How To Start a Members-Only Club in Just 6 Simple Steps
There are any number of reasons to start a club. You may want to meet new people through a book club or another hobby group. Or perhaps you want to serve your community by creating a trash pickup team or another service club. Whatever the reason, starting a membership organization can brighten, serve, or elevate your community. In this guide, we will share six simple steps to get your idea off the ground.
- Step 1: Define Your Club
- Step 2: Create Your Club Structure
- Step 3: Organize Your Leadership
- Step 4: Figure Out Your Finances
- Step 5: Build Your Club Membership
- Step 6: Develop Your Online Presence
- Final Thoughts
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Step 1: Define Your Club
Though it is a simple step, defining your club is vitally important to the success and longevity of it. Get your founders together for an initial meeting to answer:
What is the purpose of our club?
What kind of community are we attempting to create?
What are our short-term and long-term goals?
What are the requirements for membership?
Take some time to discuss finer points as well. You are building your club’s identity at this point, so decide on a membership mission statement. For example, if you are starting a Sudoku group, your mission statement might be: "To improve our math skills and mental agility through puzzles."
Eva is excited to get started on her members-only club!
To make sure that all of your founding members are on the same page, you might also ask questions that will clarify protocol and procedure, such as:
Will our club require fundraising?
Will we offer resources and benefits to our new members?
When, where, and how often will we meet?
What will our meetings look like?
You may also find it useful to ask club members these questions as they begin to join so that everyone plays a role in bringing about successful club directives.
Step 2: Create Your Club Structure
Once you have answered the questions that give your club an identity, you can decide on your overall membership structure. Some clubs are informal, loosely structured groups. For example, a neighborhood pickleball club would fit this bill. Your members may just decide to meet up weekly for games.
However, many clubs are more formal in nature. An organization can be a community service or charitable group. This club may require a strong organizational structure to rally volunteers, solicit donations, hold fundraising events, or even lobby local or national governments.
For many of these more formal clubs, it makes sense to register as a nonprofit organization. To figure out if your club would be eligible, visit the IRS website for guidelines regarding tax exemption under Section 501(c)(7).
Step 3: Organize Your Leadership
Only one person may need to govern an informal, low-maintenance club. However, larger, more complex clubs need a team of trusted people with assigned roles and responsibilities. Depending on the structure of your club, you may elect members to the following roles:
Treasurer or finance coordinator
Keep it democratic. Once you decide which roles will work best for your club, open up the floor for nominations, and hold an election to fill these positions.
Step 4: Figure Out Your Finances
Now it is time to establish your financial structure. Here are some topics to figure out:
Identify all of the potential expenses for your club, including space rental, member equipment, promotional events, and catering costs.
Decide what sources of revenue you will go after. These may include fundraisers, donations, membership fees, and merch sales.
Create a document outlining the financial policies for your club.
Draft a budget to follow every month, quarter, or year.
Pro Tip: Almost every club will require some level of funding. Gather your leadership team, and dedicate a full meeting to hammering out the details of what costs your club may accrue over time and how you can get the funding to meet these costs.
Step 5: Build Your Club Membership
How do you find like-minded individuals who can share your passion and build your group culture? Here are some tips to get people onboard.
Oliver is calling up his potential first club members!
Understand Your Target Audience
If you have completed step one, you should have a clear definition of what your club is and, therefore, have a strong idea of who you are targeting. It might be helpful to write down the characteristics of these demographics, including their wants and needs.
Host an Event
A great way to get the word out about your club is to host a free event, such as a bingo night, dance marathon, or potluck. Offer entertainment in the form of music, stand-up comedy, or something else to attract people. Have several tents or tables set up to give interested individuals information on your club.
Step 6: Develop Your Online Presence
Prospective members need a place to go if they want more information about your social club. Start by building an attractive site that offers quality content in relation to your club’s area of interest.
For social media, only take on as many platforms as you can comfortably manage. Also be sure they are the ones your target audience connects with. For instance, if you are targeting neighbors who frequently post in neighborhood Facebook groups, use Facebook instead of Instagram or TikTok.
Some potential information you can share on your website and preferred social media platforms includes:
Calendar of events
Members-only page or portal
Pro Tip: As membership grows, many organizations invest in membership management software — like the one Springly offers — to help automate many of the time-consuming tasks that are a part of running social clubs. Membership management software can compile member information, collect online dues or donations, generate financial reports, and much more.
Launching a club is well worth the effort. There is nothing quite so rewarding as making your vision for a group of like-minded individuals a reality. While starting a club does require some forethought and organization, this guide simplifies the process by breaking it down into workable steps.
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💡How do I start a club online?
There are several steps to starting an online club. First, establish the purpose of your club. Next, hammer out the details, such as roles and funding. Finally, establish an online presence by building a website and creating social media accounts to share news and information. Find out more.
🔑 Do social clubs need to register with the federal government?
It depends on the type of club you intend to form. A loosely organized group of individuals that meet up for a common purpose are not required to register. However, if your club intends to solicit donations, hold fundraising events, or sell merchandise, you’ll want to register with the IRS as a social club. You may receive tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(7). Find out more.
📝 What are the legal requirements to start a members-only club?
Under IRS rules as a 501(c)(7) social club, you must be organized for tax-exempt purposes. Your club must provide a way for communication among members, and membership must be limited. Net earnings of the club may not benefit any one person but be invested back into the club. For the full set of regulations, visit the social clubs page on the IRS website. Find out more.