While a pickleball club may come in a number of forms, non-profit pickleball clubs continue to pop up throughout the country, making pickleball even more accessible in communities. Council Bluffs Area Pickleball, located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was formed in 2019 when a group of local pickleball players approached the Iowa West Foundation to help fund outdoor courts. The Iowa West Foundation (IWF)is a non-profit that funds various community projects and seeks to improve conditions for local families and businesses. IWF already had a field house adjacent to basketball and volleyball courts with empty space and decided that if the group of pickleball players were to form a non-profit club, IWF would be able to furnish the space for pickleball and lease the space to the club at a minimal cost. Thus was born the Council Bluffs Area Pickleball club.
Although the club officially began in early 2019, the new facility at the IWF fieldhouse did not open until September 2019. IWF’s generosity, through their various investments and relationships with the local casinos, allowed this original group of approximately 20 pickleball players to form a new pickleball club in an area hungry for more pickleball play.
Council Bluffs Area Pickleball is run by a group of seven volunteer board members who typically remain in position for a three-year term. Darci Tierney, one of the club’s board members, says, “We have a beautiful facility and our board members are passionate about making it a great place for people to gather and have fun.” Certainly, each board member has their own unique reasoning for dedicating their volunteer time to Council Bluffs Area Pickleball, however they are each united in their dedication to ensuring the safety of all of their players.
In terms of the roles and responsibilities of each board member, Council Bluffs Area Pickleball maintains a complete list of tasks for the board and then decides amongst themselves who is best equipped for each job. When thinking about the qualities of a well-rounded board, Tierney emphasizes “it’s always good to have people with unique talents, such as communication skills, organization skills, bringing in new ideas, fundraising and making things happen.” Moreover, it is important to regularly solicit feedback from members to gain insight into a member’s perspective on the club and include their ideas in the formation of the club. The ability to make decisions with a diversity of thought helps serve the club members and community well.
Since Council Bluffs Area Pickleball is a non-profit club, profit is not a primary driving factor in decision making. While Council Bluffs Area Pickleball takes many things into account when making decisions, safety is foremost at this club. Further, Tierney says, “We think you also have to take into consideration who will benefit from our decisions.” The board at Council Bluffs Area Pickleball desires to address the concerns and values of each member. Moreover, the board seeks to “keep [their] club current and relevant to [ensure they] are providing a quality service to [their] community.”
In general, the costs associated with running a non-profit pickleball club include facility maintenance, equipment–such as balls and nets–liability insurance, and additional upgrades the club’s board would like to implement at the club.
Although the club may not have traditional challenges associated with being focused on a bottom line, Council Bluffs Area Pickleball is required to make quarterly reports to IWF as well as hold an annual in-person meeting. Staying up to date with national and state requirements for non-profit reporting can prove a tedious task for a volunteer board. Nevertheless, the Council Bluffs Area Pickleball board understands this is a necessary, and ultimately productive, task to ensure the flourishing of their club and the local pickleball community.
The Council Bluffs Area Pickleball board loves that they are able to “provide a very low cost playing environment for [their] members and…promote pickleball for new members knowing they can play [at a reasonable cost]” because of their non-profit status. Their partnership with IWF and the fact that there is no need to show a large profit margin allows this club to provide high quality pickleball play at a low cost. Moreover, the board is intent on building the popularity of the sport within the community and their non-profit status allows them to further this goal.
Since 2020, Council Bluffs Area Pickleball has increased its playing times from 10 to 31 times per week. Additionally, over the last several years, the club has increased its volunteers from seven to 34 members. These volunteers give their time throughout the week to help clean the facility and host the various playing times. Council Bluffs Area Pickleball continues to grow in size and stature as their dedicated board members work tirelessly to increase the popularity of the sport throughout the community and provide a safe and fun playing environment for its members.