This year, in Furious George’s twentieth season, the club will at last register as a non-profit under the British Columbia Society Act.
This is a rare move in North American ultimate, often reserved for leagues and regional/national associations. In the United States, registering as a non-profit (or not-for-profit) corporation is task usually not for the faint of heart. Even under the comparatively lenient procedures in Canada, most teams have no formal existence — and if they do, it’s under the umbrella of a league organization. To our knowledge, Furious will be the first North American team to incorporate independently. Nevertheless, it feels a lot like we and the sport are moving out of our adolescence, and we have to keep up with expectations. Before the end of the month, Furious George, its common property and images will exist under the auspices of the Furious Ultimate Society.* Here is why:
- Non-profits can legally receive an untaxed income. This facilitates fundraising, sponsorships, revenues, prize monies (well, hopefully) and the sale of branded merchandise. Notable among these are membership fees, which can be collected from our community of members as legitimate and properly accounted fundraising income.
- Public legitimacy. Other reasons aside for a moment, a properly registered Society carries a little more gravitas than a couple of young guys wearing monkeys on their shirts. People and businesses like the assurance that they are dealing with the comparative solidity of an identifiable organization. When we look at rugby, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, rowing, skiing — all manner of established clubs and sports teams in our communities, we find incorporated, identifiable organizations with stamp of government approval, and non-players in their administrative ranks. This goes a surprisingly long way to persuading public and private sectors that we are worth their attention.
- The non-profit can enter into contracts, agreements, and accounts independent of liability of its members. Especially in our context, where most players — and even the leaders — may be too young and inexperienced in the world to truly grasp the nature of liability, this is surprisingly valuable. This makes it much easier to collect and to pay money, to enter into agreements with partners, and to execute clinics. If something goes wrong, the club entity is liable, but at least the general membership is protected. It’s simply good business.
- Property. A Society can own physical things and intellectual property, like trademarks. Without that recognition, in Canada, “possession is nine-tenths of the law”** and who knows who owns what of our inventory, website, brand and images. As ultimate grows and Furious grow, and the Internet expands faster than SkyNet, we should take steps to protect who we are and what we possess.
- The Society can purchase team insurance (accident, sport liability, travel/health) to indemnify its players, members and leaders. For a team that travels outside of the country, holds clinics (that may include juniors!), occasionally books public facilities on our own, and effectively holds funds in trust, these are real issues.
- Community support. Having existed since 1995, Furious has accumulated two decades’ worth of alumni and friends. But our current structure revolves around active players; after retirement, those alumni have very few ways to contribute. A Society can recruit and leverage a support network for the team that our captains can’t by themselves. This dissimilar to the structure of countless athetlics clubs (soccer, rugby, baseball, e.g.), wherein alumni members become lifelong proponents and supporters of their teams. It expands our sense of community and allows us to recruit help in the administration of an increasingly complicated world of ultimate.
Everything comes at a cost. When you become an adult, to be treated like an adult, you have to act like one. This means putting in your work, paying due dilligience, and paying your dues. Here are some of the obvious ones.
The Society must have Purposes and Bylaws. This a hassle, but it’s a good thing, because it formalizes what is otherwise a very ad hoc tradition of doing things, and reminds us of our obligations to the community we want to unite. Our captains are chosen for their game skills and their strategic acumen, but not necessarily for fairness, business sense, long-term vision, or good governance.*** The bylaws should also be written in a way that makes adequate space for the future (what if we want an official B-Team/women’s team/junior team? A Clubhouse?) without being unnecessarily constraining in favour of the status quo. That sort of thinking alone opens up possibilities to which we may have been previously blind.
The Society must have a Board of Directors. This does not need to be the captains, although it would make sense for a captain to be at least one. The duties of directors lie in fiduciary and financialcare of the organization. In a typical sports club structure, the “godfathers” of the club sit here, looking into garnering support, fundraising, insurance, and checking on financial statements. At first, this strikes fear into the hearts of some captains — because it means giving up some measure of control. On the other hand, if the bylaws are structured wisely and pragmatically, it can be a blessing, because it means delegating administration to people who know what they are doing, and compartmentalizing team management and game decisions under the captains — what they do best.
The Society must hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM). It’s a good excuse to hold a party, but the AGM is the annual event at which the Society makes itself accountable to its members. Financial summaries are reviewed, any necessary bylaw changes are made, and the members elect Directors.
This month, the official Furious Ultimate Society will announce its first Board of Directors and release its bylaws. Stay tuned.
*Furious Ultimate Club was a favourite, but acronyms can be problematic.
**This is a glib way of distilling the actual reality of Common Law in Canada.
***No offense intended….
Alex Davis’ writing appears on Furious George’s blog