Dear Extended CAT family,
We CATs recently marked our fourth-year anniversary. Over the last four years, we’ve had lots of success and fun interacting as an informal group that encourages community, friendship, and a love of the trails in and around Charlottesville. Our club includes all types of runners, from those of us that are slow, back-of-the pack runners, to some of the speediest ultrarunners in Virginia. We have grown a lot since our inception in 2011; today our listserv includes close to 300 participants!
Over this period, our organizational structure has remained informal, i.e. there is currently no formal board or membership. At the club’s inception, the CAT founders — Christian Dahlhausen, Drew Kreuger, and David Smith — eschewed a board or official leadership in order to keep things simple, and to focus on the fun of running and spending time together. At the same time, the founders recognized that an informal structure limited what the CATs could do to support a mission to promote trail running. For instance, without a formal organizational structure, the CATs cannot officially sponsor events because we cannot easily insure participants against accidents and property damage, nor can we cover liability if we were to host race events. Moreover, because we are not an official non-profit organization, we cannot easily attract outside funding for worthy endeavors.
It was during a recent brainstorming session to launch the new Charlottesville Summer Trail Running Series that the four of us (John Andersen, Christian Dahlhausen, Andy Jones-Wilkins, and David Smith) realized that the CATs would be the natural choice to organize and lead these races. But to do this, the CATs would need to adopt a more formal organizational structure.
We have decided to take the “next step” and organize the CATs formally as a non-profit running club. We will do so under the umbrella of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), meaning we will become a RRCA-recognized club. As a RRCA club, we can obtain non-profit status for tax purposes without applying directly for 501(c)-3 status from the IRS. This allows us to fundraise as a non-profit institution, including through tax-deductible donations from local business and individuals. Importantly, the RRCA also provides reasonably priced insurance that covers members for accident-related injuries and property damage during CAT training runs, social events, etc., and covers participants in CAT-sponsored races.
The mission of the non-profit Charlottesville Area Trail Runners Club will be to push forward what we started four years ago. Central to the mission is to promote the love of trails and trail running. We want to be recognized for welcoming runners of all types into the world of trail running, for sponsoring events that promote trail running, including trail races and social events, and for providing stewardship in developing and maintaining a high quality trail network in and around Charlottesville. This stewardship would extend to helping preserve the areas through which trails run, including working to prevent and repair damage created by the use of the trails. Funds raised by the CATs would be used to further its mission.
The only significant, visible change to CATs from adopting this structure is that we are now seeking “members” of the CAT Club. Membership involves registering as a member and paying $15.00 in annual dues to the Club. The dues are to be used for two purposes. First, to cover the costs of RRCA membership and insurance. Second, to build a general fund that supports the mission of the Club, including deferring the costs of CAT races and merchandise, covering administrative costs, such as website and listserv maintenance, helping to sponsor local trail running-related events like “film nights” and guest speakers, financing CAT social events, and for maintaining and preserving local trails.
Although membership is completely voluntary (all the existing parts of CATs will remain free of charge), there are many benefits to becoming a member of the Club. First, with your $15 in dues (equivalent to 2-3 craft beers at our local establishments), you can support the mission of the CAT Club and be a part of raising the CATs’ profile as a top-level trail running club. Membership also gives you a voice in how the Club is governed. As a start, the four of us will comprise the Board of Directors of the Club. But within a year of the start of the Club, we will hold our first election in which members will vote on a new Board. Members can attend board meetings, have direct access to Club board meeting minutes, and receive full documentation related to the ongoing financial affairs of the Club.
Club membership offers you the following additional benefits:
- RRCA membership, including a subscription to Club Running, the RRCA magazine.
- 10% discount at Crozet Running
- Discounts on CAT merchandise.
- Right to vote at board meetings
- Discounts or free entry to CAT-sponsored social and educational events.
- Again, you will be supporting our mission to share our passion for trail running, encourage runners of all levels, make lasting friendships, and support local trails!
The CAT Club will be governed and run solely for the purposes of serving the mission of the CATs and creating a fun environment for trail running with our members and CAT friends. We aspire to be completely transparent with how the Club is governed, and how we collect, save, and spend our funds. This is your Club, and everything about the Club should be open and transparent to all. Should you have any questions at all about this transition, or anything related to the CATs, we encourage you to contact any of us via email (below).
We thank you in advance for supporting this transition, and for these past 4 years of making the CATs the great club it is. We have all made some of our most meaningful relationships through trail running, and we are confident this will continue into the future.
David C. Smith