Officers' Field Guide

Last updated: 10 April, 2010

This is a "living document" that can always use additional input. If you feel you can contribute to it in some way, please send us a note. Along with your contribution, please tell me what section you think it should go in. General comments are welcome!

Gary Fischman
Miata.net


There are dozens of Miata Clubs around the world, and all of them have gone through many of the same problems you may be dealing with while attempting to start a new club. We've drawn on the experience of some of the Miata Club officer's to create this guide for building and maintaining a successful auto club.


Starting a Club

Getting the right people

The first thing to remember is that you can not do this alone. Many have tried, most burned out. It takes a dedicated commitment from several people to successfully run a club. The membership will have high expectations, and most people will not want to contribute much in the way of their time. Divide up the club's work!

One thing that is smart to do is to poll all interested parties at the start and find out if there are CPAs, attorneys, good typists, etc. to fill specific positions. Even without these experts, make sure you have some hard commitment from potential officers or leaders. Be prepared to do a LOT of legwork yourself at first.

The following is a general list of roles which must be considered. This does not necessarily mean that you need a different person for each of these positions, it just means that there are different jobs to do. Most of them are essential to successfully running a club.

President

The President is the focal point of the club. Duties include communications with other Clubs, keeping meetings on track, making final decisions, taking calls from new and existing members, spokesperson for the club, and being the Chief Enthusiast. The president should be comfortable speaking to a group as (s)he will be expected to do so at events. The president should have a very charismatic personality with a diplomatic nature. An ability to delegate tasks without making enemies is essential. A thick skin helps as well since you may hear complaints from the membership far more than you will hear how great the club is. Most of all, the president must be able to commit a lot of time. You will be expected to attend nearly every event, answer the phone constantly, and be consulted on most items even though they may have been delegated to others.

Vice President

The Vice President is the president's backup. (S)he must be able to fill in at events when the president is unavailable. Mostly, the Vice Presidential role is that of assistant or deputy. The position should be filled by someone who may not have the same amount of time available as the president, but who can be counted upon to handle the overflow and fill in where needed. The VP role is often combined with other roles and handles items that may not be assigned to another area.

Newsletter Editor

The newsletter editor is responsible for getting the newsletter put together. This means that the role should be filled by someone who can handle deadlines. Obviously a bit of writing skill is required. It should be clear to all officers that the newsletter editor cannot write everything alone and everyone will be expected to generate an occasional article. Still, the newsletter editor must be creative and have the ability to "punt" when there isn't enough information to fill the pages. Choose someone with access to a computer, desktop publishing program, and a laser printer. This position also requires a significant time commitment - as much as the president. (S)he may also have to keep on the back of the other officers to meet deadlines and get articles, event calendars, etc.

Treasurer

Everyone thinks its easy to hold the money, but there's a little more to being a treasurer. You need to have some basic accounting skills and be able to produce detailed reports to show how the money comes and goes. Needless to say, a computer with a spreadsheet and printer is helpful. An accounting package would even be better. And most of all, the person selected to be treasurer must be trustworthy.

The treasurer will need to keep books on club expenses and income. This will be required to help you prepare your annual tax return for the IRS.

Secretary

You want someone who can take minutes at meetings, handle correspondence with the State offices dealing with incorporation, and other "assistant" type duties. Within Peachtree, our secretary's primary function was taking and keeping the meeting minutes, but it's a pretty necessary function. The Secretary also maintains copies of the charter and by-laws, and is responsible for any modifications the club may vote on.

Events Coordinator

The events coordinator is the person responsible for scheduling events. This is the person that club members may contact to find out dates and times as well as some details about what an event will entail. The events coordinator must be able to work closely with the individuals who are doing the event planning, be familiar with many of the nuances on how to plan events, and be able to assist with details such as routing, reservations, etc.

Event workers

Many events will require more than just a single person to lead the caravan. Rallies require checkpoint workers, picnics require people to handle the food and cleanup, etc. You must recruit club members to help out. If the club officers are the only ones helping out at events, they will soon burn out from not being able to simply kick back and enjoy an event now and then. The need for club volunteers must be stressed. Events which require heavy staffing should not be announced until you are reasonably certain that the staff will be available.

Membership

Someone must be responsible for maintaining a membership database. This individual must be capable of receiving the applications from new and renewing members, forwarding membership dues to the Treasurer, tracking membership expiration/renewal dates, and generating membership lists for events and for the newsletter. It is best if this person has access to a computer and laser printer so mailing labels can be printed for club mailings and newsletters.

Regional Reps

Most clubs end up covering large geographic areas. You may want to consider having regional representatives who can lead caravans to the starting point of events and can take the time and effort to place a welcome call to new members. Regional reps should be enthusiastic club members who would like to help out just a bit more than the general membership. They usually end up also being the ones that help in event planning and other miscellaneous tasks. Regional reps can also help out by occasionally visiting the dealerships in their area to maintain contact between the club and the major sources of support.

Dealer Liaison

The Dealer Liaison is responsible for making contact with dealerships to secure funding, event venues, and information. The individual should be somewhat of a marketeer to help sell the club to dealerships in the area.

Arrange your first meeting

Your initial meeting will be an organizing meeting. You'll need to get as many interested people as you can and temporarily assign some of the roles identified above. The temporary officers will get things rolling and serve until the first official election. More often than not, the same crew that started off will be elected to the positions they've been serving. You may wish to print out copies of this guide to have on hand for your meeting to help ensure that all of the key points are covered.

Cover your arse

There are a few things you should seriously consider to protect the club officers from being held personally liable in the rare event that a major problem occurs. What if someone has an accident at a club rally? What if someone burns their hand at the barbecue? What if the club is sued for copyright infringement for inadvertently putting something in the newsletter? What about the IRS?

Incorporation

Your home state may have some interesting requirements and advantages for incorporations so that should be investigated. There may also be advantages for registration as a non-profit organization with the IRS.

You should probably incorporate as a not-for-profit organization. Keep in mind that there are accounting requirements which will be necessary to keep the IRS happy.

Charter

Discuss and agree on the club's focus for activities. What is the goal of the club? Do you want to primarily do tours, rallies, autocross, social events? (EXAMPLE REQUIRED HERE)

By-laws

Establish a set of bylaws that a) make sense, b) don't overly constrict your operations, and c) are agreed to by the vast majority. Go easy with the rules and regulations. Get copies of by-laws from other clubs for examples.

Constitution

A mutual understanding of how the club will function. Items to be covered include election of officers, voting, how meetings will be conducted, whether they will be closed meetings or open to the general membership, etc. (EXAMPLE REQUIRED HERE)

Insurance

Liability is a consideration you should eventually address. You will probably also want to consider a liability release at each driving event. (EXAMPLE REQUIRED HERE)

Event Waivers

Develop a standard club waiver form to protect the club against liability. Seek legal counsel on this to be sure you're covered. A sample waiver can be seen here. Or you can download a Microsoft word version.

Club Insurance Alternatives - By rtm3@infinet.com

As ours is a litigious society ("Sue" is more a verb than a name), individual clubs should probably have insurance.

First of all, club insurance DOES NOT replace the coverage one is required/should have on the individual vehicles. One premise of auto insurance is that insurance "follows the car." Your vehicle's state-required insurance is considered "primary." club insurance is considered "excess", and is to protect officers and members from lawsuits or claims pertaining to club events. It would not cover an individual member's personal liability.

One approach is to obtain insurance from K&K, a nationwide insurer of sports car clubs and the like. They have specialized in this area for many years and are very knowledgeable. For a 50 person club and $1M worth of coverage, K&K quoted approximately $800, and would cover all events, even club sponsored racing events.

Another approach is to obtain two policies, one for general liability, and the other a business auto policy. The general liability policy protects a club for non-driving activities, and would cover things like bodily injury, property damage, personal injury (false arrest, malicious prosecution, libel, slander, etc.) and advertising injury (libel, slander, advertising or copyright infringement). One of the things this sort of general liability policy SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT COVER is any activities involving driving. If you decide to not hold any "racing" events, you can get a business auto policy which covers club (and officer's, members', etc) potential liability during driving events for non-club owned autos. TSD, gimmick, nose-to-tail and other types of rallies, held on public streets to public laws are not considered "racing" and fall within the guidelines to use for the business auto policy.

An example: Tom t-bones John Q. Public during a rally on a public street. The local police cite Tom as at fault. Tom's personal auto insurance (and NOT the club's) pays to fix Public's car. Public could potentially decide to make a claim or sue the club for a variety of reasons. The club's insurance would cover the club and its officers for any potential liability in this circumstance. The claim against Tom (for his liability) is handled between Public and Tom's insurance company. For a 50 person club, which agreed not to sponsor any "racing" events, for $1M of coverage was quoted for $330 and included the combination of general liability and business auto policy.

If your choice is the first (i.e. you want to sponsor "races"), K&K has an 800 number (I don't know what it is--consult the 800 directory). If you choose not to "race", you should consult your local independent insurance agent. Coverages and premiums will vary from locality to locality based on the particular state's laws (no-fault vs comparative vs contributory, etc). The magic insurance words for the latter are "general liability policy" and "business auto policy." This is only to illustrate that there are club insurance options besides K&K and does not make recommendations either for one or the other as always, Your Mileage May Vary.

Name and Logo

With a small number of initial members, develop a logo and plan initial steps that might get bogged down by opinions of a much larger (more mature) organization.

National club affiliation

Affiliation with a national organization is not required to start a Miata Club. In fact, there is no longer any national organization with which to be affiliated. Miata Club of America is defunct, as is the Miata Owner's Club.

Getting Members

Notify Miata.net

If you notify us, we can place a listing for your club in the Miata.net Club List. There is no charge for this. It will help people surfing Miata.net to find you.

Applications

You should design a membership application that includes a brief description of the Club, its purpose, and who to contact for more information. In addition, your application should require certain information which you decide is important to collect for each member.

You may also want to eventually prepare a New Member's Pack to be sent to all new dues-paying members. Things you may wish to include can be club windshield decal, club membership directory, additional applications, membership card, dealer discount coupons, etc.

Local dealerships
Contact Mazda dealers in your area and make sure they know about your club. By keeping in touch regularly, you can establish a mutually beneficial relationship that will bring in members and provide services for your membership as well as sending new customers to the dealership. See if you can convince the dealership to purchase a club membership in the name of every new Miata owner. Consider giving the dealer a discounted membership price for this. The club will get many new members who will renew at full price in future years. Even if they won't do that, they will generally agree to give out your application to new Miata owners.
Windshields
Print up a BUNCH of membership flyers and hand them out to your members. Keep a supply in your car and put them under EVERY Miata you run across. This is a GREAT way to drum up members.
Mazda
If you are really intent on reaching a huge number of Miata owners, contact the nearest Mazda Regional office and request a listing of all registered Miata owners! The response rate on this will most likely be less than the responses from the Miat Owners Clublist, but if your postage and/or newsletter cost is subsidized, it may be worth it to your club.

Officers' Meetings

It is a good idea to hold Officers' Meetings separate from your general membership meetings. You can try to combine the two, but you may find that the general membership is more interested in having fun than in planning the fun. If you conduct a regular monthly or bi-monthly meeting strictly dedicated to club business, your general meetings and events will be more fun since you won't be bogged down with business.

Agenda
Use agendas for meetings to insure you get through the items which need to be covered. It will help keep things on track. Its very easy to get so caught up in the fun of being with other Miata enthusiasts that nothing gets done in the meeting.

Financial Considerations

You will need to generate revenue to keep the club running. You'll need to provide funding for the newsletter (some clubs are lucky enough to have a printer as a member), postage, event preparations, insurance, correspondence, etc. There are many possible sources of revenue.

Memberships

Decide what your dues should be to support the club. Some clubs have all memberships expire at the same time of year and offer prorated membership for mid-year starts. One advantage of this is that you only need to do a single membership mailing every year. The downside is that you become very dependent on doing that renewal drive. Other clubs have memberships that expire on the anniversary date of the member having joined. This provides a continous source of income, but it also requires that you keep track of membership expiration dates and send renewal notices. One effective way of notifying members that it is time to renew is to keep the expiraton date on the mailing label.

Newsletter Advertising

Club logo items

Dealership Sponsors


Communications

Newsletter

The newsletter is the club's most critical communication function. You'll soon find that many people join just to get the newsletter and will never come to events. Don't be discouraged. This doesn't mean they aren't interested. In fact, many people consider this a benefit. Your club will receive the dues from members who will not use any club resources other than the newsletter. Even if your initial newsletter is only one page with a list of events, names, and phone numbers, it is essential to have one. Something minimal is better than nothing.

WWW

Many Miata clubs these days have their own web sites. This is an excellent way to provide up-to-the-minute information regarding events, contacts, etc. However it is also necessary that the site be kept current. A club web page is of no use if the information on it is incorrect. The web is useful also to provide more information about events, etc., when the space in your newsletter is limited. And don't forget to provide an application which can be printed out and mailed in with dues!

Electronic Mail

Email based mailing lists are another method of providing quick notification of events, special promotions, and other news to your members who are on-line. If you choose to use electronic media for this purpose, don't forget about your members who are still not on-line. You don't want to ignore half your club in your efforts to communicate with the other half. Best bet is to use electronic media as a supplement to your club newsletter. Use email to send out reminders or special news which may be out-of-date by the time the newsletter comes out.

Calling Tree Committee

Plan to form a "calling tree committee." This is a group of club volunteers who each take a portion of the membership list and make phone calls to let people know of events, changes, or other important stuff that doesn't have time to get into the newsletter. It also allows you to quickly organize an impromptu event. Once you organize this, and all of the committee members have their list, it only takes a few calls from, say, the president to the committee, and soon the word is out to the whole club.


Staging Events

This is the most essential part of the success of any club. Without events, why even bother with a club? The whole point is to get together and have fun!

Fundamentals

Waivers

Develop a standard club waiver form to protect the club against liability. Seek legal counsel on this to be sure you're covered. A sample waiver can be seen here. Or you can download a Microsoft word version.

Planning sheets

Hand out event plans that include among other things, potty breaks, snacks, rests, written directions, emergency numbers, first aid kit, club banner, maps

Caravans

Meeting times

Be sure to publish your calendar sufficiently ahead of time. Establish a calendar schedule that will not be in conflict with other popular events in the area or of interest to your prospective members.

Rain

Food

Dealership support

CB Radios

Types of events

We've managed to get some suggestions for events from various clubs around the world. Here are just a few of the more unusual ones. After all, anyone can think of the obvious things like picnics and run-of-the-mill rallys! Send in your ideas!

Touring

Rallys

Indoor events

Murder Mystery. Non-driving event, maybe good for those cold winter days/nights up north when the car is in storage. The games are commercially available. Gives people an opportunity to wear costumes and ham up their roles. Can be turned into a Murder Mystery Rally!

Tech Sessions

Funkhannas

Too difficult to categorize



[Home] - [FAQ] - [Search] - [Sponsors] - [Forums]
[Garage] - [Clubs] - [Contact Us] - [More...]
Copyright ©1994-2014, Eunos Communications LLC
All rights reserved.