#RugbyNDS features: Saturday, Jan. 24

Like the United States Olympic Committee and its fellow national governing bodies, USA Rugby is a not-for-profit organization.

Non-profits conduct business for the benefit of the general public without distributing profits to its shareholders. This is the perfect solution for rugby clubs across the United States, where the sport of rugby is not professional and does not draw millions of dollars in revenue each fiscal year.

May Harris, a USA Rugby Trust Executive Board director and founder of For Purpose Law Group, a Professional Law Corporation, spoke about the ways to maximize a non-profit with her presentation at the 2015 USA Rugby National Development Summit Saturday, Jan. 24.

Harris' presentation - Forming, Creating, and Managing the Sports Based Nonprofit Organization - drew a crowd of varying experiences with non-profits to Hyatt Regency O'Hare.

"It was a very diverse audience," Harris said. "There were some who have been doing this for a while and some who were experienced in what I was talking about and knew the responsibilities. There was a set that didn't, and there was a set that was just starting, learning. It was very diverse.

"It would be wonderful if the ones that spoke up and said they knew more - and obviously they knew more - can mentor the ones that didn't so they connect."

The interactive presentation, part of the Specialty/Administrative track, was incredibly interactive for the benefit of the attendees. Harris' introduction called for the definition of a non-profit, though she pointed to the name of her own firm - For Purpose - as a better way to refer to a non-profit.

Multiple administrators from around the country responded to Harris' queries regarding the state of their current clubs. Some had already made the move to a 501(c)(3) corporation, or 501(c)(6) in some cases, while others were still considering the jump.

"I think the fear is actually taking the step to creating a separate entity in the first place and the professionalism needed for that," Harris said. "Growing beyond just a bunch of people doing something that they all enjoy and growing organically, taking that step to actually solidify it as a separate entity and do what's required is kind of scary, frightening."

If one is not faint of heart, she said, "do it yourself," but stay away from online help sites like LegalZoom.com.

Harris recommended 'How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation' by NOLO to get started, and GuideStar.com once the corporation is set up to help connect it with donors and grant-makers.

The presentation covered the broad-yet-basic-yet-crucial elements of the non-profit with a "formation checklist," an "exemption checklist," and an "operations checklist."

Though Harris' firm does not necessarily deal exclusively with sports-based organizations, it has been able to help the growing game of rugby by avoiding some of the pitfalls soccer has found in recent times while also embracing the culture of the global game.

"I think that soccer is five to 10 years ahead of rugby in its growth and its professionalism and its hierarchy," Harris said. "They've done some things poorly, like I alluded to in the presentation. Soccer's getting slammed all over the place on staffing, and we're not there yet and most rugby organizations have volunteers. If anyone's paid it's a pittance, definitely not $80,000 to the head coach. It's just not happening yet for most of these organic clubs."

While rugby may be trailing sports like soccer and basketball in popularity, there are benefits to a sport that requires only a ball at the earliest level. Keeping costs low for students (and eventually the elder members of a club) is a draw for donors, but it is also important to appeal to donors on a charitable level.

"I think sports-based organizations have a challenge because their major competition is typically the educational portion; it's not the charitable," Harris said. "I think sports almost have to educate donors a bit more about the impact that specific sport can have on young people. I didn't get into fundraising in my presentation, developing a case for support - it's explaining to donors what it is that you do that makes an impact on the community.

"If it's just to get together to play a sport, you're going to have a hard time convincing foundation donors or individual donors to give to you. But if you can link that to, 'Okay, we have a youth program where 50 percent of kids are scholarship recipients because they're eligible for free or reduced lunch, they wouldn't be playing any other sport because football costs $500, club volleyball is $5,000 a year,' rugby's different in that regard.

"If you can put that together in a persuasive way for donors and kind of bridge that gap - it's not just a bunch of people getting together to play a sport, it's something very different - they will donate based on that rather than because it's a sport."

For more information on non-profit organizations, contact May Harris at mharris@forpurposelaw.com.


Women's Eagles Jamie Burke and Kate Daley were just a few national team representatives to present in the Women's Rugby World Cup presented by Serevi track Saturday.

The duo's presentation early in the day - 'World Cup Performance as an Amateur Athlete - Lessons for the American Rugby Player' - touched on plenty of close-to-home worries aspiring athletes harbor in the United States.

Playing for the Eagles does not happen because of a National Championship victory at the college or club level; it does not happen because a Pete Steinberg or a Mike Tolkin is blown away from an individual performance in a match caught on film; it does not happen by emailing a selector with stats and a YouTube profile. As Steinberg and the Women's Eagles put it, it is the 'Eagle Way,' or 'Eagle 365.'

'Eagle 365' does not necessarily require one to skip dessert or make sure to run a few miles around the nearest park every day of the year. The lifestyle required to be an international-caliber athlete, however, does necessitate sacrifices.

"It means you are making deliberate choices 365 days a year," Burke said. "And maybe that choice is, 'I'm going out for a double scoop of ice cream.' It didn't just happen for me."

Burke, following the 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup, felt as though she was near the top of her game. Playing for Beantown with fellow Eagles Sharon Blaney, Emilie Bydwell, Amy Daniela, Mel Denham, and Kittery Wagner, she was at a level above that of her international peers, eventually leading to a nomination to the All-World Team.

A year following the World Cup, Burke moved to Durham, N.C. Without a high performance environment like Beantown (she played for Raleigh Dynamo, a Division II club), the most-capped Eagle and international prop digressed.

She recalled a match during the Eagles' France and Italy Tour after her first season with Raleigh:

Burke made the necessary move to Glendale, Colo., where she rejoined Eagle teammates and a high performance environment that allowed her to maintain her place in Steinberg's plans for Women's Rugby World Cup 2014. Her sacrifices included moving her partner and dog 2,000 miles across the country for her rugby career, which was not exactly paying bills.

The presentation touched on three key resources prospective Eagles need to manage: time, people, and money.

For last year's World Cup, some Eagles had to take several weeks away from work throughout the year for warm-up tours and the tournament in France, while others missed classes at school and a further few were forced to leave their jobs. Even in a non-World Cup year, the time it takes to keep oneself in the best possible shape and the best possible mindset is not available to most.

Daley had to move out of her family's home to continue her path to the Eagles:

"Your support group is critical and you really have to get their buy-in to this process," Burke added. "If every time [you miss a family get-together] and it's a battle, it becomes exhausting. It becomes its own workout."

Jenny Lui, another Eagle and training partner to Daley, showed the World Cup captain how to be flexible in saving money for tour. Burke discussed ditching the weekly nights out, which could save a few hundred dollars each month for extra travel funds.

As Burke put it, rugby players in America are not professional, but "the expectations have become professional."

"What are my true priorities," Burke asked. "What is my end goal? If my end goal is to be the best at the World Cup and I have to be at every national team event I can attend, and take advantage of the coaching resources which means I need to be able to fly places, then I need to make some of those hard choices.

"But life balance is still a huge part. You have to enjoy this. We're not getting paid to play this sport, so there has to be an aspect of fun about it as well as a sense of 'you're living your life.'"

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