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Start a Running Club
There are running clubs all over the United States from Maine to Alaska. However, not every town in the United State has a running club, but they should. The RRCA has a goal to promote the establishment local running clubs in towns and neighborhoods that lack an organized running club. The RRCA does not limit new clubs from forming in an area that already has an established club, however interested parties are always encouraged to work with an established club to determine if a new club is feasible or necessary. Some individuals interested in starting a new club really only need to reach out to an established club and offer to host training runs in their neighborhood or a location in town not being served by the established club as an extended training offering of that running club.
Organization of running clubs and events is the responsibility of local people. The RRCA, in turn, provides services, benefits and programs to support the grassroots (locally organized) clubs and events. We do not dictate management or operations to our members, but we do provide guidelines and guidance on best practices.
Running clubs generally start small and form around some type of community, whether it is workplace, university, neighborhood or faith-based group. Within these various social groups a few core individuals should lead the task of forming a running club.
Many running clubs start as a group of friends or co-workers that decide to get together for period group runs or to travel to races. When the group is small and informal (ten or fewer people) the need for official structure might be minimal. However, small informal groups can grow quickly as new friends are invited to join and they invite friends to join-in group runs. The next thing someone realizes is the group of five running buddies has morphed into 25 people showing up on a Saturday to run. When a group run starts seeing more than 10 runners participating, this is the point at which you need to consider forming a more formalized running club to protect each other from potential liability exposure.
The RRCA offers its club members affordable general liability insurance, which covers all club activities including group runs, races, social events, meetings, etc. RRCA member clubs are required to carry insurance through any insurance company, however, if a club chooses to be insured by another provider it must show proof of insurance to the RRCA national office. RRCA insurance is paid annually in December for the upcoming year and clubs can join any time of year.
Organized running clubs may offer periodic, casual group runs and/or walks or more formalized training programs, (i.e., 5K, 10K, Marathon). Clubs may be organized to put on races or fun runs for the benefit of the club or for other organizations in the community. Clubs may also be organized as youth running programs, Cross Country clubs, or serve additional functions with the goal of promoting running as a healthy lifestyle choice and a sport.
To establish a club, reach out to key individuals in the community who are interested in promoting the running club, such as local high school cross country coaches, employees of local running stores, and the city recreation department. Recruit these individuals and organizations to promote the new club. Various low-cost ways to advertise include sending e-mails to friends, and posting information on list serves, social networking websites, and bulletin boards of gyms and running/fitness stores, and recreation centers.
If starting a running club from scratch, solicit preliminary feedback from people about what they are looking for in a club. Use this knowledge to set-up an exploratory meeting to discuss the mission and formation of the club.
The planning meeting
A good way to entice people to come to your initial planning meeting is to schedule it with a coinciding social activity or run. Remember that your meeting should be at a convenient place and time for attendees. A practical place might be an office conference room, at a local high school, a recreation center, or somebody’s house, etc.
Make sure to do these things at your initial planning meeting:
- Have a clear agenda for the meeting with a meeting leader. Assign someone that is not the meeting leader to notes documenting the meeting
- Collect names and contact information of all attendees
- Establish your purpose: Discuss the purpose of the club and the general types of activities and/or events the club will engage in. These include group runs, training programs, races and social gatherings.
- Decide on a club name: Determine some branding strategies for your club such as a logo and other important items needed to indentify and promote your club.
- Form a Board of Directors: Elect officers who are willing to dedicate time and hard work to develop the club. The minimum possible number of elected officers is usually three, but this requirement varies by state. The RRCA requires three and recommends up to nine board members on a board of directors and a majority of those members cannot be related parties. We also recommend a slate of offices that includes the president or chair, a treasurer and a secretary, at minimum.
- Approve a set of bylaws: Come to the meeting prepared with a draft set of bylaws for the club. New clubs are encouraged to use the RRCA’s sample running club bylaws as a template for creating their own bylaws. The bylaws should include voting requirements for club decisions, including elections. Revise the bylaws as needed based on feedback at the meeting and approve them or table approval for a second meeting as needed.
- Establish your corporate status: The club will need to determine if it will be a nonprofit organization and get its nonprofit designation from the IRS or through the RRCA’s group exemption with the IRS. New members are highly encouraged to utilize the RRCA group exemption benefit of membership. Some clubs elect to organize as an LLC and are not eligible for nonprofit status. The clubs are considered for-profit entities.
- Consider incorporating your club in your state. Incorporation is optional and requirements vary by state to state. The RRCA highly recommends that you incorporate your running club in order to protect your board of directors.
- Establish a budget: Outline your expenses along with your sources of income:
- Expenses may include: RRCA dues, insurance, promotional materials, website or e-communications, logo creation, post-run snacks, club clothing, and more.
- Income/Membership Dues: Establish your club’s annual dues for club membership. The cost of membership will vary based on location, type of membership, events offered/included for members and the budget of the club. Most clubs set their annual dues between $20-$35 for regular individual memberships. Some clubs with very robust training programs or specialized coaching programs may charge higher fees or charge monthly dues.
- Establish a meeting schedule for group runs along with club management meetings and social gatherings
Should you incorporate?
Incorporating is a state process. Incorporated organizations must adopt formal governing procedures including by-laws, hold regular meetings, maintain minutes, and keep the state informed of changes in board officers. The incorporation process registers and protects the organization’s legal name. In most circumstances, regular members, board members, and employees cannot be held personally liable for a corporation’s debts and activities. The corporation itself is liable while members’ personal funds and assets are protected. However, members can be held liable for intentional negligence and misappropriated funds. Foundations, government agencies, and banks are often more willing to do business with incorporated nonprofits than unincorporated organizations. They recognize nonprofit corporations as legally responsible and more likely to meet their obligations.
Joining the RRCA
Once you join the RRCA and have obtained your nonprofit status and insurance you will really be ready to get going with your club activities, which should include some long range and short-term planning at by the board of directors. Be sure to form volunteer-run committees, appoint some program directors, solicit donations, pursue sponsorships, and create a calendar of club activities.
Once the running club is established it must be continuously cared for in order to stay in good standing from an IRS standpoint and from a civic standpoint. The minutes taken at club meetings are the permanent record of the proceedings and should be clear, accurate, brief and objective. Minutes should be shared with club members.
Establishing your Finances
It is important to open a bank account in the name of the club using the club’s EIN number. 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. A resolution should be passed by the board designating signers for a checking account, and this should be documented in the organization’s meeting minutes. At least two signers should be approved; most banks are requiring this for nonprofit organizations. Club funds should never be co-mingled with a personal bank account of a board member or treasurer.
The biggest financial concern for new clubs is the seed money needed to join the RRCA and pay insurance premiums. The following outlines three recommend ways to jump-start your club’s finances:
- The newly elected treasurer may collect first-year dues at the planning meeting.
- A club officer may decide to make a tax-deductible contribution to the club to establish the organization with the RRCA and cover the first year of dues and insurance costs.
- A club officer may make a personal loan to the club. Make sure to execute a binding loan document between the club and the loaning officer.
Staffing Your Club
Elected officers, along with volunteer-run committees or appointed program directors should be responsible for carrying out the work of the all volunteer-run club. Larger clubs with the financial capability may hire paid staff to manage club activities under the direction of a board of directors. Keep in mind that not everyone involved in a management type of job for a club, like a race director, has to be a board member. They can be appointed volunteers that report to the board. This helps keep the board from becoming too large if you conduct a lot of races and also keeps the board from doing all of the work. This helps club members feel invested in the survival of the club and feel like it is a group effort. Make sure all club members know they are welcome to serve on a committee or in other volunteer capacities, but nobody should be required to serve if they just want to show-up and run.
Committees are a great way to divide the workload and engage your members. Have your board develop a mix of the following committees and appoint a volunteer chairperson for each: training program committee, a social committee, a race committee, a group run/walk committee, a fundraising committee, a marketing committee, and the all-important audit and finance committee. These committees can then oversee volunteer recruitment, social activities planning, merchandise, calendar maintenance, running route creation, run leaders and training program coordinators. The sky is the limit, but don’t get carried away at the beginning. It is best to keep management simple at the onset of forming a club and add responsibilities to others over time as the size and complexity of the club increases.