I. Promote Your Idea
A. Make initial contacts
Check with bicycling friends, bike shops and other recreational organizations to get a feel for the interest in your community. You may also want to contact local clubs or other special interest groups that can give you some idea of the level of community participation in groups such as these.
B. Begin local group ride
Another possibility is to ride the streets and roads in your area and talk with others. Even start an evening or weekend group ride and invite others. Every time you meet other bicyclists talk about what purposes a club can serve in meeting your and their needs.
C. Spreading the word
Place notices of your meetings and rides in banks, grocery stores, drug stores, and libraries. Work with churches and neighborhood/block groups to spread the word. Most newspapers and radio stations are looking for community news. They will announce your meetings and rides as community interest stories and events. Special note: this is not always true in major metropolitan areas. Extra effort will be necessary to get them to notice that you exist. Handmade flyers and posters will work fine in the beginning. They should be simple and only carry one or two messages at a time. The flyers and posters can be placed wherever they are accepted.
II. The First Meeting
A first meeting will be needed to formally discuss starting a club. Individual discussion will not be enough. The first meeting has only one real purpose, to agree on the need for a club and set its principal purpose.
The principal organizing strategies are:
1) open to any individual interested in organized bicycle activities. This kind of group attracts people of all ages and interests. You'll attract the most members with this kind of club, a plus when members want to expand the bicycling activities.
2) single or specific purpose group, such as racing, touring, physical fitness, route mapping, legislation, bike safety and others. This kind of group attracts a smaller group of people and they may only stay around for a short time.
Most clubs start with a simple purpose - to ride together. Over the years additional projects are added. It is suggested that two purposes or projects be established in the beginning. A simple weekly or bi-weekly ride for summer gatherings and a special community project to continue interest through the winter.
The special project can be:
1) Developing bicycling maps of
- street ratings
- local tours of varying lengths
- commuter routes,
2) Adopting a local bicycle ordinance and enforcement
3) Providing bicycle education to your local school
4) You name it.
There are many groups around the state that may give you ideas of how to set up the purposes. For informaitonn on clubs near you see our listing of LMB member clubs.
III. Formal Organization
Depending upon the desired activities and needed resources, it may be necessary to incorporate as a non-profit organization. Non-profit status will limit members liability for damage and taxes.
Two major decisions to make are:
1) legal non-profit organization or simple member organization
2) independent or dependent affiliation with another organization.
Legal non-profit status requires paperwork with both the State and Federal government. The principal benefit is protection from State and Federal income taxes and some State sales taxes. A general benefit from nonprofit status is a limitation on liability to members in case of an accident. There are different non-profit classes to consider. Contact a lawyer for further details on the options.
The second issue is independence versus dependence. There are valid reasons for either choice. Independence gives the club complete freedom of choice in activities and finances. It also requires club members to do the things needed to continue as a viable club; such as securing liability insurance, budgets, and legal filing requirements. Affiliation (partial dependence) with another group can provide many of these features, such as group insurance, legal requirements, ready access to a newsletter and access to others with similar interests to work on desired activities. Existing organizations to consider are:
• 4-H Programs (Cooperative Extension Service)
• YMCA, YWCA and other recreation groups
• Fitness and running clubs
• Boy and Girl Scouts
• City and County Recreation Departments
Most have umbrella insurance coverage. Some have newsletters or other means to reach members and others in the community. There is no clear cut choice. Each group must weigh the options carefully and make their own choices.
When you feel there is enough interest and support to keep your group rolling and you have decided to be independent or be part of another group, then it is time to create the formal organization. This will include:
A. Elect temporary or permanent officers
B. Determine Activities
C. Determine level of liability risk and how to manage
D. Create methods to promote the club and its activities
E. Develop bylaws and determine financial needs
IV. Officers and their responsibilities
He/she shall preside at all meetings of the Club. The President shall perform such other duties and functions as shall be assigned to him/her from time to time by the club. He/she shall possess the power and authority to sign all certificates, contracts, instruments, papers and documents of every conceivable kind and character whatsoever in the name of and on behalf of the club when authorized by the club. The President should serve for a defined term so as to keep the club fresh and relevant.
B. Vice President
The Vice President shall perform the duties and exercise the powers of the President during the absence or disability of the President. The President shall perform such other duties as may be delegated by the club. The Vice President will become President at the end of the President's term in office.
The Secretary shall attend all meetings of the club and shall ensure that the true minutes of the proceedings of all such meetings are preserved. The Secretary shall be responsible for keeping a accurate membership list of club members. The Secretary shall ensure appropriate meeting notice as required by the By-Laws or resolution. The Secretary shall perform such other duties as may be delegated by the club or the President
Working under the guidelines and policies established by the club it shall be the duty of the Treasurer to assure that all monies due the club are collected, to confirm that such funds are placed in depositories as may be necessary, to process payment of all bills against the club. The Treasurer shall periodically submit to the club a report of the financial condition of the club.
E. Ride Leader
The Ride Leader will be responsible for recruiting individual ride leaders and developing a schedule of club rides. The Ride Leader will be responsible for training individual ride leaders and for recommending to the club "ride guidelines."
F. Newsletter Editor
The Editor will be responsible for gathering articles for the newsletter and publishing the newsletter in a fashion determined by the club.
From time to time clubs may elect other officers as they see fit to meet their needs.
A. Organized Club Rides
Generally the first thing any club does is start out with group rides. When the club is formed the natural progression is to continue a weekly schedule of club rides. As the club gets larger it is best to have rides that cater to different rider abilities.
B. One Day Rides
Many clubs run "one day" invitational rides to raise money for club activities. For more information on organizing a one day ride visit our Guide to Organizing a Bicycle Event.
C. Advocacy Efforts
As bicyclist we need to continue to be vigilant in protecting our safety and rights to use the roadways. Each club should have an Advocacy Component as one of its activities. This could be as simple as someone monitoring city and county government to make sure bicyclists rights are not in jeopardy of being taken away. Strong advocacy programs have club members represented as stakeholders on key government committees. Check out the Advocacy Tool Kit for more information on bicycle advocacy.
D. Education Efforts
Education and advocacy go hand in hand. It is hard to do one without the other. At the very least a club should offer to conduct bicycle safety presentations at the local school and run a bike rodeo once a year. For more education ideas you can explore the rest of the Toolkit that this document is part of.
Too often a few people do all the work in a club. It is important to start from the beginning of developing a club culture that nurtures volunteerism. All volunteer jobs should have a clear job description so that members know what is expected. The key to recruiting volunteers is to ask. Unless you ask you will never know. Once you have volunteers, you can never say thank you enough.
VI. Liability For Clubs
Whether to have any liability insurance or not is a question that should be addressed before you organize any major rides or events.
If your group is affiliated with an umbrella organization you should check with the parent body to acquire an understanding of the limitations and clauses of the blanket insurance policy. You may want to purchase separate and more complete coverage for certain special events that you are planning. Also, the umbrella coverage may just provide for the parent organization and not for any affiliated groups. The agent that sold the parent organization its policy should be able to help you clear up these questions.
On the other hand if you are an independent group, whether incorporated or not, you should locate a competent insurance sales representative by consulting other groups in your area with similar legal structure, i.e. social club, 501 (c) 3 non profit, unincorporated club, etc. In this world of litigation, it's best that you have some idea of your legal liability in the event that anyone is hurt at an event staged by your club. The representative that you consult with should be given all the facts on just what your group is and plans to do. It will then be up to them to design a package of insurance for your needs. You will then be able to pick and choose among the options and come up with what you feel to be adequate coverage. Don't forget to get more than one estimate of coverage. Insurance like any other saleable item is open to a wide range of prices. Shop around!
Many beginning clubs have no insurance policy at all. While this may be a policy of begging for disaster, it is an option that many small clubs will follow. They feel that since they are very small, and do not have very much money, that no one would care to sue them. What often is not recognized is the fact that in the case of an unincorporated club the officers, and possibly the members, can be brought into a liability suit. In the case of a judgment against the club, each officer or member can be held financially liable. If the club is incorporated, the corporate structure includes a "corporate veil" that can protect the officers and members from some lawsuits. Penetration of the "corporate veil" is possible in cases of gross negligence, but is not common. Therefore, if your club is going to take the risk of staging events without any insurance, it had better examine the protection that incorporation can bring.
A liability release should be placed on each application for an event that the club sponsors. While one can't be forced to sign away the right to sue, you can have a statement on your application to the effect that the roads are public and that all laws must be obeyed by the participants. While this doesn't release you from liability, it does place the entrant in the position of reading and signing a statement that outlines their obligations on the road. Whether this will have any weight in court is up to the judge or jury to decide. Your release can be lengthy or quite brief. It is best consult an attorney what is best for your group.
Insurance is something that most clubs forget, until someone gets hurt on a ride For the peace of mind of your fellow members and to avoid the panic that can set in when someone comes back to the ride leaders and describes an accident, make sure that your club is protected.
VII. Club Communication
Most beginning bicycle clubs realize that word of mouth is not the best method of communicating their club news to the membership, or to interested outsiders. Therefore, you have to put together a newsletter that will let people know when you plan rides, events, meetings, etc. Websites are becoming increasingly popular as a way to communicate.
The easiest method is to find someone in your fledgling group that has previous experience putting a newsletter (or website) together for another group. If you have such a person and they are willing to take on the job, you can stop reading right here as your new editor will already know how to do all of the following. Yet, there is the slim chance that you don't have anyone to the job. How do you go about selecting an editor and getting the whole thing together?
Selecting an editor
Often this task is called, "rope-a-dope", as most people don't want to be tied down with a monthly deadline for the newsletter. In order to entice someone to the job you have to remember the following about potential candidates.
• Be able to type.
• Be able to spell and have a basic ability to construct an understandable sentence.
• Be able to nag the officers of the club for the information that must go into the newsletter.
• Be willing to suffer the criticisms of club members that are willing to complain but unwilling to help.
• Have the patience of a saint.
• Be totally willing to do the job with little coercion.
Once you have the editor recruited, they should consider the following as guidelines to follow for the production of the monthly newsletter.
1) Set a production schedule and stick to it. If an officer of the club promises that they will have the ride list to you by your deadline, but doesn't, just have a blank ride list in the newsletter. This type of action, not being totally responsible for the work of other officers, will prevent you from doing everything in the club. Just make sure that everyone concerned knows just what your schedule is.
2) Find a fast, cheap, printer. Since you will be typing the newsletter you might consider running the newsletter off on your office copier. While this might be ok for a very small club (under so) don't endanger your job for the slight savings. Your local neighborhood quick print shop will photocopy on 20 or 30 lb. paper and give you a much better looking product than most office copiers.
3) Establish a standard format for the newsletter. Have titles for repeat articles done with press apply letters on heavy stock. That way you will be able to reuse the titles and simplify the layout each month.
4) Have a graphic artist do the heading for the newsletter. This will add to the look of the publication, and will allow you to worry about editing the newsletter rather than lettering the heading each month. The cost for a newsletter heading shouldn't be much greater than that for stationary Shop around, or find an artist in the club willing to do this one shot job.
5) Get a bulk mailing permit as soon as your membership reaches 200. This will save you a lot of money on postage over the long run. If your group has nonprofit status, you can apply for a nonprofit bulk permit and save even more.
6) Remember to borrow all the graphics that you can. Cut graphics out of other bicycle publications and use them to highlight articles, or fill those ugly little gaps at the bottom of columns. Remember that your "snitch file" can become your most valuable resource.
7) Look for volunteers to help you in the gathering of information, and the writing of the newsletter. Many people are willing to help, but don't want the responsibility of being "editor".
8) Electronic newsletters are the latest trend in communication. At first glance this seems like a great idea as it saves printing and postage costs. Two issues must be considered. First does all of your club members have either email accounts or access to the Internet. What will you do if they don't? The second is that electronic newsletters have a surprisingly low opening rate. At LMB our electronic Enews is opened by 56% of our members and that is considered outstanding in the industry.