Creating a not-for-profit youth sports organization



There may a be a number of reasons you want to start your own not-for-profit youth organization.  Maybe there aren’t enough clubs in your area to service the number of local kids.  Perhaps the existing organizations are insufficient in quality and the community wants other options.  Or it’s just your love of sports and helping youths achieve greatness that has driven you to want to create a new club.

Whatever the reason, I’ll leave you with some tips to getting started and hurdles you might run into while setting things up and jumping into your very first season!  Please note that although this is will be a great read before getting started, you should always check local bylaws and regulations and understand that there may be other risks not outlined here.  Always over-do your research to fully understand what you will be getting into before beginning such a huge project.  Check out the government sites for starting a not-for-profit organization in Canada or starting a not-for-profit organization in the US.

Initial Steps

Start by forming a discovery committee which will likely become the first Board of Directors.  Chances are you’re starting this as a result of a conversation with other like-minded parents who came together with a common goal, but if not you should find some people to help you in this.  You’ll want to start out by identifying what your goals are and why you’re trying to start this organization.  Create your vision and mission statement (check out this resource for a bit of help on this).

With your newly established team, get ready to research until you think you’ve covered everything you can – then research some more!  Some things you’ll want to look into:

  • Demographics – Are there enough families and children to justify starting a new club and to fill your rosters?  You’ll need to not only find out local census information but also survey if there’s enough interest in the sport among the available families.

  • Locations – This is something that many people overlook when making the decision to start a new club.  Even existing clubs run into this issue on a regular basis.  You’ll need to not only have an inventory of all the venues there are in the area, but you’ll usually need to secure permits to play and practice at them.  Coordinating with the permit issuer can be challenging, time-consuming, and you may be denied for various reasons.  Sometimes you’ll need to use creative channels to secure venue time (for example bypassing the municipal body that issues these permits and going directly to a school’s athletic director to use their fields and courts).

  • Affiliations – You will need to select a state/provincial affiliation to tie yourself to, especially when running travel teams.  This will be another application process to endure, however, typically there are vehicles in place and easy-to-fill online forms to make this process quick and painless.

BOD & Governance

You may have a large part of your board already established at this point (initial team), but you’ll still need to have a formal meeting to elect them and find some more people for other areas.  You should try to find people with experience in the role they’ll be filling, along with experience in (and a passion for) youth sports and youth development.  For example, having a treasurer with a background in accounting will be a huge asset in running a successful club.  You’ll need to make sure that everyone is willing to put in a large amount of work and share a common vision for the club.

Accountability will be very crucial when drafting up your organizational and BOD bylaws.  This is to deter any type of illegitimate/fraudulent activity among your club’s leadership.  As your membership base increases, so will the flow of cash through the club making it important that you set safeguards to prevent any theft.  Implement term limits so that members don’t remain in their position for too long.  Make all club information public so that full transparency can be established with its members.  Run background checks as well to reduce the likelihood that the board houses any potential threats.  To learn more about this and building trust in your club in general, check out an earlier article I wrote.

Additional Tasks

There are many other items to check off while going through this process, including:

  • Coaches/Officials – You’ll need to carefully source out and select coaches and refs.  You may want to search for local registries to find existing personnel, as well as use your membership base to search out parents internally who can commit to filling these roles.  Offer resources on courses to train people.

  • Volunteers – Create job lists and reach out to parents in initial postings online and offline.  Volunteers will be crucial as club funds will be extremely low in the beginning stages.

  • Liability Insurance – Many local jurisdictions mandate that your club has insurance in the case of accidents incurred during play/practice.

  • Uniforms/equipment – A large portion of your funds will be going to equipment and uniforms, and chances are you’ll need to run some initial fundraisers to help lower these costs to families.  The more expensive equipment is, the more kids will be unable to join.

  • Website/social media – Using the available web tools will be essential in communicating with families and getting info such as schedules and announcements to parents.

  • Marketing – Here are some tips from an earlier article I wrote on solidifying your position in the community as a leading organization.

As I mentioned, this list is far from exhaustive and should only serve as an initial starting off point.  From here you’re about to embark on an incredibly busy yet fulfilling new endeavor!  Hopefully, you’re able to use this to develop a solid foundation and put the infrastructure in place that will help the club remain successful year over year.

Matt Langlois

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