By DAVID SCHMETTERLING
Here in Missoula, we have a very successful running club: 1400+ runners of all skill levels, a nationally awarded marathon, popular and diverse training classes, group runs nearly every day of the week, paid staff, dedicated volunteers, and a lot of cash in the bank.
So, what’s the plan? What’s that money for?
That is exactly what the board of directors and staff have been grappling with over the last ten months. Run Wild has quickly evolved from a small club of committed runners to a major force in this community. Missoula is a running community. Everyone runs or knows someone who does. This running club has influenced lives all over Missoula and beyond.
Whereas the club has progressed through the normal stages of grief, I mean growth, that every non-profit organization follows, we are now stable (thanks to the wonderful staff including our Executive Director, Eva, Marathon Race Director, Anders, and dedicated board members including President Darr, Secretary Kevin, and other runners like Courtney, the track coach).
Our evolution as an organization allows us the opportunity to begin to tackle issues like long-range (or “strategic” planning). A few years ago, we were struggling with day-to-day decisions and directions and we were in no place to plan for the future, but now we are in that place.
Having a vision for our organization is critically important. Having a plan will help us make informed decisions on everything from day to day operations, to charitable giving, investments, membership dues, and race expenses. Our organization has money in the bank now, but a large checking account balance is not our goal.
Money allows us to achieve our mission: Run Wild Missoula promotes and supports running and walking as sports for people of all ages and abilities.
By having a clear goal, vision, or plan we can use it to dictate how monies are disseminated and spent; and spent wisely.
Many non-profits struggle with money in two ways, either not having enough or having too much. Both problems are burdensome and I’ve been involved with groups on both ends of the spectrum. Frankly, I’d prefer to be in the situation of having money. However, long-range planning can be very intimidating and overwhelming to organizations and is why many struggle with it and ultimately abandon long-range planning.
Thinking in time frames that exceed comfortable day, month, or even annual goals exposes a lot of uneasiness and uncertainly. The idea of planning for three to ten years in the future gets past board terms, and other things in people’s lives. Too often, organizations choose not to embark on an endeavor like this and decide instead to just maintain a status quo and the organization stagnates.
Over the last year we have been exploring options of what to use our money for and what to provide the community by understanding the answers to two important questions:
- What does the organization need?
- What does the running community need?
In answering the first question, the first thing that came up was sustaining the organization – the mission, if you will, of the Board of Directors – to ensure that the organization survives. To that end, we developed and fully funded a reserve account.
Other organization needs we indentified include training class space, storage space (we currently rent a storage space), office space for staff and things like the Missoula Marathon, and runner meeting space. We have been lucky to have the Runner’s Edge help us accommodate all these things for our club, graciously and generously.
As far as the community needs, we came up with the idea that runners, more than anything, need places to run. That’s right. That was the culmination of extensive deliberations by the board and staff. Pure. Genius.
But it is true, we need places to run and although Missoula has a lot of places to run, ranging from outdoor track space, to unpaved trails on the hills, to sidewalks, and paved trails around town, we need more and diverse places for runners to run safely throughout the year. Especially because runners are becoming more common, and numerous as our club and the popularity of running in Missoula continues to grow. There is a lot more that could be done with our trails, and runners need to be an active voice for runners.
An indoor facility (including an indoor track) is another thing we are discussing. An indoor facility could get used all year long for a variety of purposes ranging from track workouts in the winter (and all year), meeting places for group runs, business meetings, office spaces, and shared needs in the community. Since there is no current indoor community track and “gym” type space is limited in Missoula, there are a lot of organizations that could potentially partner with us. By identifying and looking to fulfill a community need, people recognize it.
These are just a few of the examples of ideas the board and staff are exploring in this long-range planning process. We have been exploring a lot of options and have started meeting with community leaders and experts to discuss our plans and intentions. This will continue for a while, and you will be hearing more about it.
This is an important time for Run Wild to make that next step, and potentially engage new volunteers and leaders within the organization that are willing to help the club advance, and for that we will need your help and continued involvement.
The most exciting part of this is that we are talking and thinking about plans for the future – plans that will help Run Wild and the running community flourish and stay vibrant.
For more information about long range planning and if you’d like to talk with the board or staff, please come to our Annual Meeting on Monday, September 10, join us for a short run at 5:30 p.m., and the meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m., 5501 Rattlesnake Dr.
Stay in the loop with Missoula’s running community! Check out the Run/Walk It archives for more posts from Run Wild Missoula Director Eva Dunn-Froebig and other Missoula runners and walkers.
David Schmetterling is the vice president of the board of directors of Run Wild Missoula, and chair of the Vision Committee. He is currently enjoying a return to running after a frustrating two years of injuries and illness. When not running, David is the state fisheries research coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and he and his wife, Marilyn (pictured) are avid gardeners, hunters, and anglers.