This is the beginning of a great relationship between 321Polo and Lancaster Bike Polo. Here is their informative interview with Eric Ransom about NAH Finances.
So here’s the full skinny:
A little while back Ben Schultz approached me and asked a very simple question: Is there anything you want to know about the NAH? It took me just a few seconds before I typed back “yeah, what are you doing with my money?”
And that’s how this interview and information was born. I wanted to like and say that I had to go through a dark, spider infested cave and fight off some old wombat or something, but basically Ben put me in touch with Eric from DC, I had a few meetings, and now I’m informed. So let me share that information with you, too.
Below you’ll find my interview questions for Eric, the secretary of the NAH (if you wanna contact him, email secretary@NAHardcourt.com). However, before we get into all that, I want to provide you with some documents that he provided me:
- This is the current organizational chart of the NAH – your reps, board, and NAH Committees: NAH Chart
- This is a draft of this year’s 1023Financials, which shows the money collected over the course of the NAH’s lifetime. This is going to be available on the NAH site sometime in the very near future, the Secretary told me.
So look those over, and then come back to me to see a few answers to questions I think all of us have had about our NAH fees:
What is your Role in the NAH?
I am currently the NAH Secretary. Previously, I’ve also been the NAH Treasurer, an NAH Eastside Rep, and the NAH Eastside Board Member.
I want to ask you questions about where you put my money. So, give me a play by play: I go to a tourney, and there is a 10 dollar NAH fee. Tell me of the adventure, step-by-step, for my 10 dollars?
It’s really simple. The tournament organizer is supposed to build an extra $10/team into the tournament fee for each NAH qualifier, and then after the tournament the organizer sends that money to NAH using the email@example.com paypal account. This has worked smoothly for most tournaments over the past few years. After the fees hit the paypal account, some of the money is shifted on into a checking account and some stays in the paypal, essentially waiting for an NAH expense to be approved or a tournament-related disaster to occur.
Who is in charge of the collected money? Who has access to it (who can request those funds) both inside and outside of the NAH?
NAH has a paypal account at firstname.lastname@example.org and a separate business checking account. The NAH Treasurer and NAH Secretary have access to the accounts, but can’t approve payments. The board and the president can approve payments, but don’t have access to the accounts. So basically, it always takes at least two people signing off to make a payment. In practice, the whole NAH board has considered NAH’s transactions.
NAH Reps and/or tournament directors can make requests for emergency tournament funds. Anyone with an idea for NAH is also free to pitch it, just email one of your local reps!
Why do you think people are so confused about how that fund is used?
I think the main issue is that NAH collects $3.33 per player at seven tournaments per year — there simply aren’t a lot of high visibility projects that you can undertake, or that players should expect, with that level of funding. The money that NAH raises through sponsorships and fees has been enough to purchase some tournament equipment (scoreboards, whistles, stopwatches, ref shirts), contribute to the development of Podium, keep the NAH lights on (required corporate filings), and maintain an emergency fund that is basically the minimum it might take to bail out a major tournament.
I think this is also a good opportunity to point out that no sports organization, even a non-profit amateur organization, can grow given this level of funding. Other alternative sports leagues, like regional Cyclocross, or USA Ultimate (Ultimate Frisbee) or Roller Derby, require a license or membership fee which goes entirely to the organizational needs of the league, and separate event fees which are themselves larger than the tournament fees that NAH players are used to paying. And that doesn’t come close to the amounts that most roller derby leagues cost their players monthly, and they have a paying audience!
Right now, NAH players are basically paying the price of a premium mallet shaft for a 2-day major, including the NAH fees – it’s not enough to get us to the next level. For those who are interested in moving forward, I think USA Ultimate is currently the best model. USA Ultimate is also set up as by-players/for -players 501c3 amateur sports organization, and they’ve been around for 30 years. They are big enough that they file full financial statements and so you can go on their website and get an idea of how they run. http://www.usaultimate.org/about/usaultimate/governance/default.aspx
If you look at the most recent financials from 2011, you can see pretty clearly that even an organization with 25,000 competitive members doesn’t support its activities in tournament fees and sponsorship – it’s really all about the membership fees. In fact, you can see that their championship series cost more to run than they brought in with the series’ fees and all of their sponsorship combined!
I think the USA Ultimate model shows us that to reach the next level of bike polo, competitive players are going to have to keep paying a mallet shaft per tournament in tournament fees, but they’re probably also going to have to pay a decent mallet head per year for an NAH license. That’s what it will take if we’re going to get where most competitive players want to go – with trained, compensated, independent refs; more consistent facilities; and more (and more-open) tournament series options.
What are some ways, (your opinion) on how to make that fund and all funds collected by the NAH more visible to Polo players?
NAH is going to be releasing financial data from the draft of our IRS-1023 form, which is a request for the IRS to recognize NAH’s non-profit status as the official organizational body of North American Hardcourt Bike Polo. This info should be up on the website within the week. In the future, NAH will release financial data at the time of our yearly tax filings. This will be separate from the filing itself because NAH files a 990-N, which doesn’t include any really useful financial data. NAH’s FY2011 990-N is public and we’ll release that as well with the acknowledgement that there are a couple typos – not our fault! We filed on the phone for 2011 and I guess the IRS guys couldn’t distinguish the Ms from the Ns.
What are some ways players can learn more about the NAH and what it’s doing to utilize collected funds for the betterment of bike polo in North America?
NAH is also putting out an organizational chart that will hopefully help people to get in touch. NAH is not some impenetrable monolithic bureaucracy — it’s the volunteer efforts of a bunch of people that players know from their clubs and from tournaments. Over the past three years I’ve been involved for the Eastside, anyone who has emailed me to ask about NAH business has gotten an answer. But to make it easier, we’re rolling out @nahardcourt email addresses for every region, every officer, and every committee of NAH. Have a general question? Reach your reps through Cascadia@nahardcourt, Northside@nahardcourt.com, etc. Have a question about the tour? Tournaments@nahardcourt.com. Question about reffing? Ref@nahardcourt.com. New rules? Rules@nahardcourt.com. It’s that easy.
I want to thank Eric and Ben for the time, conversations, and answers – but I want to warn my readership: if you feel inclined to discuss what was talked about in this post, that’s perfectly supergreat – but for the love of Gub don’t ask me questions! Use that string of email addresses above to ask the NAH directly (and let me know if anything interesting comes out of it). I will be as useless as an oyster at a spelling bee if you have those sorts of inquiries. Yes, I just came up with that, and no I don’t think it works, either.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful to ya.