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Managing a Club
Now that your club is established, you will want to ensure that you manage your club following best practices. This section outlines important information about managing your club. The RRCA highly recommends that running clubs send their club president or designated leader to the RRCA Annual Convention. The RRCA Convention is designed to be an educational opportunity to learn more about best practices in managing a running club and events. It is also a great opportunity to network with other club and event leaders from around the country. Each club leader receives a copy of Inside Track, our best practices newsletter. Back issues of Inside Track can be found on our website and contain informative articles on managing clubs and events.
The following section is broken down into important segments:
- Important Policies to Adopt
- Managing your Club Membership
- Club Membership Waiver of Participation (Required for all members in RRCA)
- Managing your Club Finances
- Legal Responsibilities of Your Board
- Smooth Leadership Transitions
- Member Code of Conduct
Conflict of Interest Policy
The Officers, Directors, and employees of a running club owe a duty of loyalty to the organization they serve, which requires that in serving their organization they act, not in their personal interests or in the interests of others, but rather solely in the interests of the organization. Officers, Directors, and employees must have undivided allegiance to an organizations mission and may not use their positions, information they have about the organization, or property of the organization, in a manner that allows them to secure a financial benefit for themselves or their relatives. To this effect, all nonprofit running clubs are encouraged to adopt a Conflict of Interest policy with an accompanying disclosure requirement. The RRCA Board of Directors has adopted a Conflict of Interest Policy and disclosure statement that members are encouraged to use as a template to adopt their own policy.
Ethics Policy or Code of Conduct
Runners are passionate people. They care about their sport and their involvement in their local running club. To help ensure that the interactions of the Board of Directors remains positive and civil even in the face of conflict, clubs are encourage to develop and adopt a code of conduct or an ethics policy to guide board and club members. The RRCA Board of Directors has adopted a Code of Conduct that members are encourage to use as a template to adopt their own policy.
Required Policies for Nonprofits from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
In 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed. Now you are asking yourself, what does Sarbanes-Oxley have to do with running and the RRCA? Sarbanes-Oxley Act makes it a federal crime for any organization — nonprofit and for-profit to retaliate against a “whistleblower” that reports illegal activity. A board approved whistleblower policy is required for nonprofits under Sarbanes-Oxley. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act also forbids the purging of documents when any organization — nonprofit or for-profit — is under federal investigation. A document destruction policy provides guidelines for the proper disposal of records and to prevent destruction of relevant documentation if an organization is involved in litigation. To ensure compliance with these two provisions for nonprofits, the RRCA Board of Directors has adopted a comprehensive Whistleblower Policy and Document Retention & Destruction Policy. Members taking advantage of the RRCA nonprofit group exemption status should take extra care to ensure that they adopt similar policies to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Criminal Background Check for the Treasurer and/or Staff Responsible for Money
As a guideline, the RRCA recommends having a volunteer treasurer undergo a criminal background check to ensure there is not a history of theft or financial fraud. To assist your organization we recommend you adopt the following policy:
Criminal background checks should be performed on an ongoing basis throughout the year. The President of a running club or event or a duly authorized official should manage any criminal background check procedure on behalf of the club, event, or youth running program. The results of the criminal background checks should be kept strictly confidential and only people authorized individuals should have access to the reports. If a background check discloses a criminal conviction of a theft related or fraudulent crime within a 15-year period, this person should be disqualified from a position involving the handling of funds.
Criminal Background Check for Anyone Working with Youth
Anyone working with minors such as coaches, assistant coaches, volunteers, or employees engaged in working with youth (legal minors) on behalf of a club or event must submit to a criminal background check. Criminal background checks should be performed on an ongoing basis throughout the year. The President of a running club or event or a duly authorized official should manage any criminal background check procedure on behalf of the club, event, or youth running program. The results of the criminal background checks should be kept strictly confidential and only people authorized individuals should have access to the reports.
If a background check discloses a criminal conviction for a violent crime against a person including a sex offense within a 20-year period, this person should be disqualified from working with youth.
Most clubs start small with a group of friends but if the running community is active, the club can quickly grow. We recommend that your club designate or appoint someone as the membership director or coordinator if the position is not included as part of the board of directors. The job of the membership coordinator is to maintain a listing of the members, collect annual membership dues, and report dues income to the Board. The membership coordinator may also assist with communication efforts to the membership by working with a newsletter editor, a webmaster, or social media coordinator for the organization. One important job for the membership coordinator is to ensure that all club members sign an annual waiver of liability for all activities they participate in related to the club. All clubs are required to obtain waivers from their members as part of the RRCA insurance program. Download our recommendedclub member waiver.
If guests attend a group training run or social event, have a waiver on hand for them to sign. You should not allow a guest to participate in club training runs without a signed waiver. We recommend printing a page with the waiver at the top and then have guests sign on the same page along with their contact and emergency contact information. This will help cover the club in the event of an incident and can help the club follow-up and encourage guests to join. The membership coordinator needs to retain all waivers for three to six years in the event that a claim is filed by a member or guest against the club following an incident.
In this day and age, the RRCA highly recommends using an online system for joining, renewing, and managing members. An online system can assist with collecting and archiving waivers, gathering emergency contact and important medical information for members and much more. The RRCA has partnered with RunClubSignUp.com to bring running club leaders a club management system designed to make life easier for club directors and their members. You can create your club management system through a simple wizard and allow your club members to join. This system can automatically renew members, offers a free upload of member data from offline registrations, provides for easy to download data into Excel, you can create custom questions for members, sell club merchandize, accept donations, outline group training plans, and more. Best of all, you can embed all of these features on your club’s website to keep your members on your site, and your club email list won’t be used by a third party for marketing purposes.
I agree that I am a member of _______________________ (Name of Club), and I know that running in and volunteering for organized group runs, social events, and races with this club are potentially hazardous activities, which could cause injury or death. I will not participate in any club organized events, group training runs or social events, unless I am medically able and properly trained, and by my signature, I certify that I am medically able to perform all activities associated with the club and am in good health, and I am properly trained. I agree to abide by all rules established by the club , including the right of any official to deny or suspend my participation for any reason whatsoever. I attest that I have read the rules of the club agree to abide by them. I assume all risks associated with being a member of this club and participating in club activities which may include: falls, contact with other participants, the effects of the weather, including high heat and/or humidity, traffic and the conditions of the road [insert any specific risks related to your here, e.g. “the alligators who bask in the sun at the corner of 4th and Sunset St…”’], all such risks being known and appreciated by me. I understand that bicycles, skateboards, baby joggers, roller skates or roller blades, animals, and personal music players are not allowed to be used in club organized activities and I agree to abide by this rule. Having read this waiver and knowing these facts and inconsideration of your accepting my membership, I, for myself and anyone entitled to act on my behalf, waive and release the __________________ [Name of Club], the city of ______________________, and the Road Runners Club of America, all club sponsors, their representatives and successors from all claims or liabilities of any kind arising out of my participation with the club, even though that liability may arise out of negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons named in this waiver. I grant permission to all of the foregoing to use my photographs, motion pictures, recordings or any other record for any legitimate promotional purposes for the club.
Parent’s Signature if under 18 years:
An important step in successfully managing a club or event’s finances is ensuring that every board member understands their fiduciary obligations as part of serving on a board. Board members are ultimately responsible for the financial well-being of an organization which includes ensuring adequate income, control over spending, safeguarding assets, and reporting financial status to appropriate internal and external audiences. Individuals that serve on the board of a nonprofit running club or event do not need to be experts in financial management, but they do need to take a general interest in the financial status of the organization they are serving. This means paying close attention during a treasurer’s report, reviewing financial statements as provided and asking questions if information is unclear or seems in conflict with the organizations policies or budget.
The board should ensure that there are policies in place to protect the organization from fraud or theft. These policies are often referred to as internal controls. An important aspect of internal controls is segregation of duties. In the all volunteer run organization, often times full financial management is delegated to the treasurer by the board or in stipulated in the bylaws. However, this is not the best practice to ensure against theft or fraud. For the most part people are honest and respect their duty of loyalty to an organization, however it only takes one dishonest person to de-fraud an organization and it is this fact that boards must create policies to safeguard against.
The Role of the Treasurer
The treasurer of an organization is typically an elected or appointed member of a board. In an all volunteer run organization, the treasurer is responsible for keeping full and accurate accounts of all income (receipts) and expenses (disbursements or checks). If an organization has paid staff, this function may be delegated or an organization with no staff may at least outsource this function to a paid bookkeeper. The treasurer should, however maintain oversight of the accounting functions and provide periodic financial reports to the full board. There is no hard and fast rule how often financial reports should be shared, but a general rule of thumb is the reports should be no less than quarterly. Reports presented monthly or every other month will aid in better decision making for an organization. A board should establish a financial reporting policy to clarify the expected frequency of reporting.
The treasurer should regularly remind members of a board that they have an obligation to pay attention to the financial status of the organization. At times, board members or even a treasurer may remark that they received a printed financial report and time should not be wasted in reviewing it during a meeting. Resist this temptation to limit verbal review of financial statements. It is the diligence of oral review and discussion that can often bring financial concerns to light.
A sample job description of a board treasurer:
- Oversee the budget planning process
- Ensure adequate income available to achieve the budgeted expenses
- Safeguard the organizations assets
- Draft financial policies for board approval
- Anticipate and report financial problems
- Ensure the board receives regular and accurate financial statements and that the board members understand the information presented
- Ensure federal, state, and local reporting takes place
These duties may be assigned to an individual or to a committee chaired by a treasurer and often referred to as a finance committee.
Internal controls should be established for an organization that clearly outlines divisions of duties, which means who is going to be responsible and held accountable for what aspects of the financial management process. The financial management process in a running club or event typically involves at least five steps:
- Receive income (dues, sponsorship, donations, etc)
- Deposit these items into a board approved bank account
- Write checks drawn from the board approved bank account
- Reconcile the statements from the board approved bank account
- Report the financial status of the organization to the board
One individual, typically the treasurer, should not be expected to handle every aspect of the financial management process. Instead the treasurer, in agreement with the president or chair of a board, may appoint one or more individuals to assist with the process. A finance committee may also serve to fulfill this role if there is no staff support. By engaging more than one individual in the process important division of duties are created.
Clubs and events should maintain a checking account or bank account in a board approved financial institution. Incorporating your club or event may be required to open a bank account. Members of the board or individual members of a club should never be allowed to co-mingle the club’s finances in their personal checking accounts.
Signers on a bank account should be reviewed at least annually and individuals no longer allowed to sign on an account should be removed immediately. Boards should also consider approving a check signing policy. These policies typically dictate how many individuals are needed to sign a check on behalf of an organization. Some organizations always require two signatures while others may have a dollar amount threshold. For example, two signatures are needed for checks over $500 or some agreed up amount.
To assist with divisions of duties, clubs and events should consider the following if they don’t have paid financial staff:
- Require all checks to be co-signed
- Have an individual other than the treasurer receive a copy of the bank statement, ideally the president or board chair. The statements should include at least images of the cancelled checks. This individual should be free to question any check drawn from the club/event checking account or question any deposit made into the account.
- Ensure documentation of income received—photocopy or scan checks
- Ensure documentation of expenses paid -maintain copies of invoices and note the check number and date paid on the invoice.
- Ensure bank statements are reconciled. If the treasurer reconciles the bank statements have another individual review the reconciliation report. Failure to reconcile bank accounts in a timely manner can mask serious cash flow problems.
The full board of an organization is responsible for the overall financial success of an organization. Developing sound policies and procedures that safeguard an organization’s assets is not only good practice, but it can also helps shield the treasurer from undue suspicion as this individual carries out the responsibilities of the position on behalf of the organization and its members. We encourage our members to take time at their next board meeting to discuss there financial management procedures, internal controls and division of duties and consider policies to address areas of concern or deficiency.
What kind of financial filings are nonprofits required to provide?
- 501(c)(3) organizations with gross revenue of over $25,000 a year are required to file a Form 990 (or Form 990-EZ) with the IRS each year. Organizations with gross revenue less than $25,000 are required to file the 990-n online.
- If an organization has unrelated business income from items like t-shirt sales you should pay the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) and local sales tax
- State or local income or business property taxes
- Payroll taxes for staff
- Form 1099 for independent contractors earning more than $500 per year
Consult with a local auditor or accountant for questions. The RRCA does not file any tax forms, especially form 990, on behalf of our affiliates. Tax filings are the responsibility of each member club and event
Important Questions Your Board Should Be Able to Answer:
- Is your organization showing a profit or loss this month/quarter?
- Is there a projected profit or loss for the end of the year?
- What do you need to do to address a loss?
- Are your revenue sources (dues, race registration, sponsorship) increasing or decreasing?
- Do you have a diverse source of revenue or are you dependant on a single source?
- Are key expenses under control?
- Does your organization have sufficient reserves?
- Is your cash flow projection adequate?
- Are your revenue and expenses on track with your budget?
- Is your budget consistent with your mission, strategic plan, or vision statement?
Before any organization can answer these questions, they must first have a financial plan or a budget. Second, they must have a systems for recording income and expenses. This system is known as an accounting system. Third, the organization must generate reports based on the data input in the accounting system and discuss the reports. Without these three steps, a Board will not be able to answer the important questions outlined above.
The budget is the annual financial plan for an organization. While drafting and managing a budget can be a bit of a look into the crystal ball exercise, a few important planning steps can help improve budget accuracy.
The first step in drafting a budget is to look at the prior year’s income and expenses to help establish an operating baseline. If your organization ran a deficit, learn from the loss. Was your organization over ambitious on revenue planning? Did you have an unexpected expense? Will this be a re-occurring issue in the future? If so, plan for it, don’t avoid it. Do you have new goals for the coming year? It is important to outline new goals in writing; then determine an associated cost or revenue projection. For example, if your goal is to increase membership or race entrants by 25% then you will increase your membership income budget, but at the same time, you may need to increase the budget for your marketing expenses. When drafting your budget, be realistic about the revenue your organization can generate. Inflating the revenue budget to simply exceed the budgeted expenses can lead to an actual deficit at the end of the year. Be sure to have a contingency plan if revenue falls short of expectations to minimize the likelihood of a deficit at year’s end.
When drafting your budget, it is also important to review your accounting system. Your budget categories should match your chart of accounts or accounting categories. It is also important to account for income and expenses how they are outlined in a budget. If the two systems do not match, then you will not be able to generate financial statements that match your budget. The result is that your board may not get an accurate picture of the income and expenses compared to the budget.
The actual budget should consist of three important elements:
- The budget period i.e. January 1–December 31, 2008
- Two-year income and expense comparison (You may need to use projections for the immediate previous year)
- The budget for the coming year which includes income, expenses, and budgeted profit or loss with notes outlining significant variances compared to previous years
Nonprofit does not mean no profit. A nonprofit club or event may budget a profit, but board members may not distribute the profit amongst themselves. This is what defines them as a nonprofit. A nonprofit may also elect to budget a loss if there are adequate cash reserves to support the loss. For example the budget may include spending reserves for a special project that annual income may not fully support. If a board elects to budget a loss, this fact should be clearly recorded in the organization’s minutes.
Accounting for Income and Expenses
Many small nonprofits use a simple cash basis for accounting, meaning they simply record cash in and expenses out of a checking account. This is adequate for very small organizations with simple operations, as long as the treasurer reports to the board the income received, the expenses paid, and the balance of the checking account and if there is an adequate cash balance in the account to cover future expenses.
In organizations with more sophisticated operations, multiple events, multiple programs, independent contractors, employees, etc. an accrual and fund accounting system is recommended. An accrual system matches income and expenses within the same time period. To be in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles, financial statements should be prepared on the accrual basis. Fund accounting is a concept most often related to nonprofit organizations. Financial records should be maintained for each program, race, or activity that receives income designated for that specific purpose. Each set of records is called a “fund” and is considered a separate accounting category and may have sub-categories. There should also be corresponding expense lines. For example an accounting system or chart of accounts and your corresponding budget may look similar to the following:
- Membership Dues
- Club Sponsorship
- Program Fees
- Beginning Running Program
- Marathon Training Program
- Youth Running Program
- Race Income (Create a category for each race as opposed to lumping them all together)
- Race Entry Fees
- Donations collected
- Misc. Income
- Program Expenses
- Beginning Running Program
- Marathon Training Program
- Youth Running Program
- Race Expenses (Create a category for each race as opposed to lumping them all together)
- Permit Fees
- Finisher Items
- Contributions or grants given
- Prize Money
- Create additional line items as needed
- Club Management
- RRCA Membership—Dues & Insurance
- Board meeting expenses
- Membership Recruitment & Retention
- Staff (as needed)
- Depreciation of assets (timing systems, clocks, etc.)
- Create additional line items as needed
There are many great accounting systems on the market to help organizations account for income and expenses and generate reports. If the organization utilizes an accounting system such as Quicken or QuickBooks or another product, then the club should own the software and not “borrow it” from a club member. The board may authorize for the software to be installed on a volunteer’s computer, but the club should own the software, so there is no question of data and software ownership if the volunteer chooses to relinquish their responsibility. This will also ensure accounting system continuity from treasurer to treasurer. If the club does not have paid staff, the club’s board should ensure that regular back-ups are made of the club’s accounting software and another member of the club should get a copy of the back-up data. Back-ups should be made at least monthly if not more often.
Funding the club
Beyond membership dues, try to seek out sponsors in your community. First approach those with ties to sports and health, i.e. sports stores, fitness centers, and hospitals. Then approach those with more general appeal, i.e. banks, groceries, drink companies and the well known, good corporate citizens. Your best approach will be to solicit cash and/or services from two or more of these organizations. That way if you lose one sponsor your club is not completely out in the cold and you do not have to start all over again in your sponsor search. Finding good sponsors, pleasing and keeping them is hard work, but a good sponsor base can help your club and races flourish.
Other sources of revenue that can fund a club include: entry fees from races, participant fees for specialized training groups, sales of club clothing, and contributions from individual donors.
As a collective body, the Board’s role is to ensure that your organization functions within a framework that supports your mission. The primary duties of the board are encapsulated in three duties: duty of care, duty of loyalty, and duty of obedience. Duty of care means a member ensures they are reasonably informed and they actively participate. Duty of loyalty means a board member serves in the best interest of the organization. Duty of obedience means a board member complies with applicable laws, adheres to the bylaws, and is a guardian of the mission.
There are several important legal activities the Board is responsible for, should ensure oversight of and should be held accountable for. The Board has a shared responsibility in ensuring legal compliance for the organization.
The following are the legal responsibilities of nonprofit boards outlined by Richard T. Ingram, PhD and Bruce R Hopkins, JD in their books respectively, Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards and Legal Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards.
- Adherence to local, state and federal laws pertaining to nonprofit organizations.
- Filing and making timely and accurate required reports to local, state, and federal governments
- Keeping records of lobbying activities and expenditures
- Protecting the organization’s staff from harm and ensuring compliance with OSHA standards
- Maintaining personnel policies that include a grievance policy
- Registering with the appropriate state agencies before launching fundraising campaigns
- Adhering to the organization’s bylaws and articles of incorporation and amending them as necessary
- Providing for an independent annual audit of the organization’s financial statements and activities.
- Publishing an annual report to provide to members, which includes financial statements.
Other legal responsibilities running club boards should understand:
- Adopt recommended policies to protect the integrity of the club
- Ensure well-written contracts with independent contractors that outline clear deliverables, clear payment terms, and clear ownership of works for hire by the club.
- Ensure appropriate trademarks are filed and maintained to protect the brand and identify of the club.
- Respond immediately to complaints filed by members and/or take legal threats seriously by reviewing them with the RRCA. If a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company will appoint counsel for the club and manage the lawsuit.
Meetings and business items
Club board meetings should be scheduled with consistency, i.e. every other month. Board members and committee members should attend these meetings and members in good standing should be invited to attend as well. Keep in mind that a nonprofit club is run by the board and the members, not the person whose initial idea it was to start the club. Meetings should follow a pre-determined agenda. The meeting can and should be collegial, but should also abide by Robert’s Rules of Order. Important decisions made by the board should be approved in the form of a motion or official resolution and recorded as in the minutes. Operating on general consensus without taking official votes from board members can cause confusion down the line. Only official decisions recorded in the minutes are binding for the organization. Board members with potential conflicts of interest should refrain from voting on items that they may benefit from.
If your club is a nonprofit organization, one of the provisions for RRCA membership is that the club has a board of directors to make certain the organization functions within a framework that supports their mission and aligns with the RRCA. At a certain point each year, one or more new members of a club’s board are appointed, elected or installed, most without knowing exactly their role, or that of the board of directors. Some of those board functions include overseeing and making certain the club adheres to local, state and federal laws pertaining to nonprofit organizations, which includes making timely and accurate reports required by local, state, and federal government agencies. The board ensures they follow the organization’s bylaws and articles of incorporation; if circumstances merit a change, the board can follow the approved amendment process.
New board members should have no difficulty complying with applicable laws, adhering to the club’s bylaws, and serving as a guardian of the what should clubs expect of the new board member. Ideally, the board member has been apprised of the duties and requirements during the nomination period, but some recommended points are:
- Attend and participate consistently in the club scheduled board meetings. Members in good standing should be invited to attend as well.
- Remember that a nonprofit club and many of the club’s activities are run by the board and the members. This could mean a temporary hiatus from participating in some events.
- Act in a collegial manner. While there can be and are disagreements on what decisions are made, don’t allow personal conflict to get in the way of good governance.
- Understand Robert’s Rules of Order. Important decisions made by the board are approved in the form of a motion or official resolution and recorded as such in the minutes. Only official decisions recorded in the minutes are binding.
- If there is a business item that may benefit you personally - a conflict of interest - refrain from voting on it, and remember no board member should ever profit from his or her service on the board.
A small binder with several important documents can make a new board member’s transition less stressful. The binder should include the club bylaws (roles, responsibilities, terms, and provisions for major club functions), minutes from previous year’s meetings, the most recent annual report to membership, financial statements, and more. Each club can probably think of other documents to get a new board member up to speed, avoid the “toe-stepping” and frustration that comes early in their tenure, and perhaps keep them on for an entire term or longer.
Recommended First Steps for New Presidents
Ideally as a new president, the person has already been a member of the board and is up to speed with many aspects of the organization. However, there are several key items that the incoming president should be sure to address. The following is a basic checklist for incoming presidents to help them manage the board transition process.
- Review corporate documents and club policies. Sometimes leadership transitions can, unfortunately, mean a loss of institutional knowledge. New board leaders should ensure they have copies of important documents. If the outgoing leadership does not supply these documents, check with the RRCA first. Chances are the bylaws are on file with the RRCA, and we can send you a copy of the RRCA’s IRS determination letter. If the RRCA does not have a copy of your bylaws, the organization’s bank will most likely have a copy on file.
- Meet with the club treasurer. Take time to meet with or talk to the treasurer in advance of the first board meeting. Do not be afraid to ask to see the organization’s bank statements, checking account, financial reports, etc. All incoming presidents should review the RRCA’s recommendations for managing club finances found above.
- Schedule the first board meeting. It is important that the president or chairperson of the board does not allow too much time to pass between the date of the election and the first meeting. The first meeting is a good time to have a discussion on expectations of how meetings will be run, how discussions and disagreements will be managed, and other items that will help establish the expectations of the president and the board as a whole. Each board member should be supplied with a board handbook. Be sure to schedule future board meetings during this meeting and encourage attendance.
- Reach out to the members. Reaching out to the members of the club as soon as possible is an important step in keeping the members engaged throughout the leadership transition. The first outreach effort can be a simple email of thank you for being elected into the position. This is also a great opportunity to put out a call for volunteers. Then continue to engage with the members by writing regular president’s letters or reports on behalf of the board in the club’s newsletters, emails, Facebook pages, etc.
- Contact the RRCA. New club presidents serve as the primary contact to the RRCA, or the club president can delegate this role to the treasurer, or to an RRCA liaison. It is important that the president contact the RRCA national office as soon as possible to ensure the most-up-to-date contact information for the club is on file with the RRCA if the primary contact will change with the new president.
- Appoint people to key positions. Work with the board to appoint or reappoint people to standing committees or important volunteer positions in the club such as website, membership, volunteer, races, social, etc. Unless otherwise stipulated in the club’s bylaws, Robert’s Rules of Order outlines that committees dissolve and should be reappoint annually with each new election cycle of a board of directors to avoid any confusion about committee appointment terms.
- Plan for the coming year or term of office for the board. Begin preparing for the next year’s budget. Work with the board to outline the status of current programs and events and outline plans or objectives for new projects/programs and events.
Smooth leadership transitions should be the goal of each new board of directors as well as seasoned board members. Many boards will consist of a mix of new board members and members that have served a few years to many years. An important thing to keep in mind as new leaders come on the board is that they have skills and talents that can be utilized. The best way to engage them is to ensure that they are up to speed on the inner workings of the organization. However, seasoned board members should also encourage new ideas from new members and not fall into the trap of that’s not how we do things in this club.
On rare occasions, some clubs find themselves faced with difficult members that seem to create extreme problems for the club. These problems often include creating a hostile environment for other members due to unwanted physical or sexual contact, verbal abuse, racial or ethnic slurs, etc. While a running club experience is designed to be fun and social, at times adults may make candid remarks to be humorous. Members should be mindful how comments or actions will be perceived within a large group setting. While the need to remove club members is rare, it has happened on occasion due to inappropriate behavior. Even if your club has never had the misfortune to deal with a troublesome member, it is a good idea to consider adopting a Member Code of Conduct to help outline expected behavior within the membership for people participating in your organized club runs, events, business or social functions.
Some clubs have a Conflict of Interest that outlines how their board of directors should behave, but often times these codes or policies do not establish behavior expectations for the general membership. Adopting a Member Code of Conduct policy is a good opportunity to outline the type of atmosphere your organization is trying to create; especially as your club membership grows in size. A Code establishes a baseline expectation of behavior for all members, and it should also outline what members should do if they feel that another member is violating the club’s Code of Conduct policy. Your Member Code of Conduct policy should be included on your membership forms, ideally under your waiver of liability.
A Member Code of Conduct policy does not need to be complex. The following outlines basic points to include in a policy:
- Always show respect your fellow club members at all times;
- Always show respect and appreciation for the volunteers who give their time to help the club and/or event(s);
- Never yell, taunt, or threaten physical violence upon another member of the club, a volunteer or event spectator;
- Never use abusive or vulgar language, or make racial, ethnic or gender-related slurs or derogatory comments at club events;
- Never make unwanted sexual or physical contact with other members;
- Always report violations of the Member Code of Conduct policy to the Board in writing.
Your club might have other points to consider. However, keep in mind the goal of the Code is not to create a draconian behavior policy, but a baseline of behavior expectations so your club leaders can address behavior(s) that “cross the line.” The Internet has many sample Code of Conducts for sports organizations or sports leagues that may be helpful to review as you develop a Code for your club. Your Code should also outline the procedure for reporting complaints of a Code violation and your Board’s course of action for addressing complaints. Keep in mind; the last thing you want is to create an environment where people try to mediate interpersonal conflicts with your board of Directors. There are some people in a club that just might not be able to get along. It happens. Its not the role of the Board to make sure everyone is friends, but it is the Board’s role to ensure a truly hostile environment is not being created that threatens the general well-being of the club and its members.
Members who feel that someone has violated the club’s Code of Conduct should submit a written complaint to the Board of Directors, and the Board should take action to review the complaint in a timely manner. If a complaint is founded and depending on the severity of the violation, the Board may want to consult with a local attorney and/or local law enforcement to determine a course of action. Working with local law enforcement is the best option if the problem seems to be more serious in nature, especially if there are issues related to unwanted sexual or physical contact with other members, especially minors.
If the Code violation seems like a minor issue such as a complaint of foul language, then the Board can follow a plan of action similar to addressing behavior issues in an employment situation. First, discuss the issue with the offending member and give them a verbal warning. Be sure to document the warning. If the problem persists, give the person a written warning that outlines how another complaint will result in loss of membership and that they will be barred from participating in club activities. In the most extreme case, a club may need to consider pursuing a restraining order to address the behavior of a barred member.