How to manage/organize a gun club


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BothellBob
September 23, 2008, 07:29 PM
Fellow High Roaders:
I am a member of an NRA affiliated gun club which operates a range. With several other members I am serving on an ad hoc committee charged with reviewing our club’s operation and proposing changes to our bylaws.
These bylaws have undergone only the mildest of amendment since the clubs beginnings in 1945. We started as a small sportsmen’s club with 80 undeveloped acres (and a mortgage) at the end of a rural dirt road. Club business was conducted at monthly meetings of the members. The club was very social, but perhaps becoming a bit run down, when in the late 1980s some of the membership undertook a major maintenance, rebuilding, and expansion effort.
We now have 2,000+ members with five buildings, multiple archery/rifle/pistol/shotgun ranges, public hours, full and part time employees, no debt, but a non-profit business with a $500,000+ annual budget, and a prime location on the suburbanized, and highly regulated, border of King (Seattle) and Snohomish (Everett) counties.
We are trying to run a small business and a relatively large gun club with volunteer officers and directors (the same group who assumed control of the club nearly 20 years ago) and rules that were never intended for the kind of operation we have become. Surely other clubs in the nation have faced the difficulties and challenges in adapting to the kind of growth, time requirements, and complexity we have experienced. Our ad hoc committee would like to contact such clubs and learn how they have shaped their bylaws, governance, and organization; and how they managed their transition. If you are aware of some clubs that might serve as examples for us, we would very much appreciate knowing which they are and who we might contact.
Please let me know. Thanks,
-BothellBob

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Rembrandt
September 23, 2008, 09:15 PM
"If it ain't broke....don't fix it".

Sounds like you're doing fine. If well written, constitution & bylaws rarely need changed. The down fall of many clubs is when they get too focused on making rules rather than operating the club to promote the shooting sports.

BothellBob
September 24, 2008, 03:29 PM
"If it ain't broke....don't fix it".
I understand the sentiment, but that's no way to run an airline.

Sounds like you're doing fine. If well written, constitution & bylaws rarely need changed. The down fall of many clubs is when they get too focused on making rules rather than operating the club to promote the shooting sports.
We are doing fine, but largely because we ignore the bylaws; they were not particularly well written. We are thriving and surviving because a few talented (and aging) members are volunteering way too much of their lives to keep us going. We are trying to figure out a way to decrease our dependence on these people (they would like to let go of this tiger, too) before something does break. Perhaps this is a governance issue, or maybe it is structural (Do similar sized clubs hire managers? We do not.). Which is why I am trying to ask, "How did your club handle growth and complexity?".
-Bob

WNTFW
September 24, 2008, 03:53 PM
BothellBob,
One thing I have noticed in these type of volunteer situations is people need to be willing to truly let go of the control. If you want new people to step up they need to have a certain amount of freedom to use new methods. Your going to have to tust the new people with some responsibility. They also get to have an opinion. Maybe do it incrimentally to spot the flake jobs. Then don't overload the go to workers.

Some things work by committe & some things don't.

Rewrite the bylaws around what is working. You also might have to compensate the guys for their time in some manner.
I just went to a range on Saturday to help with hurricane damage. I am not a member but shot there one time. My motive was selfish in that I want the range to be there in the future. After meeting some more of the members I'm more interested in joining.

Good Luck,
WNTFW

Steve N
September 24, 2008, 05:40 PM
With a $500,000 budget, you may want to consider hiring a full-time manager, and have an elected small (3-5 member) executive committee oversee their work. I don't know what you'd have to pay someone to manage a club in your neck of the woods, but it could be a viable option.

An executive committee would allow the manager to take care of daily tasks, and have a limited budget for monthly bills, incidentals, and repair materials, but would have to sign off on any big-ticket items. The executive committee would have to come to the members for any major changes, such as large dues increases, borrowing of money, improvements, etc. The executive committee should meet monthly, with all members invited, to conduct monthly business. There should be at least one annual meeting where the membership elects executive committee members, and votes on major items.

The manager would take care of daily business, maintenance, upkeep, and beg/cajole/plead with all members to assist in work parties, etc. The manager should make sure they ask every member to volunteer, and don't rely on the same people all of the time.

This arrangement may require a re-write of your constitution and bylaws, and membership approval.

Rembrandt
September 24, 2008, 06:48 PM
....We are doing fine, but largely because we ignore the bylaws; they were not particularly well written. We are thriving and surviving because a few talented (and aging) members are volunteering way too much of their lives to keep us going.

If you are ignoring the bylaws in order to properly run the club then by all means amend the bylaws.

Our club is smaller, (800 members), and is run totally with volunteer help. Generally this means 5% of the people are doing 95% of the work.....that's pretty common as most clubs go. Keeping fresh volunteers in the system can be challenging, many times personalities clash and ego's collide. Whenever a conflict has occurred it's usually because someone tried to skirt the bylaws. Having senior leaders can be either a blessing or a curse, they offer experience to younger leaders or present an obstacle to future growth and transition.

For a club your size with a sizable budget it would make sense to hire a full time manager (maybe an assistant) that reports back to the officers and directors.

Most clubs I'm aware of that hire a full time manager have annual budgets of $250,000 or more.

skidmark
September 24, 2008, 07:19 PM
Seriously, if you are as big as you say you are, with a half-million dollar annual budget, you and your membership need more than justy a by-laws overhaul. But you do need a by-laws overhaul if you have some but are not operating per the written word. Doing so is a disaster waiting to happen.

The NRA offers all sorts of assistance in the areas that you need to address, and I'm sure there are attorneys and insurance advisors who can be talked into reducing fees if not outright donating time to help your club wuth some of the basics of getting squared away. Call on them (NRA, attorneys, insurance advisors) for help.

stay safe.

skidmark

langenc
September 24, 2008, 08:16 PM
Get a 'shooter' lawyer and write some meaningful rules to protect those volunteers from lawsiuts and financial ruin-personally or review rules in place.

ADVERTISE what you are doing. Shooting sports are no different than the local HS athletics or the NFL. A club I belonged to never put anything in the newspaper. In fact when I asked if there was going to be some publicity for a big annual trapshoot one board member said "the town dont need to know-only the ATA(Amer Trap Assn)." I was dumbfounded and had to reach up and close my mouth.

With that kind of cash flow you might consider some property "out a ways" cause it sounds like you are being pinched. When I suggested that at a club meeting (the one alluded to above) I was asked to "explain what I meant." All I said to the Sec was "all the heads at this table nodded when I mentioned it." The club is getting pinched by subdivisions. Most of the leadership thinks they are 'grandfathered in'-whatever that is. At least 2 clubs that I know of (in the area) have had seroius problems with neighborhood growth.

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