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Meet Director's Path to Tranquility

I May Be Easy But I'm Not Cheap

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"An investment in knowledge still yields the best returns"
-Benjamin Franklin

The Board of Directors approved the meet budget. There were a few questions regarding purchase of lap counter cards. In the past, we borrowed 4 each from two local high school swim teams and donated $30 to each. This year, my budget took that $30, added another $60, and proposed buying three lap counter cards for the club. The plan was to make an additional purchase next year to complete our set, making the purchases an investment to save money in the long haul.

The board agreed, but decided to bite the bullet and purchase all this year from the meet profits. We will now own our lap counter cards, and can even allow others to borrow them in the future, possibly receiving a small donation ourselves, and certainly at least good will.

A second item discussed involved online meet registrations. I offered to discuss the possibility for our meet. A lot of teams are going down that path with Club Assistant, and we already allow our swimmers to pay their club swimming fees online using our own Paypal account, so this was a natural progression. Later registration deadlines, more swimmers entering because of ease, no mail to open, no checks to haul to the bank - all sounds like music to my ears.

In the past, it was initially very difficult to determine what Club Assistant charged. We received a lot of information touting the benefits, but little information regarding costs. This made us very suspicious - it was like talking to snake oil salesmen.

Now, the Club Assistant fees are set in black and white on their web site, although one does need a bloodhound to find them. Churning out some numbers based on last year's meet and the Club Assistant formula, online meet registration for Tropical Splash would cost us about $400. Considering that the meet is a fund-raiser for our club, and that it nets about $1500 in profits, the decision to drop the idea was a no-brainer. With the time and work online registration saves, as well as the potential for additional entries, I can see this making sense for large meets and for meets where fund-raising is not the goal. But for our meet, it was out of the question. (Did I also mention that you don't get any of your money until AfTER the meet?)

But wait. I inquired about the possibility of running an online registration that utilized something other than Club Assistant. New England, I learned, does such a thing. As webmaster for our club's site, I set up our Paypal online payment system, and can do so with a meet. A response from Mark Gill in our national office indicated that the rule book contains info on using online registrations. But, he reminded me of all the benefits that Club Assistant's online registration provides. And reminded me again in a second email, (Hmm, does he get a commission on sales?)

It seems like a few of our online registration rules were written to require the use of Club Assistant without actually coming out and blatantly stating so. Some of the requirements seem impossible to meet without using Club Assistant, and a few are a bit vague and are stated more like goals than rules - open to interpretation, invention, (or denial.) A few examples would be welcomed.

Club Assistant charges more than Paypal does for credit card processing - some savings there (5% v. 3%+.30). Club Assistant provides cross-checking (not the hockey type) with the USMS registration database which is a great benefit. Needless to say, we are not offering online meet registration this year, but will certainly consider it next year, if we can get the costs down.

BOOK OF WISDOM
  • Look at an annual meet as ongoing expense - consider some expenses as investments that will pay off in future meets.
  • If time, headaches, and manpower are money, consider online meet registration. If you have plenty of volunteer time, don't.
postscript
The online meet entry requirements are not in the Rule Book, but in the Sanctions section of the Guide to Operations
http://www.usms.org/admin/lmschb/lmsc_hb_sanctions.pdf

The fees would break down for our meet as follows:
Credit Card Processing
Paypal = $1.14 / swimmer
Club Assistant = $1.34 / swimmer

Online Meet Entry
Club Assistant = $1.50 / swimmer

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Updated December 28th, 2009 at 03:02 PM by Rnovitske (postscript)

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Comments

  1. jroddin's Avatar
    If time, headaches, and manpower are money, consider online meet registration. If you have plenty of volunteer time, don't.
    Your "If/Then" philosophy may not be complete. Don't forget that online registrations are not just reductions in host volunteer time, it is something that benefits your customer (your swimmers...). Just like paying for food and having volunteers staff hospitality: you could eliminate hospitality and save money and time, but you now provide less service to your swimmers.
  2. Rnovitske's Avatar
    You are absolutely right. I was only thinking of a meet director's workload; we need to also consider the swimmers' convenience.