Schedule a planning meeting for a date and time that is best for the majority of your attendees. Consider using a digital meeting platform (i.e. Zoom, MS Teams) if an in-person meeting is a challenge.
Whether going it alone, or wisely utilizing a group of people to do the work, we recommend the following tasks be addressed at the planning meeting. Schedule additional meetings if you can't cover it all at once. Keep in mind, forming a club is like starting a small business, the more you plan upfront, the more successful you can be long-term.
Develop the planning meeting agenda - key topics outlined below:
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.
Decide the club name:
Start with a discussion about the club's name. Brainstorm some 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.
Establish your purpose:
Clubs are encouraged to adopt a purpose similar to the one in the sample bylaws RRCA created for members. This ensures your purpose is aligned with the mission of the 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 and hosting social gatherings. You will also want to outline different categories of membership such as general members, racing/elite team members, corporate members/sponsors, etc.
Form a board of directors or leadership team:
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. To get started, we recommend electing a slate of officers, including: the president/chair, treasurer, and secretary. You can appoint a leadership team of three or more people if you plan to operate as a for-profit club. To get the governance ball rolling, 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.
Determine your corporate status:
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.
Approve bylaws that will govern your club:
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: definition of members, 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
Incorporate your club in your state:
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.
Establish a budget:
Outline potential expenses along with sources of income for the club:
What if we want club membership to be free?
- 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.
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.
Join the RRCA:
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 get going with 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.