We are Listening to our Members
Going into the summer, we asked members to help us better understand a couple of issues. We knew you enjoy being members but we want to know more clearly why you join ThoroFan. We were hoping that with your insight we might help create a plan to introduce ThoroFan to others.
Tell us you did and it was helpful.
You told us that a fan organization needed to focus on two inseparable fronts. First, fans of the sport need to be continually educated (89.9%). Second you echoed our mantra, we must strive to create a real “voice for the fan” in our sport (89.7%).
With less verve, you told us that we need to find ways to have racetrack operators listen more to the fan, to seek more input from the fan (81.4%). You also said that a fan organization must have a social component to tie the issues and the membership together (61%).
In the remainder of 2010 we focused our energies on bolstering the Saratoga Chapter with regular monthly meetings that provided interesting and informative speakers. That apparently worked because your attendance at these meetings rewarded our efforts. We will replicate that model as we develop new chapters.
Among our speakers in Saratoga were: Trainer H. James Bond, Veterinarian Dr. Louis Castro, Owners Tom Gallo and Tom Bellhouse, Saratogian Sports Editor Nicole Russo and Jockey Richard Migliore. We have a similar guest speaker repertoire planned for 2011. Our agenda will be posted on the Saratoga page of our website and we will remind you monthly by e-mail of the upcoming speakers.
Our voice is growing louder. We are beginning to have a larger presence on the most popular bloggs. We are increasing our presence on Facebook and other social media sites. Please join us in that effort.
Our role on the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance is gaining respect. Governor Tommy Thompson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, recently interviewed us about how fans think the Safety and Integrity Alliance can be improved. His report to the NTRA will come out and be posted on the NTRA website in mid-February.
For those who watched the 2010 Eclipse Awards you must have been pleased at how many times the word “fan” was mentioned. It is refreshing that our message to the industry that ALL FANS are important is getting traction.
You may have also noticed that Penny Chenery as created a special award in memory of Secretariat called the Vox Populi Award. This year Zenyatta is the awardee. However, beginning in 2012 it is her plan to have fan input into this award. Leonard Lusky, President of Vox Populi, has invited ThoroFan to discuss how fans can have input. To learn more about the award go to Secretariat.com.
Also, on our list of accomplishments is a proposal to create a “Fan of the Year” award that will coincide with the Eclipse Awards. A number of media outlets and the NTRA are interested in the idea. We will keep you posted.
Finally, 2010 ended with Monmouth Park being interested in forming a ThoroFan Chapter in New Jersey. Recently, Gulfstream Park has expressed interest and it looks promising that there will be a ThoroFan Chapter operating in South Florida before their meet ends in April.
Thanks to all who helped on these projects and those that continue to support ThoroFan with your annual membership.
Chairman of the Board of Directors
What Makes a Legitimate Fan Organization?
September 6, 2010
Last month I addressed the necessary growing pains that any grassroots, non-profit organization experiences. Over the past few months, aside from building a cohesive membership and volunteer base, ThoroFan has been focused on obtaining our tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Jumping this hurdle we felt would add to our credibility.
On Monday, August 16, 2010, ThoroFan saw the fruits of our labor. We received the letter from the IRS for which we had been waiting. The letter stated:
“We are pleased to inform you that upon review of your application for tax exempt status we have determined that you are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. ………” "Contributions to you are deductible......" " You are also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts...." " ...you are a public charity........"
Although the determination that contributions to ThoroFan are now tax deductible is valuable, it may not be the most important. Most important to me is the legitimacy such determination brings to ThoroFan and all our members who have believed steadfastly in our cause since the beginning.
With the internet availability, any individual or group can create a webpage and declare themselves a Thoroughbred racing fan organization. But are they? Does a website and presence in the social media make them so? I don’t think so.
ThoroFan is more than just a website. We are a bone-fide not-for-profit corporation in New York State with documentation filed with the New York Department of Education, Office of the Attorney General (Charities Bureau) and Department of State. To comply with the regulations from these department we produced our by-laws, policies, procedures, governance structure, financial documents and budgets.
If that is not sufficient we took our quest for legitimacy to the next step. We applied to the United States Internal Revenue Service to be recognized as a tax exempt organization. The process was as significant as the outcome. The simple form required, “the five page 1023”, when mailed grew to fill a 3 inch binder containing just under 200 pages of justification and documentation.
Intense scrutiny by the IRS followed. We were told it could take months. On July 8th we received a letter from the IRS, expecting the worst, we nervously opened it. There were nine (9) more questions and a mandate to respond within two weeks. Feverously, we consulted accountants, read IRS rulings that were available on line and assembled documents. The goal was a response that would convince the IRS of our legitimacy. Again, with the response in the mail we waited.
Then the telephone rang and it was the IRS. They read our responses, but had one more question. We imagined that this process might never end, unless we gave-up. But ThoroFan is not a quitter in the stretch. After some discussion with our designated representative from the IRS, we were prepared to send our answer to their final question. Again, with the response in the mail we waited for the answer we would eventually get, approval.
I tell this story to emphasize the difficulty in becoming a legitimate fan organization. Other groups are out in cyberspace claiming to represent us. They may be well intentioned. But do they have the foundation. Are they a legitimately incorporated? Are they a not-for-profit? Are they tax exempt by the Internal Revenue Service? Do they have adequate by-laws and policies? Are they financially stable? Are they adequately insured to protect you as a member?
ThoroFan can answer yes to all these questions. Thanks to the many volunteers who worked hard and selflessly to accomplish our tax exempt status, you can be proud to be member of ThoroFan. So am I.
Chairman of the Board of Directors
All Good Things Take Time
AUGUST 6, 2010
All Not-for-profit, grassroot organizations have growing pains. ThoroFan is no different. In the beginning, enthusiasm and hope are always abundant. The direction the organization will take is the chatter. As consensus evolves, the organization gets an identity. In the final stages, social psychologists believe that the organization begins to perform. Pop-theorists have coined this four-phase process as “Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.”
From where I sit ThoroFan appears to have passed through the Forming phase. We are, now, embroiled in the Storming phase with some asking who we are (identity), what do we want from a fan association (benefits) and how hard are we willing to work to see it happen (grassroots)?
Recently, we sent out an eleven item survey asking you to rate the reasons that brought you to ThoroFan. Your responses were insightful and will help us answer these questions.
Although there was a broad range of support for the items, four items were rated-highly by you (over 80%) as “important or most important”.
learning more about the sport of Thoroughbred racing
interacting with others who value the Thoroughbred athlete,
offer input to racetrack operators and
give the racing fan a voice were essential.
You, also, commented that bringing new fans to our sport and rebuilding the fan-base were important goals.
Clearly these responses hit at the heart of ThoroFan. Giving the fan a voice is our “theme”. With our appointment to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance Advisory Board and speaking engagements at the International Simulcasting Symposium and the Horse Benevolent and Protective Association annual conference, we are beginning to accomplish this.
Rebuilding the fan base has been difficult but with ThoroFan members from over 30 states and chapters under consideration at five racing venues we are on track. This is even more impressive when we consider all this has been accomplished by a gaggle of volunteers in less than two years. Imagine the future. Imagine ThoroFan in five years.
Unfortunately we have been less successful in our efforts to educate and interact. Developing these is labor intensive and can be expensive. With only volunteers and a bare-bones budget we are challenged to find ways to accomplish these. For now, we have concentrated on our website. Later we hope for more publications like the ThoroFan's 2010 Guide to Saratoga Race Course Trainers' Saddle Towels, college non-credit courses, on-track fan education and seminars/conferences.
Our site has matured and is capable of being an effective education tool and a means to promote electronic interactions among us. We need volunteer efforts with skills to take this to the next level. Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance in sponsoring the Handicappers’ Corner answered our call to offer a weekly column that educates fans on various handicapping approaches.
Richard Migliore has expressed interest in doing a regular column/blog for our site. We are working out the details with him on this project. Our intention is to provide insight for the fan into the world of the jockey: morning, afternoon and evenings. It will be loaded with personal stories that will make you smile and teach you as well.
Plenty of positive things are occurring with ThoroFan. Many more are in the offing.
We ask you to just stay focused. We will succeed. As “Storming” reinforces our identity, we will evolve. We must be cautious not to be overly critical or frustrated with our progress. Individually you may see limited activity, but taken collectively we are doing much. A scan of our website will underscore our accomplishments.
Remember the adage, especially during adversity, “no one ever fails, they just quit too soon.” Like our star equine athletes, quitting is not an option. “Keep whipping and driving”, the Winner’s Circle is in sight!
Board of Directors
Please comments to: Michael@thorofan.com