One of the most important things that board members, administrative staff, and coaches can do for any sports club is to build relationships with local community stakeholders, regional and national authorities, and different coaching groups and teams throughout the local and even at the National level. In youth sports, a lot of focus has been brought to coaches building relationships with their athletes and parents, as well as the general club membership, but there is a broader reach when it comes to building relationships that are often overlooked. This is the second article in a three-part series and will focus on how board members can build these important relationships to add to the strength and growth of the organization that they serve.
Board Members provide many valuable services and tools to the clubs and organizations that they serve. The goal for the board is to assemble a well-functioning, multi-talented group of individuals who share the vision of the club and are willing to use their talents and unique skills to expand and support the program to the best of their ability. They are able to do this in many different ways, but one way that has a big impact is by forging relationships with community partners, stakeholders, and regional and national authorities. Board members should also truly know and understand the membership of their club and identify any members who may be important community stakeholders. Who within the membership fills important roles in the community or has relationships with key community leaders? The members are important to build relationships with as both parties can benefit from the partnership. These are people who have a genuine interest in the club and could possibly create leverage for the team as they work together. One example of this could be a restaurant owner or a hotel owner who would have a vested interest in bringing a lot of people to the area. In this situation, both parties have something to gain, such as a discounted rate in exchange for a completely booked hotel or a restaurant coupon in exchange for a full dining room. Board members and members working together can help ensure that everyone--members and visitors--can have a fulfilling, positive experience.
As Board Members work to cultivate these relationships, every individual on the Board should be aware of who they have formed relationships with and how they are able to benefit the club. This can be done by updating a working document, such as a Google doc or sheet, and should also be discussed at meetings so that the entire board is aware, in case someone has to step down from their role. On the document that everyone has access to, there could be contacts, important names and numbers, their connection to the club, and also details about the latest conversations or interactions. It is important that not one or two board members hold all of the relationships within the club and within the community, but that it is a shared responsibility among the board. That way, if someone has to step down, move, or vacate their board seat, the rest of the board already has a working relationship and can take over and maintain without there being a break in the relationship.
Many youth sports clubs need to have a close working relationship with city leaders because of their need for using space or even city funding and resources to grow and be successful. In exchange, the city is able to understand and know the needs of the community that they are elected to serve. Katy Aris Wilson, President of TIDE Swimming in Virginia Beach, Virginia says, “Most City leaders want to serve and augment its citizens, and they want to support the people who are doing great work in their community. Having trusted and respected Board members who either have or can establish relationships with city leaders to tell your nonprofit's story can be valuable and pay dividends when you need city support. You might not know when you need it, so establishing your ‘brand,’ (which is closely tied to your mission statement) with them early on may expedite requests down the line because you have established credibility.” In 2015, TIDE Swimming built the first 50-meter pool in the city of Virginia Beach, and when they started hosting meets, they invited the Virginia Beach City Council members to come out and see the swimmers and the pool in action. Not only did they see community members of all ages engaged in a local youth sports organization, but they were also able to see the visiting families who represented possible economic potential as guests of the city.
Who are some of the people and organizations that board members should be working to build relationships with?
Local Government leaders, such as City Council members
Local community leaders--these may be non-profits or people who have a foothold in local community activities and decisions (some may be members of your team/organization already.)
The “key players” in any town or community--these may be people who own companies, donate their time and effort, serve on multiple boards, or run non-profits. (Again, start by looking at your own team members.)
Local hotels, restaurants, and retail businesses--these can become part of your marketing strategy. For example, we are bringing 500 athletes to the area for competition. How can we work together to make it a good experience and a profitable experience for everyone involved?
New businesses from restaurants to retail may want marketing visibility--consider a sponsorship for a banner or sign at the event, on the scoreboard, or even taking out an ad in the program.
Governing bodies of your local sports club (USA Swimming, USA Soccer, USA Field Hockey, etc.)
Other people in your area, workplace, or sphere of influence may offer unique perspectives and opportunities for your team.
In conclusion, the Board of Directors can make a powerful impact on the team through building relationships with the community and stakeholders associated with the club or organization. By working together, the board can reach from within its own membership to all areas of the community and beyond as they grow and build a strong youth club organization.