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Furious George Incorporates

by | April 7, 2014, 9:00am 8

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.

Restrictions

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.

Coming Up

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

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8 Responses to “Furious George Incorporates”

  1. quick question says:

    was curious, what are the cost of turning your entity into a non-profit in Canada?

    • Guesstimate says:

      To my knowledge, it's mainly paperwork. There may be a small fee, something like 100$ to submit your paperwork or some such thing.

      Anyone can feel free to correct me.

  2. Rob Maguire says:

    In British Columbia, there is a $100 filing fee. For most small non-profits, the paperwork is simple enough that it can be done in-house without the need for paid professionals (e.g. lawyers).
    http://www.bcregistryservices.gov.bc.ca/bcreg/cor

  3. Gwen says:

    Note that Seattle Riot has been a registered non-profit with the state of Washington since 2008. http://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/search_detail.aspx?ub

    Registering as a non-profit in WA state is relatively easy. Among other things, it allows the team to have a bank account in the team name that we link to a PayPal account for gear sales. In the US, being a registered non-profit is different than having 501(c)3 status. 501(c)3 status is what allows an organization to receive tax-deductible donations. Applying for that status is a more onerous task, which IIRC costs around $400, involves a detailed application, and can take months to be approved.

    Obviously things will be different in Canada and the US regarding non-profit laws.

  4. Daniel says:

    I think this is a really good idea and makes me wonder about the organization and protection that a lot of other clubs have. The first easy question that comes to mind is if I slap the name Revolver on some tshirts and start selling them does the team have any good way to make me stop?

    And the issue becomes even thornier when it comes to the college level. I know many teams are trying to create real organizations with fundraising, endowments, scholarships to young athletes, and a visible brand that's recognized across the country. But while the good that sort of organization can bring to a team is undeniable the actual 'how to do it' bit is far from clear. People have the Hodag and the Carleton symbols tattooed on their bodies but has anybody bothered to trademark the symbol? Are teams even allowed to do that and still be a university affiliated clubs? 15, 20 years down the road when scholarships and the sale of merchandise are the rule how much will universities let teams set up organizations that are independent of the university?

    I'm glad some of these questions and ideas about how to create an ultimate organization are starting to be figured out by club level teams.

  5. richard says:

    The statement that they are the first team to incorporate independently is highly inaccurate, there are dozens of HS teams which have boosters in place. The booster is just the team plus some admin and fundraising functions rolled into 1 non-profit.

  6. Richard says:

    Also to the cost question, 501c3 status costs something like $400-800 for the application depending on you expected revenues, state corporation commission is usually about $75 or so, local municipality fees will cost you about $50 or so. Mostly its just reams of paperwork though, the IRS app is about 10 pages plus you have to submit about 15-20 pages of supplemental information.

  7. Sam Diener says:

    This is fascinating. When considering what by-laws make sense, questions about participatory democracy and accountability come to the fore, as well as interactions with the state. I worked for a peace movement organization in California years ago, whose nonprofit rules didn't allow us to officially use a consensus-based decision making process, for example (See a full-text pdf of C. T. Butler and Amy Rothstein's wonderful book on a very effective consensus model that has guided many protest-oriented groups for decades, On Conflict and Consensus, http://www.consensus.net/pdf/consensus.pdf). But that wasn't a huge barrier, because one of the first decisions of the board of directors was to take a (unanimous) majority vote to henceforth use consensus.

    In terms of sports teams considerably larger than ultimate orgs at the current time, soccer clubs might be a fascinating model to look towards. Brazilian professional football clubs were (are?) sometimes democratically run by the players (see this article that mentions Socrates' role in Corinthians FC implementing player-democracy, http://themonkeycage.org/2013/06/24/political-fut….

    See this article on the five largest fan-owned clubs in the world, including Boca Juniors in Argentina, Borussia Dortmund in Germany, and Barcelona. Barca is democratically owned and run by the fans (see a pdf of an article about this at http://themonkeycage.org/2013/06/24/political-fut… as is Atletico Bilbao, in a region which boasts possibly the largest workers cooperative in the world, the 100,000 employee Mondragon Cooperatives. Here's a study of governance at Mondragon (http://www.solhaam.org/articles/mondra.html#works, and a piece by the same author assessing the governance structures of different kinds of cooperatives, http://www.solhaam.org/articles/coops.html). Lest you think this is far afield, the latter discusses the benefits of producer cooperatives and consumer cooperatives, and handling tensions which can arise between them (think about potential future tensions between player control and fan control over clubs).

    Closer to our scale, but still well beyond us in ultimate at this stage, here's an interesting piece about the growth and fan ownership of Nashville FC, a soccer club currently in the fourth tier of soccer leauges in the US, http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/02/14/….

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