It is common for many gymnastics teams (as opposed to the gyms where the team practices) to be incorporated as a non-profit corporation. There are, of course, also gyms that are completely non-profit organizations, but we will hold that topic for a future article. This system of separate corporations can provide additional benefit and experiences to the gymnasts in the programs.
The success of a gymnastics non-profit organization can either serve to enhance the experiences of its gymnasts or become a source of contention between coaches, parents and gym owners. I have seen gyms torn apart due to problems within the gymnastics non-profit organization.
We, of course, are interested in providing the best possible gymnastics program and experience for gymnasts and have some brief advice on how to make sure your non-profit gymnastics organization is doing everything it can to provide the best possible program and enhance the range of experiences for the gymnasts.
Legal Incorporation of a Gymnastics Non-Profit Organization
The complete process for registering a gymnastics non-profit organization is not particularly complicated and involves three steps: getting an EIN number, registering with your Secretary of state as a non-profit organization and filing with the IRS to become a tax deductible non-profit. Legal incorporation for any organization involved in gymnastics is wise, simply for the liability protection of the participants.
There are some important decisions to be made first about the organization. The first of which is who should be involved in the management of the organization. There are three groups usually involved – gym owners, coaches and parents. Who controls the organization, or at least certain aspects of it, is where most future problems will occur. Other decisions are whether it should be a membership organization and whether it should own equipment or not.
Many gymnastics programs pay lawyers to set up their non-profit organizations, who may or may not be familiar with the questions involved in a gymnastics non-profit. To test their knowledge, ask them if a non-profit can own equipment. If they say no or not under any circumstance, you might want to keep looking for a lawyer or contact someone who has done this before and knows what is involved. Oh, did I mention that we provide advice and consulting to gymnastics organizations seeking to incorporate. We have advise and assisted many gyms in this manner.
Legal Management of a Gymnastics Non-Profit Organization
Non-profits are not a part of the US and IRS non-profit tax exemption system so parents can pay less for their gymnasts participation in the sport and competitions. That is not either a legitimate and acceptable reason to set them up or the way to manage them. Non-profit organizations are designed to provide a common good, not to allow fundraising to inure (to become beneficial or advantageous) to the benefit of individuals. Sorry, for some reason I just like the word inure.
Too many parents in gymnastics organizations believe they should be allowed to fundraise and put all or most of that money into an account just for their own child. That is neither ethical or legal. Individual accounts in non-profit organizations are specifically prohibited and should be.
All gymnastics non-profit monies should go into a general fund and used for a legitimate non-profit purpose like fostering national and international gymnastics competition. Ahh – fostering, another word I like and one that means that money in a general gymnastics fund can be used for virtually any legitimate gymnastics expense or purpose.
Representation of All Parties – Gym Owners, Coaches and Non-Profit Parents
While parents are often the initiators and/or volunteers for gymnastics non-profit organizations, gym owners and coaches should also be involved. Parents are usually only in the organization for as long as their gymnast is in the sport and often are only or most interested in what a non-profit can do for them and their gymnast.
Separation of Power between Gym Owners, Coaches and Non-Profit Parents
Coaches and gym owners have a longer term view of the gymnastics non-profit organization and, in general, are looking out for the interests of all the gymnasts, including future gymnasts. Coaches should still be in charge of the all the coaching decisions, like which meets to go to and when (subject, of course to financial limitations), even if the non-profit is paying for them.
Mutually Agreed-Upon Goals between Gym Owners, Coaches and Non-Profit Parents
Gymnastics participation has a lifetime of effect on the gymnasts who participate. There are possibilities for gymnastics experiences of a lifetime that non-profit organizations can help provide. We would sponsor at least one clinic with a Olympic or World Champion gymnast or coach every year, in addition, to paying for the competition expenses of every gymnast on the team from money we would fundraise.
Jack Pancott used to take his team gymnasts to Europe every year to live and compete with gymnasts of the same level there. A gym in New Jersey solicited enough donations from local businesses to not only build a brand new gym (with the walls covered with signs thanking businesses for their annual multi-year contributions), but to bring world famous gymnast, Olga Korbut to their gym to coach their gymnasts (she did not stay that long, but still…). There are amazing experiences that non-profits can provide for gymnasts if the organisation is run correctly.
Work to Enhance the Gymnastics/Life Experiences of Each Gymnast
And that should be the goal of every participant in the gymnastics non-profit organization – to provide life enhancing experiences for the gymnasts. Parents, coaches and gym owners should work together with that common goal as their sole focus.
Without a significant amount of volunteer effort by parents and coaches, the operation any non-profit or gym would not be feasible and/or would provide a significantly lower level of gymnastics experience to the gymnasts. Three cheers for all volunteers who really work for the betterment of all the gymnasts and help to provide great experiences for them. Parents who volunteer to help their local gym and gymnastics organization should realize they are likely helping to provide a much better program, better equipment and facility, better coaching and a better experience, not only for their own gymnast but for all of the gymnasts.
Community support is really often as simple to get as to simply ask for it. Let’s face it – young, hard-working talented athletes are a popular cause in any community. Who could turn down a request for a donation or help with a picture of such a cute gymnast staring them in the face? Communities will strongly support gymnasts and gymnastics programs, especially if they are successful in providing a good program for gymnasts.
Annual Fundraising Plan
Gyms, of even a small size, can raise a significant amount of money through well-planned annual fundraising campaigns. Gymnastics non-profit organizations should develop annual plans for fundraising to meet the goals of their teams. Replicable fundraisers (fundraisers that can be repeated successfully year after year) are the key to successful fundraising. Gyms can easily follow a template of success each year and even build further on the work done the previous years. Three are many successful methods – some gyms run one huge fundraiser each year, other gyms run one fundraiser every month and some gyms do both.
Role of Parents in a Gymnastics Non-Profit Organization
My practical experience says that parents should only have non-profit meetings when there is work to be done – lol (OK, I am actually serious about that). Too often, regular meetings without a work purpose degenerate into complaints (valid or otherwise) about coaching, favoritism, etc., etc. No good comes out of that. Problems, if they exist should be taken privately to the coach or owner and solved, not become a source of gossip or contention. Remember, all participants in a non-profit should be working toward providing all the gymnasts with the best possible gymnastics experience possible.