In our previous article in this series we discussed the naturist apathy problem and offered some suggestions anyone could try personally to build enthusiasm for naturism in oneself and others. The last of these was to start your own non-landed naturist club. That is, an informal social club that meets at the homes of its members or at naturist locations that group members visit together. (Here’s a short article with a brief overview of the subject.)
Perhaps that sounds like it could be a lot of work and entail a substantial commitment of time. But that’s not necessarily so. There are many types of informal naturist clubs, and they can be as small and simple as you want. Such a group might be just like any other informal social group you belong to, except all members enjoy social nudity to some degree or other. Groups can be as diverse in nature as individuals can. More formal groups could be larger, cover a more extensive geographic area, have regularly scheduled social events, and affiliate with national naturist organizations like TNS and AANR in order to attract new members.
These naturist groups are commonly referred to as “non-landed”, because they don’t (usually) own property as “landed” naturist camps, parks, and resorts do. However, members of non-landed clubs often do go together to visit landed clubs, swimming holes, clothing-optional beaches, or naturist-friendly hiking and camping areas. In other words, just about anything naturist individuals, couples, or families could do on their own – but with the added advantage of already knowing many of the other people involved.
Here are some of the advantages of belonging to even the simplest, most informal non-landed naturist groups:
- You have an incentive to enjoy social nudity on a regular basis with people you know who also enjoy nudity.
- Other club members may have amenities at their homes that you don’t – such as private hot tubs, swimming pools, saunas, or enough property to enjoy nude picnics, hiking, or other outdoor activities.
- If you want to take off on short notice to visit a place for skinny-dipping, nude hiking or camping, there may be others in the group who would like to join you.
- Similarly, if you feel like visiting a landed club, you can easily find other people you know to go along.
- You have an opportunity to meet other naturists who also share non-naturist interests with you, such as cooking, scuba diving, or fixing cars.
- Many vacation areas that aren’t specifically naturist do have rental accommodations available that can be shared by small groups or several couples and families. So you can enjoy some social nudity as part of a more “normal” vacation experience.
- For trips to landed clubs or other locations that aren’t close to home, you can arrange to carpool with others to save expenses.
- If you have a family with children, you can find other naturist families so that your kids will be able to have their own naturist friends.
All these benefits are possible in small, informal groups where everyone mostly knows everyone else. New people who learn about the group from existing members or from meetings at landed clubs may join occasionally, but for the most part the group will be mainly the same people. However, there are additional benefits possible in larger, more formal groups. Of course, organizing and running a larger group can be more work – but there are also more folks to share the work.
Additional benefits of larger groups include:
- The group can affiliate with regional or national naturist/nudist organizations, such as TNS and AANR. This makes it much easier for new people to learn about the group and consider joining it. So there can regularly be new members in the group for more diversity and possible activities, as well as replacing people who can no longer participate.
- Larger groups typically collect some small annual dues or event charges in order to cover costs like newsletters, online services (e. g. Web pages), rental of facilities or equipment, etc. But members benefit from such things where costs are shared. More members means more people to share costs with. A small group wouldn’t have enough members to reserve for a private event at, for example, a health club, yoga class, commercial swimming pool, or restaurant, but a larger group can.
- The more people in the group the more likely you are to find other naturists who share some hobby or special interest with you – hiking, chess, fishing, amateur astronomy, photography, painting, or whatever.
OK, sounds good. Are there many existing groups to join?
If you’re lucky, there’s already a suitable non-landed group with activities not too far from you, so you don’t need to do anything but get in touch with them to see whether there’s mutual interest. Maybe you’re even aware of such a group, perhaps from talking to people you’ve met at a clothing-optional beach or a landed club. But if not, a good place to start is by checking the lists of clubs affiliated with AANR or TNS. The AANR list is here. Simply find your location on the map and check the list of nearby clubs. The TNS list is here (PDF file). Note that both lists include both landed and non-landed clubs.
If you find a non-landed club that seems close enough, go ahead and contact them. If they are currently looking for new members, they’ll arrange to meet with you at a mutually convenient time and place. Perhaps they’ll even invite you to one of their events. Keep in mind that non-landed clubs are private social groups, and you may find that the people aren’t quite as compatible as you’d hope. So just take that in stride and keep looking.
What if you don’t find a club that seems close enough to you, or if you inquire with a club or two but don’t find one that seems like a good match? Remember that the TNS and AANR lists are just a place to start. Since non-landed clubs are private, there are probably many that aren’t listed and may not ever think of themselves as a formal club at all. Nobody really knows how many such groups there are – a lot are simply “off the radar”. If you visit landed clubs or nude beaches, you may be able to learn about a convenient club by word of mouth from talking with people you meet at the club/beach.
It’s worth going through the exercise of discovering what groups may already exist in your general area. If you start to think seriously about starting a group yourself, you’ll want to know what the “competition” is like. And you’ll probably want to find members for your own club, unless you already know enough people who’re interested. Even if you have enough naturist friends to start a group quickly, in the future you may want to have more members, so it’s a good thing to understand the process through which groups and potential members discover each other.
If you can’t find a suitable group to join, start your own
Starting a new group isn’t that hard, especially for a small, informal group. Obviously, you need a few other people initially. If you’ve been involved with social nudity for any length of time, then by definition you’ve met other people who have the same interest. Maybe that’s only a few close friends, or perhaps a number of other more causal acquaintances you’ve met at landed clubs, clothing-optional beaches, etc. But that’s a start. There’s no optimal size for a group, as long as there are enough people that meeting somewhat regularly doesn’t start to make you yearn for a little more diversity.
The important thing at first is for everyone to live within a reasonable distance of each other, so that getting together is relatively easy. In an urban or suburban area of any size, that’s probably not too hard. In a more rural area, it takes more effort – as most things do, like shopping, eating out, finding a doctor/dentist, etc.
Once you have what you consider “enough” people, you’ve done about all that’s needed. You simply have another social group of friends. You don’t need to formally “register” the group with anyone – either established naturist organizations or public officials. As long as you have places to meet, you don’t need to have dues, since you just share the expenses as they come up. Since you’re not actually collecting money, you don’t need a bank account, any legal documents, or any involvement with the IRS.
But there are a few other things you might want to do, which may or may not cost a little money. For instance, in order plan events or discuss club affairs, you might take advantage of free online services such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ for communication among your members. The services come in various forms, such as private online groups (at Facebook, Google, etc.), email lists, blogs, club Web sites, bulletin boards, or naturist social networks. At some point, I’ll be writing more about the use of such tools. Chances are, however, you’ll have one or more members who know how to use some of the available tools.
All you really need is a way to communicate with others for planning events and notifying the whole group when something is scheduled, although the more information you give members the better. In the old days, that was done by snail mail or telephone. But the online tools just work better, as long as all your members can figure out how to access them.
Of course, once you have such tools, the more you use them the better. For full members of your club, provide detailed information about your activities, to promote good attendance – and after an event to let people who didn’t attend know what they missed. Especially if your group has members from a relatively wide area, such tools are a good way for everyone to interact even if it’s difficult to attend specific events. This can also keep people engaged with the group at times of the year when outdoor activities are not feasible.
The right kind of online tools also allow any member of the group to contribute interesting material for others to read, see (pictures), or watch (YouTube videos), and to organize informal activities. For instance, someone might post a notice like “Hey, I’m going camping this weekend at Clothesfree Lake. Anybody want to join me? There’s great hiking places nearby too.” This opportunity fosters active engagement of members with the group as a whole, even people they might not have met yet.
Want to grow the club and add new members? That’s a bit more work
If you and other group members are interested in adding a few others to the group there are some initial, simple things you can do. Since you already have an online presence (don’t you?), it can enable anyone in your area who stumbles across it to learn about and maybe even join your club. For privacy reasons, you may not want to publicize too much about your members or give specifics about when and where you are having events. (Although there are some clubs that are pretty open about that, especially in giving details about past events to whet the appetites of prospective members.) But do offer general information about what your club does so that people have some idea if they’d like it. You might even set up an automated mailing list for anyone interested to keep informed of what your club is doing, but without precise details.
The next step is to visit landed clubs or nude beaches within a reasonable distance, if any. Actively get to know others there, and try to find some who’d be interested in such a club and who live fairly close to you. They could be happy to join. You should also let people who seem to be “well-connected” at nearby landed clubs or nude beaches know about your group. That will enable new people to find you by “word of mouth”. Landed clubs are usually independent businesses (even if “non-profit”) that need good customers to keep operating. So most of them are happy to promote non-landed clubs if they think such clubs will bring in new paying customers. Sometimes people form independent groups that meet primarily at a specific park or resort. Other groups form primarily to use (and support) a specific clothing-optional beach.
Another possibility is to announce your club on selected online naturist sites. You will also want to say a few words about your group’s history, what kind of activities and events the group has, and perhaps some general words about prominent interests of the members (such as outdoor activities like camping and hiking, pot luck parties, trips to landed clubs, etc.). Obviously, you want to be noticed by interested people in your general area. That can be hard to do with broad-based sites such as Facebook and Twitter, unless they have specific subsections for your area. But it’s probably worth putting up a notice at such places anyhow.
There are a few naturist-only social networks such as NudistClubhouse.com and Nook. These often have state or regional subsections that might be good places to post something. But naturist/nudist “friend finder” type sites should usually be avoided. Users of such sites tend to have little actual understanding of naturist ideals and values. There are many other legitimate online naturist/nudist sites you could try, but unfortunately there are so many that each has little traffic, and even listing some of the best here would take up too much space in this article.
Conventional “advertising”, even in free community weekly newspapers, may not be worthwhile. Sadly, the general public, for the most part, has such a little understanding of naturism/nudism that the people who learn of your group in this way may not be right for your group. Your existing members, really, are the best way to find new members. Everyone will probably have a friend or two that nobody else knows, yet who might be interested in social nudity and compatible with the group. So you should encourage each other to talk up your group to others they know, both friends and extended family, who might be good prospects.
It’s only when your group is still interested in adding new members but isn’t finding them that things get a little more complicated. For one thing, you may need to expand your membership beyond your immediate area – say outside a radius of 25 or 35 miles. In that case, you’ll be dealing with people who know personally few others (if any) in the group. Apart from word of mouth at landed clubs (which might be some distance away), probably the best bet for finding new members is by affiliating with TNS or AANR.
To learn what’s required to affiliate, you’ll have to contact the organizations directly. You’ll probably get the most help if you (personally) are already a member of the organization. TNS has a document with some information about that, here. It’s a PDF file, and is only partially relevant. Chapter Two of that document has tips on starting a club, and “Item A” at the end goes into more detail. There’s some useful information in there, so it’s worth a few minutes to look through it. Among other things, it tells how to go about getting affiliated with TNS. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, AANR doesn’t have easily accessible online information on starting a non-landed club or how to become affiliated. (Does it seem as though being helpful isn’t a high priority for them?) You should contact them via this page, perhaps by email to the “Member and Club Liaison”.
One clear advantage in seeking new members via TNS or AANR affiliation is that people who use their information are likely to be more knowledgeable about social nudity, and if they are already organization members you can be slightly more confident that they will be respectful of well-established naturist ideals and values. Unfortunately, there are many people interested in (what they think is) naturism/nudism who do not fully understand those ideals and values. Your club may or may not want to be the place that they gain the appropriate understanding.
If you do want to use affiliation with TNS or AANR, you’ll need a way for complete strangers to get in touch with you. That’s easy if you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, a Web site of your own, or even an email address. But there are still many people who don’t use online tools very much, or at all. That means you’ll probably need a P. O. box and perhaps a telephone (with answering machine or voice mail). Those are ongoing expenses, so you’ll probably need club dues to cover the costs. (As well as expenses for printed materials and postage.) So you’ll have to start handling money, which means a bank account and a trustworthy club treasurer. And the IRS will be interested too, so you’ll need to do the right things. The IRS doesn’t require social clubs to pay taxes if they’re legitimately non-profit and don’t do significant amounts of business with the general public. The relevant IRS category is 501(c)(7), and you can read about it here. Depending on state and local laws you may also need to have some sort of legal status, which means having officers, by-laws, etc. So there will be complications and red tape and additional expenses.
I can’t give legal advice about any of that. Your best bet if you’re going to consider a more formal organization is to talk to various people who’ve already been through the process with their own clubs. Fortunately, you can use the TNS and AANR lists and online services to contact such people – you don’t need to make cold calls to strangers to do this any longer. It’s useful, for other reasons as well, to make contact with leaders and ordinary members of other non-landed clubs in your part of the country, or perhaps even fairly distant ones. It’s always good to seek ideas and advice from other successful clubs.
Such contacts can also be useful for arranging occasional joint activities with other relatively nearby non-landed groups, such as visits to landed clubs and places for outdoor nude recreation. You may also be able to cooperate with other groups in the region on political issues affecting naturists. As long as the groups don’t feel they are in direct competition, getting to know the leaders and members of each others’ groups can be very worthwhile.
If you take things a step at a time, start small, and grow slowly, there’s reason to hope you’ll find participating in and even helping to run a non-landed naturist club to be very worthwhile – probably worth a lot more than the effort required.