Well-organized running clubs are built on the solid foundation of bylaws, policies, and procedures. Bylaws provide the operating framework for governing an organization while policies and procedures provide more guidance related to day-to-day operations for a club and its board of directors.
The RRCA recommends adopting the following policies to ensure your club is following best practices governance and operations.
All nonprofit running clubs are encouraged to adopt a Conflict of Interest Policy with accompanying disclosure requirements. RRCA group members are required to show proof this policy.
All Board of Directors should then ensure they are conducting their operations to limit and prevent self-dealing and personal gain from association with the club by board members. Board members with conflicts should refrain from voting on matters that benefit them.
What is a conflict of interest? A conflict of interest occurs when personal interests conflict with one’s responsibility to act in the best interests of the organization elected to serve.
Three types of Conflicts of Interest:
PERCEIVED – You could appear to be influenced by a conflicting interest.
Example – You are reviewing quotes for a timing service or shirt vendor and one of the potential providers is your brother/wife/sister. While you believe you can make an impartial decision in the best interests of the organization, it could be perceived as being made in your own interest.
POTENTIAL – You could be influenced by a conflicting interest.
Example: You are employed by or serve on the Board of another charity/organization and that organization is seeking a donation from your club or event. You could be influenced by a conflict of interest in favor of your employer/other charity.
ACTUAL – You are being influenced by or you are influencing a conflicting interest.
Example: You own an apparel or timing company and want to be an exclusive sponsor/provider to the organization. You are seeking to obtain a donation for another organization at the financial risk of the club/event you are also elected to serve.
Ask and answer the question: Would a reasonable person believe that you or another board member might be influenced by personal interests when making decisions on behalf of the organization.
On occasions, clubs find themselves faced with difficult members that create extreme problems for their 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, and more. While the need to remove club members is rare, it has happened on occasion due to inappropriate behavior.
Clubs are encouraged to adopt a Member Code of Conduct to outline expected behavior for all members when participating in organized club runs, events, business, or social functions. The code should also outline what members should do if they feel that another member has violated the policy.
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 (Members with a criminal history of violence or with a legal restraining order against them by another member may be barred from membership and participation in all club activities);
- 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 (Members found to be listed on a sex offender registry, convicted of a sex crime, or caught having, creating, or distributing child pornography will be immediately barred from membership and all participation in club activities.);
- Always abide by race rules and engage in fair competition, which includes anti-doping compliance, no course cutting, or other means of gaining a competitive advantage that is considered cheating when participating in club races or other races where you may represent the club by wearing a club-branded singlet, shirt, uniform, etc.
- Always report violations of the Member Code of Conduct policy to the Board in writing.
Your club might have other points to consider. 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.”
Your Code should outline the procedure for reporting violations, and your Board’s course of action for addressing complaints.
>> Download the Steps for Addressing a Code of Conduct Complaint
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 complaint relates to unwanted sexual or physical contact with other members, especially minors.
Read more about the Safe Sport Act and Abuse Awareness Training
If the Code violation seems like a minor issue, such as a complaint of foul language, the board can follow a plan of action similar to addressing behavior issues in an employment situation:
- 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.
The purpose of this Safe Sport Act Compliance Policy (Safe Sport Compliance Policy) is to serve as a guide to compliance with the federal law entitled the “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017” (Safe Sport Act), enacted by Congress and became federal law on February 14, 2018.
In 2017, the United States Olympic Committee delegated to the United States Center for SafeSport (SafeSport Center) authority to respond to reports of sexual misconduct within the United States Olympic and Paralympic Movements. The Safe Sport Act codifies that the SafeSport Center has exclusive authority over National Governing Bodies of Sport (“NGBS”) to investigate and take action in response to allegations of sexual abuse.
So what does all of this mean for RRCA Clubs and Events?
While much of the Safe Sport Act speaks to the actions of NGBS, managing interactions during international and inter-state competitions, and the role of the Center, it does outline that non-NGBS, and adults working in youth sports (like RRCA and its members), have certain requirements they must also implement and follow to be in compliance with the Safe Sport Act. These include:
- Any adult (mandated reporter) authorized to interact with youth athletes are required to report suspicions of abuse to the appropriate law enforcement agencies within 24 hours.
- All adults working with youth are required to go through abuse prevention training of some sort that is pro-active rather than re-active. The abuse prevention training must include educational material about the process of sexual grooming, how to recognize it, and how to prevent it.
- Organizations working with youth should have a criminal background check policy in place that addresses obtaining background checks for those that will have direct contact and oversight of children during a youth program or race.
The RRCA is committed to compliance with the Safe Sport Act. To that end, we strongly encourage members to adopt the following Safe Sport Compliant Policies:
- Mandatory abuse reporting policy
- Abuse Awareness training policy
- NO One-on-One Contact Policy for Anyone Working with Youth
>> Download the template for the detailed Safe Sport Compliance policies outline above.
Criminal background check policy for anyone working with youth
RRCA recommends the National Center for Safety Initiatives (NCSI) for affordable background screening services.
RRCA recommends adopting the following criminal background check policy for members hosting youth programs or events:
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 is disqualified from working with youth.
Criminal background check policy for anyone handling money
RRCA recommends having a treasurer undergo a criminal background check to ensure there is not a history of theft or financial fraud.
We recommend adopting 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.
Your organization should also adopt comprehensive financial management policies to help prevent fraud, abuse, and embezzlement by a treasurer or other person with access to club assets/funds. The RRCA also offers an insurance policy that can help protect a club should fraud, abuse or embezzlement occurs so long as policies are in place to protect an organization’s finances.
In support of our page dedicated to Managing Club Finances, we recommend the following policies be adopted to ensure the club’s Board is meeting its fiduciary duties:
Internal control policies ~ The goal of internal controls is to create business practices that serve as “checks and balances” on board members, especially the treasurer, staff, and/or outside vendors, in order to reduce the risk of misappropriation, theft, or embezzlement of funds/assets.
Check signing policies ~ Establish thresholds for requiring multiple signatures for checks. Outline when checks, including e-checks, must be used versus allowing for debt or credit card transactions or reimbursed payme
Reimbursement policies ~ Outline what expenses a board member or volunteer may be reimbursed for. Outline when an expense must be paid directly by the club.
Example, a board members pays a vendor $5000 on a personal credit card; receives a reimbursements from the club; then club is due refund from a security deposit, but the money goes back to the personal credit card and not to the club. It presents a possible fraud opportunity.
Donation policy ~ In addition to having a Giving Policy (see below), a donation policy outlines how a donation is given.
Donations from a club or associated events should ALWAYS be paid from the club’s account.
A club board member or race race director should never give from their personal account and ask for reimbursement. In this situation, the club may be facilitating a tax scam, allowing someone to write-off a donation from a club on their personal tax return, since it appears to come from the individual and not the organization.
Legal notice outlines ownership rights for the content found on a club’s website or other information owned by a club such as contact lists, event registration lists, etc. Clubs are encouraged to use the RRCA legal notice as a template.
Board members play an important role in raising funds for the organization they serve and are also responsible for safeguarding those funds. These funds may be raised through membership dues or event proceeds. Board members should be dedicated to the mission of their organization and the people they serve, their members and event participants.
Many people in the running community question why we raise so much money for other charities with few of the donations being invested in running as a cause, as the solution for the inactivity crisis in the United States, and as a support network for emerging elite athletes competing on the world stage.
Often internal conflicts for running clubs and events can be attributed to how profits from a club-owned events are allocated to local charities. From time to time, the amounts of those contributions and the beneficiaries may raise eyebrows. Boards or race committees may also feel pulled in many different directions due to a variety of requests for donations from area nonprofits.
The RRCA recommends that clubs and events adopt giving policies that outline who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much will be donated to other organizations.
Who: Running is raising more money for charitable organizations than any other sport, which is great for philanthropy and the running community as a whole. With that said, nonprofit running organizations should clearly outline “who” will be beneficiaries of club-owned events with the club being the number one beneficiary followed by other nonprofit organizations. It is important to note that clubs and events can retain all of their net earnings, however donating proceeds to other nonprofits promotes goodwill and raises the profile of the club or event in a positive manner. Events, whether organized as for-profit or as a nonprofit organization, should ensure they retain enough earnings to create a reserve fund in the event of an unforeseen cancellation due to extreme weather, security threats, etc. Clubs and events should look to their own mission statements of promoting running as a sport and healthy exercise to determine “who” and “why” to donate proceeds to other organizations.!
What: A giving policy should outline what items may be donated to other organizations. This may include cash support along with a maximum amount the organization will donate to other organizations. This maximum amount may be outlined as a dollar amount or a percent of an annual budget or net assets of an organization. By outlining maximum amounts, this can clearly outline the board’s efforts to safeguard the net assets of the club or event while also supporting other organizations. Donated items may also include complementary entries into races. Many races provide either donated or paid entries to charities that may in turn sell these entries to their donors to benefit the charity. This is a pretty typical charity fundraising relationship that many events offer to charity partners and should be clearly outlined in a giving policy. Clubs may also have equipment they might lend to other organizations, or they may provide free marketing exposure to members for a fundraising event. As a reminder, no member can offer the RRCA liability insurance coverage to a third party as a “sponsorship” or “contribution.” This is fraud, because the third party will not be covered under the club’s insurance through the RRCA in this manner.
When: A giving policy should outline when the club or event will accept solicitations for donations from other organizations. Determine if the process will outline an application window or if the board will, at their discretion, determine which organizations will receive support. Also outline when contributions will be made to beneficiaries. Will they be provided at a reasonable time following the conclusion of an event, at the end of the fiscal year, or at another time, such as a quarterly distribution period?
Where: A giving policy should outline the geographic scope of giving and outline if donations will be made to local, statewide, regional, and/or national organizations. A policy may also name one or more organizations that are designated charities that will receive annual contributions from the club or event. For example, several RRCA members have designated the Kids Run the Nation Fund and the Roads Scholar Fund as regular recipients of donated funds, which we greatly appreciate.
Why: As outlined above in “who,” a giving policy should outline why you will donate to other organizations. As part of “why,” a giving policy should outline what accountability standards you expect your charity beneficiaries to provide to your organization. Your organization is most likely a major donor and should be treated as such by the beneficiary. Is your beneficiary able to prove that they meet basic standards for governing and operating a nonprofit organization? Is your beneficiary able to clearly outline a case for support, financial need, community impact, etc.? Will they provide you with financial statements? Can you easily find information about their board of directors, governing documents, meeting minutes, etc. online? Can you find them on Guidestar.org? Will they promote you as a major donor to their organization on their website, annual report, or in other materials? Do they have an independent charity review seal from a watchdog group such as the BBB Wise Giving Alliance seal, Guidestar Gold seal, Charity Navigator seal, etc.?
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, utilize the following templates: