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Questions from Coaches

Education Director Bill Brenner answers your questions

  1. Increasing Masters program revenue

    by , March 14th, 2016 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Part two of two-part series
    Q: I need to increase my program fees to meet expenses, but Iím afraid Iíll lose members. Any suggestions?

    A: In the first part of this series, I gave examples of cost-cutting measures. Now, letís explore opportunities to create revenue from sources other than program fees.

    Host an event.
    Before you decide what kind of event to host, determine what your membership is interested in supporting. Support comes in many forms; your swimmers can participate as an athlete, volunteer, or contributor. Determining what your members want and their willingness to participateóbefore planning an eventógoes a long way toward ensuring a successful experience.
    The majority of event-based revenue is derived from registration fees. Registration fees are charged to individuals or teams to participate in the event and are determined when creating a budget. A budget evaluates the revenues and expenses to host the event. The desired outcome is for your revenue to exceed expenses by a targeted or acceptable margin. Many expenses to host an event are fixed costs that are difficult to change. Registration fees are more fluid and can be adjusted to meet the desired outcome. Events include:

    • Swim meets
    • Stroke development clinics
    • Videotaping sessions
    • Open Water swims
    • Fundraisers

    Lesson program. Who teaches adults to swim in your community? Are they successful? Many communities need more resources for teaching the 37 percent of the adult population that canít swim 25 yards and are at risk of being one of the 8 to 10 adults who drown, on average, everyday. In 2015, USMS began offering its Adult learn-to-swim (ALTS) certification course to train adults to teach other adults to swim and become safer in water. Many Masters coaches are offering ALTS lessons as a program to generate revenue and provide community outreach to create awareness of the benefits of swimming.
    Grants, gifts, and donations. Research what grant money is available locally and nationally from agencies that support the programs you offer. Many grant applications are very simple and easy to complete. Establish your program to be more than a competitive swim team and promote the value you provide to the community as a resource for health, wellbeing, and social good. Once youíve defined or redefined your program as such, youíll increase the chances for receiving grants. You can also consider establishing your program as a nonprofit entity. Applying for nonprofit status must be done with the Internal Revenue Service and depending on the status you apply for and receive can help when asking for gifts and donations. Additionally, obtaining nonprofit status may help you win grant requests, open up additional fundraising opportunities, and reduce expenses of lane rental and sales taxes on purchases.
    Sponsorships. Partnering with local swim shops, nutrition stores, massage and physical therapists, cycling and running shops, and medical specialists can create value for your members and create a source of revenue for your program. Ask these local merchants and professionals to be part of your referral network. Ask them to provide discounts for your athletes. Go a step further and ask them to become an official program sponsor and pay a fee to be listed as such on your programís website, social media, and other communication outlets. Create a banner with each of the official sponsors logos and hang it at the pool. More importantly, invite the sponsors to participate in your programís activities at or away from the pool. Make them feel they are part of something special beyond the financial arrangement.
    Volunteer service. Many local businesses and agencies will pay you to provide volunteers for their events. This could include: parking cars, ushering, working concessions, and postevent cleanup. If possible, have your volunteers wear team logo merchandiseóhats, shirts, and pins. Remember, when asked, you have a program full of adults that can lend their services, time, and talents to generate revenue and community awareness.
    Training trips. Have you always dreamed of having your swim practice in a sun-drenched Caribbean pool or ocean? Are your members thinking the same thing as they struggle to reach the pool during inclement weather? Do everyone a favor and explore the opportunity to travel as a team for a training trip. While at first glance it may seem expensive, often traveling as a group can provide discounts and revenue generating opportunities for the event organizer.
    Incorporating some or all of these revenue-generating ideas will help reduce the need to increase program fees. However, your members need to buy into these ideas and take some ownership before they will be successful. If the members understand that their participation is required and theyíre not willing to make a commitment to participate, they may instead elect to pay a higher program fee. Itís better for you to know this ahead of time and spare you the effort.
  2. Balancing increased fees with returning members

    by , February 15th, 2016 at 01:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I need to increase my program fees to meet expenses but I'm afraid I'll lose members. Any suggestions?

    A: Most Masters swimmers participate in USMS clubs and workout groups for the coached workouts, access to pools at convenient locations and times, as well as the social benefits of a group activity. Knowing your swimmers and what they desire from your program will help you overcome a financial shortfall.
    Before raising fees, evaluate if you can reduce or eliminate certain expenses that won't result in a diminishment of the benefits your swimmers value most.
    Remember, youíre dealing with adults who choose to come to swim.

    Look to reduce the following expenses if they apply to your program:
    Lane rental. Can you renegotiate the cost of the rental fees? Would the rental rate be reduced if you were organized as a nonprofit entity? Can you barter for reduced lane rental fees by volunteering your time or the time of your programís members for events held at your aquatic facility? Can you reduce the number of lanes you are currently renting?
    Lifeguard fees. Can the Masters coach with current lifeguard and first response certification eliminate the expense of a lifeguard? Before implementing this change, know your local regulations. Determine if one individual can have duel responsibilities such as serving as the coach and lifeguard at the same time. Also, review your facilityís Emergency Action Plan for compliance issues.
    Insurance. Take advantage of the USMS insurance policy for liability and excess accident coverage. When properly in force, the USMS insurance policy protects coaches, athletes, and facilities.
    Coachesí compensation. Iím a huge proponent for Masters coaches being paid handsomely for quality coaching. Unless youíre being paid a wage thatís outlandish, stand firm on this expense line item. The health and longevity of the program depends on your wellbeing.
    Travel expenses. Many Masters coaches travel to swim meets with their program. Depending on the size of your group, many hotels will offer group discounts. If the meet host hasnít arranged discounts with the local lodging establishments, call and ask hotels for a discounted room thatís cheaper than the normal room rate. In some cases, based on the size of your group, the hotel may be willing to offer one or more complimentary rooms. Look for hotels that offer free breakfast, free parking, and shuttle service.
    If youíve trimmed expenses and still have a financial shortfall, consider other sources of revenue before increasing program fees. Additional revenue sources are:


    • Lesson program
    • Fundraisers
    • Sponsorships
    • Events Ė hosting swim meets and clinics
    • Merchandise sales
    • Organized swim vacations
    • Volunteer services
    • Grants
    • Gifts

    Part two of this series will expand on these and other sources of revenue you can develop.
    Once the adults in your program know that youíve been diligently trying to keep program fees from increasing while maintaining those benefits that are important to them, such as ample lane space, they may be more willing to pay a higher program fee.