RRCA does not provide direct oversight or management of our member organizations, but we do provide guidance on best practices in starting and managing running clubs and events.
A “club” is defined as an association or organization dedicated to a particular interest or activity. Therefore, the RRCA uses the term “running club” to define organizations that have some type of formal organization, whether nonprofit or for-profit, for the purposes of promoting community-based running organizations that empower all people to participate in the sport of running in pursuit of enjoyment, health, well-being and competition. A running club may also be referred to by members as a team, crew, training program, or other term that denotes formal organization.
Running clubs typically offer weekly group runs and/or walks along with more formalized training programs for beginning runners to seasoned marathoners and beyond. Running clubs also can own and operate events that attract members along with the general public to participate in the sport.
There isn’t much of a difference beyond group leaders choosing to pick one term over the other to describe their organization. The term “running crew” is a newer way to describe an organized group that provides group runs for their members/participants. There are other terms used when naming clubs including: striders, pacers, roadrunners, etc.
We recommend being respectful when picking your organization name or term, for example using the term “tribe” can be insensitive, as it references outdated 19th-century social theory rooted in colonialism and oppression (tolerance.org).
The RRCA does not limit new clubs from forming in an area that has an established club. We do encourage interested parties to work with an established club to determine if a new club is feasible or necessary. Individuals interested in starting a new club should first each out to an established club and offer to host training runs or lead programs at a location or neighborhood not being served by the established club. If collaboration is not an option, it may be time to start a new club the serve your community, so keep reading.
Some clubs start organically with an informal group of runners that train together. Over time the group grows as friends are invited or people ask to join their runs. Some clubs are more intentionally formed to serve a need within a community to provide a structured organization that people can join and run with.
If no club exists in your community or you are seeking to offer an additional club option, now it the perfect time to start one.
If you have over ten people joining group runs regularly throughout the year, you should consider establishing a formal club. Ideally, running clubs should have a formal organizational structure that includes:
- Nonprofit status through the RRCA’s Group Exemption with the IRS or with the IRS directly.
- Incorporated in your state of operation to protect individuals from person liability exposure.
Informal run groups with limited to no organizational structure tend to be unincorporated associations that are led by one or a few individuals. Unincorporated associations expose their leaders to personal financial liability, and this model is not recommended by the RRCA.
- Identify your community needs and wants.
- Solicit feedback from people, friends, training partners, etc. about what they are looking for in a club.
- Use this knowledge to organize your planning meeting where you can finalize your mission, goals, and operating structure for the club.
- Identify and invite people that may be willing to be founding board members if you plan to organize as a nonprofit running club.
- Do homework in advance of the planning meeting to understand the different types of organization structure, how to draft bylaws (RRCA has a sample template), liability and risk management considerations, etc.
The Planning Meeting
Forming a club is like starting a small business, the more you plan in advance, the more successful you can be long-term.
Schedule a planning meeting that ensures maximum participation from stakeholders. Use a digital meeting platform (i.e. Zoom, MS Teams) if an in-person meeting is a challenge.
Whether going it alone, or utilizing a group of people to do the work, we recommend addressing the following tasks at the planning meeting. Schedule additional meetings if you can’t cover everything at once.
Outline who will lead the planning meeting. Ask someone to take notes during the meeting, or get permission to record the meeting, especially if held online. Gather names and contact information from attendees for follow-up.
Start with a discussion about the club’s name. Brainstorm branding strategies including logo design along with other items needed to identify and promote your club. These items don’t have to be fully established at the initial meeting, but a draft of ideas should be outlined.
Terms like Road Runners Club, Roadrunners, Striders, Runners & Walkers, etc. are common use naming terms and recommended by RRCA.
Your purpose statement may outline general activities and/or events the club will provide to members or the community, including:
- Leading group runs,
- Training programs,
- Owning and operating races,
- Hosting social gatherings, and more.
You will also want to outline different categories of membership such as general members, racing/elite team members, corporate members/sponsors, etc.
Elect officers or appoint a leadership team willing to dedicate time and effort to developing the club.
The RRCA requires a minimum of three unrelated board members for all nonprofit members.
The “election” can be as easy as recording a voice vote in the minutes by those attending the planning meeting. Additional board members (or leaders) may be added once the bylaws are finalized. We recommend electing a slate of officers, including:
- Treasurer, and
You can appoint a leadership team of three or more people if you plan to operate as a for-profit club.
Board members (leadership team) will need to determine what the corporate status will be for the club. Common options include:
Nonprofit Organization – If organizing as a nonprofit club, closely review the “Nonprofit Status” section of the website and determine if you will apply directly to the IRS for status or utilize the RRCA’s group exemption status with the IRS. We recommend utilizing the RRCA group – its quicker and does not include additional fees beyond membership dues.
For-profit Organization – Some clubs elect to organize as a for-profit LLC and are not eligible for nonprofit status. If organizing as a for-profit LLC, we recommend reviewing your state corporation commission website.
Unincorporated Associations – Is when two or more persons are joined by mutual consent for a common lawful purpose, whether organized for profit or not. If the purpose for the association is to benefit the public in some way, and does not include earning a profit, the association’s members have formed an unincorporated nonprofit association. The biggest drawback to the unincorporated nonprofit association is that it has no legal existence. Therefore, its members generally can be personally liable for its debts and liabilities. Instead of having a loose association, we encourage members to organize under the RRCA’s group exemption status.
If forming a nonprofit, bylaws are a critical document outlining the governance and operating framework for your organization.
New clubs are encouraged to use the RRCA’s sample running club bylaws as a template. Personalize the template as noted for your organization. Have a draft of the proposed bylaws ready to review at the planning meeting. Bylaws should include:
- The club’s purpose,
- Definition of members,
- Members of the Board of Directors,
- Voting requirements for club decisions, including elections, and more.
Revise the bylaws based on feedback and approve or table approval for a second meeting.
While bylaws are a legal document for the club, use language that is concise, easy to understand, and interpret. Avoid complicating bylaws with too much convoluted, legalese style language. Most states post their non-stock corporate codes on their state corporation websites, which can provide guidance on drafting bylaws or editing the RRCA template. See a listing of State Corporation Commissions
While RRCA does not require incorporation, we HIGHLY recommend incorporating your club in your state.
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.
Many banks will not allow you to open a bank account without proof of incorporation. Some online registration companies are requiring proof of incorporation, as well. Regulations regarding incorporation vary by state, so the RRCA does not handle incorporation matters for members. See a listing of State Corporation Commissions.
Generally, incorporated organizations must adopt governing procedures including by-laws, hold regular meetings, maintain minutes, and keep the state informed of changes in board officers. For-profit clubs should incorporate as LLCs/S-Corps in their state to protect owners/leaders from personal liabilities and debt.
Q. Do I need a lawyer to do this work? You can consult a lawyer to review your club bylaws and/or incorporation documents, but you will want to consider the cost. LegalZoom can be an affordable option for basic legal needs, such as drafting Articles of Incorporation. The RRCA bylaw template for members is designed to comply with IRS and most state requirements for incorporating your nonprofit. Information on state corporation websites is easy to understand. They often provide templates for drafting Articles of Incorporation and filing may be handled online. Do your homework before engaging a lawyer to draft and file documents. Pick a point person from your board or leadership team that will manage this process.
Outline potential expenses along with sources of income for the club:
Expenses: RRCA dues, insurance, website or e-communications, marketing and advertising, logo creation, general operating costs, etc.
Income: Establish your annual membership dues. Cost of membership will vary based on location, type of membership, events offered/included for members, and the club’s budget. Most clubs set their annual dues between $20-$35 for regular individual members. Some clubs with robust training programs or specialized coaching programs may charge higher fees, including monthly dues.
What if we want club membership to be free? This is a decision for club leaders to make. It is important to understand that free membership does not eliminate liability exposure for the club. The club will still have costs, including insurance, which will need to be funded somehow.
After you’ve completed the important planning aspects, it is time to join the RRCA, especially if you are establishing your organization under the RRCA’s group exemption with the IRS.
You can join the RRCA before incorporating your organization in your state.
If a club elects not to charge dues, to be be a member of RRCA, dues and insurance will be assessed for the club, as outlined on in the membership section, regardless of the club’s dues policies.
What if we don’t have the funds to join RRCA? If you have a group of people working together, ask them for “seed money” to establish the club with RRCA. If you are organizing a club on your own, or can’t raise enough funds from interested people, consider making a loan or a donation to establish the club. If you make a donation, you can itemize it on your tax return if the club is a nonprofit. If you make a loan, as soon as membership dues come in, you can reimburse yourself for the cost of RRCA dues and insurance.
The planning agenda has been completed, now what?
After joining the RRCA and obtaining your nonprofit status and insurance, you will be ready to start promoting and managing your club.
Hosting a club kick-off event is a great opportunity to promote membership in the club and share plans for club activities, programs, and other events.