Our Disc Golf Design Group is happy to announce we got another publication under our belt. The below article was featured in the Fall 2023 Disc Golfer magazine that is circulated to all Professional Disc Golf members worldwide. We certainly hope the article will help disc golf clubs and associations all over think about how they can grow funds for their disc golf missions including disc golf course maintenance, club events and member outings. Over the years we have helped several clubs become bona fide and more successful at growing disc golf in their local communities. We can help your disc golf organization too, so please reach out to us if you need consulting or coaching help.
Thinking About Starting a Club and Growing Disc Golf Funds
If you are serious about growing the sport of disc golf in your local community then getting a disc golf group officially organized is the most important step. Being officially organized can help raise funds and you can create more leverage with local municipalities. There are three different ways you can become an official organized entity – affiliate with the PDGA, create a limited liability corporation, or create a not-for-profit organization.
Affiliating with the PDGA costs $25/year and links your entity name and social media sites with the PDGA. Incorporated businesses can also apply and be granted PDGA affiliated club status. This is a no brainer in my mind because it creates legitimacy when talking with municipalities, allows your members to receive $5 off their yearly PDGA membership fee, and your entity will get even better support and access to important resources. To find out more go to the PDGA website, click the MORE button at far right of top search bar and click on the Affiliate Club Program.
Creating a Limited Liability Company is an easy process in most states, however generally only one or a handful of people are members/managers of the company. I have seen this type of structure created for a club in Georgia and honestly do not recommend your group go this route. Limited Liability Companies are for individuals who want to make profit off selling some type of product or offering a service. Decisions are made by whomever created the LLC and the bank account is usually overseen by the same owner of the company. This generally sets up an authoritative type of governance, where one or several people are controlling everything that happens. This will hold back the overall growth of your group and disc golf in the community unless the people who started the LLC are 100% transparent with the money, have a specific structure showing how decisions are shared, and are committed to a community-based mission allowing others to share in the governance.
I recommend that your group become either a 501c7 or 501c3 not for profit organization. This will allow your group to become a legal entity offering liability protection, the ability to get a bank account, and the legitimacy to raise money. The distinction between the C7 and the C3 is important and worth considering before you apply. A 501c3 organization has an educational, religious or community enhancement-based mission and is considered a charitable organization; whereas the 501c7 is an organization that has a mission to provide fun events for its members and is considered a social club. The benefit of being a 501c3 vs the 501c7 is that donations made to the organization can be tax right-offs for contributors, and the organization is also eligible to apply for grants and free money. Plus, in most states, 501c3 organizations are tax exempt and do not have to pay local sales taxes. However, if your local disc golf community just wants to play disc golf, run tournaments, have cookouts, and drink beer, then I recommend you go the c7 route. There is no need to complicate the structure and strive to be a business if most of the community just wants a social club that revolves around disc golf.
It is easy to develop an educational and/or community-based mission in disc golf by giving away free disc golf lessons and by helping get more disc golf baskets in the ground for the community to enjoy. Of course, you still can run tournaments and create fun social gatherings around disc golf too. The key is that the 501c3 is striving to be a business, and to do that, generating revenue is essential. Revenue allows the organization to better achieve the mission by buying more baskets, paying vetted members to facilitate free lessons, providing food/beverage for volunteers on local course workdays, paying for maintenance on local courses, and hiring an executive director as the organization grows.
It amazes me how many non-profits get into a mindset that they are not supposed to show any profit, then influencing the lack of commitment to increase incoming revenue as the number one priority. Your disc golf non-profit organization ought to strive to make as much money as possible to then expand the mission. Isn’t this what we all want – more baskets in the ground, competitive local courses, more course amenities plus great signage, frequent local tournaments, fun social gatherings that incorporate disc golf, and easy ways to learn about disc golf?
I am very proud of our Western North Carolina Disc Golf Association and all our members’ efforts. At the same time, I have witnessed our energy get dispersed in different directions, which holds us back from our true potential as a 501c3 organization. It is critical to understand the most valuable resource in all life’s work is how we use our energy in a moment of time. So, if you want your local disc golf community scene to really grow create a 501c3 organization and focus your member’s energy on the goal of raising money.
Unless you have access to “miracle cash seeds”, which grow into trees flowering cash, then it is wise to be strategic about generating revenue. Here are my five top recommendations:
Work Together – Leverage comes with Collaboration
Make sure there is only one disc golf not for profit in your local community so that there is no competition for resources happening between the disc golfers living in your community. If you have a larger region, then chapters within the same 501c3 can be created and money can be separated into the different regions. The key is to unite and work together versus creating separate entities dispersing energy and competing for scarce dollars.
Learn the Power of a Tiered Membership Structure
Create a tiered not for profit membership structure that ranges from $100 to $5,000 every two years and facilitate a capital campaign. Focus your volunteer energy on not only bringing in one person memberships but landing large business memberships who pay a substantial membership fee. Higher tiered memberships could get advertising benefits on your 501c3 social media sites, physical signs on tee pads, spots on course kiosks, signs at tournaments, and their business name on bag tags. Plus, if you are a 501c3 it is a tax right off for the business member.
Ensure Consistent Weekly Tournaments
Facilitate as many weekly local events as possible that have a $5 entry fee, paying $1 out of every entry back to your organization. In Western North Carolina there is literally a sponsored singles or doubles event every day of the week for disc golfers to participate. It is best to have non-members pay an extra dollar, that then raises $2 for your organization and influences the person to join the local organization. A closest to the basket throw off after each round for $5 or a free disc can be offered as another incentive for people to pay to play the round.
Facilitate Fundraising Events
Facilitate fundraising tournaments in partnership with other local non-profits, sharing the proceeds 50/50. Partnering up with other not for profit organizations is a great way to bring awareness to your local disc golf organization while raising money for another great mission. The key is to make sure you don’t give all the proceeds to the other organization. Remember that your organization is also a not for profit and cash is critical to expand your mission.
Advocate TD’s to Share Revenue
Request that all sanctioned tournament directors donate back to the local not for profit whenever they facilitate a sanctioned tournament on a local course. Putting in courses and maintaining them is a ton of work, often carried out by the volunteers of your disc golf organization. TDs that show up and make money on the courses your community has built without giving back money is not fair. Put pressure on TD’s by requesting that they donate a minimum of 5% of the net profit back to the local organization for use of the local course. The TD can always raise the price of the tournament to ensure enough money is made to share the wealth, plus if your organization is a 501c3 this can be a tax right off for the TD’s business.
In summary, unite your local disc golf community and focus on generating revenue. Remember cash is king and it will allow your entity more opportunities to expand disc golf in the community. Focus your energy on increasing awareness and growing membership by following these five strategies. Until my next article, throw it to the envisioned spot and make sure you Laugh, Learn and Love all along the way.
Ryan Slim Pickens (12234) is a Strategy and Organizational Development Specialist, Life Work Coach and a partner in the Disc Golf Design Group, LLC. He Co-Authored the book The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf. For more information, please visit www.workwithmeaning.com and www.discgolfdesigngroup.com.