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Start an Event
So you want to start an event. While the RRCA does not provide race management services, we can help point you in the right direction to get you going. The information in this section will provide a basic overview of starting an event. For more in depth information we encourage all race directors to purchase a copy of the book, Organizing Running Event, the Complete Guide to Staging a Road Race.
As an association of running clubs and events, the Road Runners Club of America does not usually dictate rules to our members for their events; we offer guidelines on general safety that race directors are encouraged to adopt as guidelines, rules or policies for their local events and activities.
Determine Your Business Organization
The first thing you need to do is determine how your event will be organized from a business perspective. Will this be a running club hosted event, will you be a sole proprietor putting on a race to raise money for charity, will you be putting on a race to simply make a profit for your race directing company?
So what is a nonprofit event?
The designation of a race as a nonprofit has nothing to do with the contributions made to local charities by the race. The nonprofit designation of a race or a nonprofit club-managed event is determined by the business organization of that entity. A volunteer board of directors that does not profit personally from the event and that oversees the operations of the event is what defines the event as a nonprofit organization along with the official designation from the IRS as a 501(c)3 organization (or through the RRCA-group exemption with the IRS)
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to managing an event. If an organization is a nonprofit, they are certainly entitled to retain net profits, compensate staff, or hire contractors as needed to run their nonprofit business or event. A race director may get paid for their services if a board of directors chooses this method of race management so long as the race director or their immediate family is not a voting member of the board of directors, thus profiting from their relationship with the board.
A race may choose to depend on the generosity of volunteers to make their business model work. Nonprofit management structures differ from event to event and utilize a mix of paid staff, contractors, and volunteers. However, all nonprofit events share a commonality: they have an independent, volunteer board of directors that does not profit personally from the event.
The “For-Profit” Difference
Often times calls are received at the National Office where an individual wants to put on a race and donate all of the proceeds to charity; so they say they are a nonprofit. But this is not what defines them as a nonprofit. These events usually are for-profit/sole-proprietor events, and their gross receipts may be subject to income tax regardless if they donate all net proceeds to charity. If you are a for-profit race director, you should not include a contribution line for a local charity on your registration form with the contributions going directly to your for-profit race company.
If “contributions” are paid to the race company, these “contributions” are not tax deductible by the donor and may be taxable income for the race director. Only a correctly organized nonprofit organization can accept tax-deductible contributions for charitable purposes. For-profit race companies should have donors contribute directly to a local charity or commit to donating a portion of their net proceeds to charity, but be clear in your communications how registration fees will be expensed and contributions given to charity partners.
Some race directing companies have created “foundations” as charitable organizations. It is very important for these types of business structures to have a clear conflict of interest policy and operating procedures for the foundation. The foundation board of directors must ensure that the for-profit race directing company is not directly benefiting from the foundation in ways that are illegal or unethical.
Planning Your Event
All phases of the event will benefit from adequate, advanced planning. In particular, the safety of the participants, volunteers and spectators can best be served by addressing the following matters well in advance of the race start date. Allow a minimum of 6–12 months advance time to plan the event. In addition to the items listed below, you may need to devote time to obtaining race sponsorship and advertising. Learn more about planning your event and the RRCA Guidelines for Safe Events. The following briefly outlines the initial steps you need to take in planning your event:
Select a date which does not conflict with other events in the area;
Outline a suitable location for your event taking parking, pre and post race activities, facilities and more into consideration;
Meet With Local Authorities
Any required authorization from local authorities must be obtained long before the event date;
Design your course and then check with the local authorities as you begin planning for the event to avoid permitting problems;
Select Key Race Personnel
Outline key race personnel such as the medical director, the volunteer coordinator, the start and finish line coordinator and other people to assist you with the event;