So, you and a few wheeling buddies decide to create a name and a club is born. Starting a club is easy. Survival of the club is hard. What starts with shared values and vision does change over time. Your desire for the camaraderie and social life of a club needs to be tempered with the reality that you are really starting a small business. This is especially true if your club is an established club that hosts an annual event. You are involved in a small business enterprise. There are steps you can take to make your business (club) as success.
1. Start with a plan. A plan forces you to clarify your goals and how much money (time) you are willing to commit. Determine how you will allocate your time. Time is money and it is the most important asset you can invest. A plan helps you make a wise investment.
2. Talk to other clubs. Others have taken the steps you are about to take. Visit a few clubs and see how they operate. What officers do they have? Are they incorporated? What rules do they have? Seeing how other clubs operate can help you avoid many mistakes.
3. Set goals. Your goals can be simple: having wheeling buddies for a fun trip. Or, your goals can involve protecting your favorite wheeling area. For that, consider coalitions with other groups. Talk to and work with other groups interested in your favorite wheeling area.
4. Connect with your members. Your members are your “customers”. Without them, you would not have your business. Whether your club has five or fifty-five members, they are your source of income. Do your activities interest your members? Keeping them attending meetings and runs is keeping the customer satisfied.
5. Advertise. Every business relies on repeat customers to provide the core business. And, every business needs to advertise and seek to draw new members – new business. Inexpensive advertising options include maintaining a web site and joining state, regional, and national organizations to have your contact information listed in multiple places.
6. Change. You start with an idea. You develop the idea into reality. Circumstances change. Can you change to meet the new challenges? Are you willing to change?
7. Legal status. If you form a club and collect dues, contact your tax adviser for guidance. In general, if you wish to open a bank account in the name of an organization, the bank will require some form of documentation the account is for a legitimate organization. Also, if your organization is focused on supporting your favorite wheeling area, the land management agency will require you to sign volunteer agreements and other documents; some of which require the signature of an officer of the organization. It is good practice to establish legal basis for your club and limit your personal liability. In most instances, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization status is acceptable.
Whether you are starting a club or joining an existing club, your time is the key asset to make the club a success. Set goals, be involved, and invest your time and energy wisely.