questions.

New Horizons are the easiest grants to obtain although they have recently tightened up their application process in ways that will mean we have to be more detailed in writing up the application. If 40 clubs apply and 75% are accepted, this means that up to $875,000 will come into Ontario clubs next year. This is not counting Trillium money or other grants. This is more between 3 and 4 times the entire annual budget of the OLBA. Doing this with more clubs year after year will push membership numbers upwards.

The generic application that I do is targeted at a “Fitness for Seniors” program that requires clubs to go out and recruit as part of the process. If clubs follow the generic application, they are forced to adopt good membership practices as part of the grant process. Also, if they don’t spend the money, they don’t get to keep the money so the incentive to follow the program is strong.

What else do clubs get with the money? New greens equipment for faster greens. New lighting and ditch board replacement. New appliances for the club house. New smaller coloured club bowls. All of these directly or indirectly, make the clubs more inviting to new members. They also relieve some of the financial squeeze that the clubs have been feeling because of not charging enough for membership to cover depreciation. There is literally no downside at all to this program.

In Ontario, the Seniors Community Program grant supports advertising which is unique to that grant. It is a new grant and if it continues, it will be a key part of our strategy in Ontario. At this point, it does not look like there will be a new call for applications in 2018/2019.

Once clubs receive grants for the first time, they become our best sales people to other clubs. They will tell other clubs in their area about their experience and we will promote this heavily at District meetings and with our website and social media presence. Money is a powerful motivator and this will open the doors to clubs that have resisted our membership efforts so far.

How long before we see results? We will know if the program is working in 3 to 5 years of getting clubs to apply year after year. Some clubs will spend their money well. Some will spend their money poorly. However, as a gardener once told, me “If you spread enough fertilizer, sooner or later flowers start growing.” Grant money will be our fertilizer.


Ralph Ellis

OLBA Marketing and Membership Director



WIBC Junior Championships

Thanks to Rob Law and Carah Webster for representing Canada at this event.

Congratulations to the Winners:

Gents Singles: Robert Kirkwood (Ireland)

Ladies Singles: Nicole Rogers (England)

Mixed Pairs: Yau Tze-Fung & Leung Seen Wah (Hong Kong)


2019 OLBA Annual Cover - Photo Competition

The OLBA Annual is an important part of our efforts to attract new participants to our sport and members to our clubs. This and last year we dedicated the cover of the Annual to the display of pictures that were selected to be “inviting”.For the 2019 Annual we are looking for the “perfect” picture taken from a new and refreshing perspective, that of our members. The photos below were taken and submitted by OLBA members.Here is your chance to choose that cover picture. Consider the wonderful choices below and then cast your vote.The deadline for voting is Friday, February 15, 2019, at 10:00 p.m.​​Please - only one vote submission per OLBA member.


Want to enjoy and relive some of the fantastic moments that took place during the 2018 Canadian Singles Championship? We've got you covered!

Go the Bowls Canada YouTube channel and enjoy some of the games we streamed!


SAVE THE DATE - National Bowls Day 2019



Bowls Canada Boulingrin is pleased to announce that Saturday, June 8th 2019 will mark the 3rd annual National Bowls Day in Canada.

Bowls Day is a nation-wide opportunity for clubs to implement new and innovative strategies to raise the local profile of their club and attract new bowlers to their programs. The past two years have shown excellent growth in this initiative from coast to coast and we are confident that 2019 will continue this trend.

Over 100 clubs took part in Bowls Day 2018 with various events such as open houses, barbeques, and tournaments. All events held by bowls clubs around the country are beneficial in garnering interest in the sport of bowls and raising the profile of the sport on a national level. We are excited to work with clubs across the country to make Bowls Day 2019 the best event yet.

Online registration will open in the new year. Registered clubs can access free resources and promotional support, as well as a chance to win fantastic prizes.


For more information, please contact:Matt Nafe, Operations & Communications Coordinator, Bowls Canada


Want to hire a summer student from a horticultural college to cut your greens next year? Get the federal government to help you.


Thanks to my local MP for the information.

The application period for the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program is now open. I want to help employers like you hire youth and create valuable summer job opportunities that strengthen our local economy and our community.

Following feedback from stakeholders across the country, updates have been made for CSJ 2019 that will make it easier than ever for employers to provide good quality summer jobs.

· Fewer barriers to good quality jobs: expanded eligibility to include all youth between the ages of 15-30 who are legally entitled to work in Canada – not just students.· Updated eligibility criteria: the eligibility criteria have been changed to set out what is and isn’t eligible for funding· Better job matching: All positions will be posted on and on the app, to get the word out and help match young people with employers and good quality jobs.

This year the government has made it easier than ever to apply for CSJ funding. Everything can be submitted online through our Government Grants and Contributions Online Service. You can complete the application at your leisure and track its status once it has been submitted.

Funding is available for not-for-profit organizations and public and private sector employers with 50 or fewer employees. If you are a non-profit organization you can receive up to 100 percent of the provincial/territorial minimum hourly wage, as well as employment-related costs. Public-sector employers and small businesses can receive up to 50 percent of the provincial/territorial minimum hourly wage.

CSJ focuses on local priorities, and I am also encouraging more employers to come forward with applications that support and complement a number of national priorities. These include:

Organizations that provide services to, and that express an intent to hire, youth who self-identify as being part of the groups which are underrepresented or have additional barriers to the labour market;Opportunities for youth to gain work experience related to the skilled trades;Opportunities for youth in rural areas, remote communities and Official Language Minority Communities;Small businesses, in recognition of their contribution to the creation of jobs; andOrganizations which deliver supports or services to seniors.

Not-for-profit organizations that provide programs and services to children, youth, seniors, new immigrants, and persons with disabilities specifically in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas.Employers who intend to hire youth from underrepresented groups, including new immigrant youth/refugees, Indigenous youth, youth with disabilities, visible minorities, and women locallySkilled tradesSupport science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as information, communication and technology opportunities (ICT).

I know many of you have hired youth in the past and know how beneficial it was to your organization. As community leaders, you also know how important a summer job is to help develop the skills and experience needed to start a career and join the workforce. By participating in CSJ you are helping the young people of your area gain those skills and the confidence needed for a bright future.

I encourage you to take advantage of this program and apply for funding by January 25th, 2019.

For more information on CSJ, including the eligibility criteria and application guide, visit, a Service Canada Office or call 1-800-935-5555. See the link below.


Grants and Membership Visits 

If your club could use

$25,000 to $150,000 in grant money

to improve your facilities and help recruit members, contact Ralph Ellis



Need a weekly fix of bowling news?

Want to stay informed on all the Bowls Canada Boulingrin news.  

Try the Bowls Canada  Newsletter



Growing Your Club

Marketing Membership and Grants!

We are here to help! Contact Ralph Ellis


Lan Bowls  Give it a try!

Letters to the Editor:


Comments and quetions are welcome. (


Disclaimer:The information and articles provided in this email represent the opinions of the articles author and should not be considered as endorsed by or policy of the Ontario Lawn Bowls Association OR it's Directors.

Ontario Lawn Bowling Assoc.

Box 1093
Tilbury, ON ​Canada
N0P 2L0​

John Fantin

Edith Pedden


Steve Schuknecht
​Director at Large

Ron Charles
​Director at Large

David Koert
​Director at Large

Charles Roach
​Director at Large


Ken Simpson

Phillip Francis
​Vice President, 

Dave Burrows
​Director at Large

Tom Roth​
​Director at Large

Jason Currie
​Director at Large

Ralph Ellis
​Director at Large