Jen Hanks on the 2023 Washington D.C. Advocacy Fly-In
In a recent review of progress towards our goals, we learned that in 2017, IMBA worked with 191 Chapters. Since then, we’ve grown to include 248 Chapter and Affiliate organizations, and we’re still growing. This growth represents the energy and empowerment of new IMBA Chapters and Affiliates realizing their impact as advocates for mountain biking and sustainable, accessible, and equitable trails across our country.
Have you ever wondered why mountain bike clubs become IMBA Local Member Organizations? What does a national mountain bicycling association have to do with the trails, fundraising, and mountain bikers in your community?
We asked, and got some pretty cool answers. Though most clubs report that being a part of IMBA comes with multifaceted benefits, there are a few themes that really stood out.
Ease of Management
What if you could spend less time in the office and more time on mountain bikes, on trails, and among your people? All respondents stated that one of the most impactful reasons they joined with IMBA is so they didn’t have to spend so much time with volunteer and member management and finances. Many stated they didn’t want to have to figure out how to write the application to become a non-profit on their own. In some cases, being an IMBA Chapter even helped retain Board Members and staff.
Lawrence Colvin of the Weatherford Mountain Bike Club in Weatherford, TX described his experience in non-profit formation as time consuming and laborious. “In October 2014, I left the FWMBA to start a club in the town I live in, Weatherford, Texas. While researching, I discovered that we could become a subordinate of IMBA's 501C-3 status. That was all I needed to know. Raising the funds to file the application with IMBA was infinitely easier than writing another 501c-3 application.”
Lawrence continued, ‘I also understood the benefits of IMBA managing our membership database. That duty was a headache when I was the FWMBA president as we relied on volunteers to manage our members. Our membership director position had the highest turnover. Having IMBA manage our memberships was a big deal. The small percentage IMBA receives from our membership dues is well worth it.”
In addition to support for non-profit status, IMBA provides a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to all IMBA Local Member Organizations. Our CRM is set up so organizations can have easy access to membership information, finance support, and customized communications. Access to relevant and timely technology is a big plus for IMBA Chapters.
Another theme that emerged was that IMBA Chapters and Affiliates join in order to better align themselves with access to the knowledge and experience of the hundreds of IMBA Chapters and thousands of IMBA members across the country.
When asked why they joined IMBA, Jake Carsten of the Del Rio Parks Foundation, a new IMBA Affiliate, stated, “We didn't want to have to make all the mistakes new clubs make, and wanted the benefit of institutional knowledge from decades of combined club experiences from across the country. We also wanted the additional credibility that being associated with IMBA would bring to our organization as we pursue the development of local trail and bike park projects. As well as the large, global network of partners that IMBA has cultivated over many decades, creating programming, grant, and partnership opportunities that would be virtually impossible for a fledgling club to access otherwise.”
Collaboration and Strength in Numbers
IMBA has 248 Chapters and Affiliates, some of which have members in the thousands. We are the strongest voice for mountain biking in the world because we uplift the voices of an incredible number of mountain bikers! And this is a benefit our Local Chapters acknowledge and bring back to power change and action in their communities.
Jen Hanks, Vice President of the Southern Nevada Mountain Biking Association (SNMBA) recently participated in the IMBA Government Affairs & Advocacy D.C. Fly-In (a four-day event at the nation’s capitol spent advocating for legislation and policies that matter to mountain bikers). Jen reflected, “Not only did I leave D.C. with new skills and several ideas to bring back to my communities, I walked away with a great group of new friends who are doing inspiring work around the country. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in IMBA’s D.C. Fly-In. I have a new appreciation for the advocacy work IMBA does at a national level. Federal policy affects recreation locally, and IMBA is working hard to ensure mountain biking has a seat at the federal decision-making table.”
Further, the long history of collaboration between IMBA, land management agencies, the federal government, and other stakeholder groups invites confidence from Local Chapters.
When asked why stay with IMBA, Ester Song, Vice President of the Mt. Wilson Bicycling Association stated, “IMBA has not only been valuable to our organization but to the greater trail community from our land managers to other multi-use trail organizations. The trail stewardship summits we host in partnership with the Angeles National Forest are exemplary of an impactful event that brings a larger network of user groups together to learn sustainable trail building techniques to improve and maintain trails for all. As an IMBA chapter, we are representing a larger mountain biking community within our region and forging long lasting relationships with our land managers. The resources IMBA provides are invaluable to strengthening partnerships to support our mission as trail builders. Our membership allows our organization to thrive and grow. Being an IMBA Chapter also provides us a member management platform with tangible benefits, such as access to Expert Voice, that we would not be able to provide for our members on our own.”
Ease of management. Collective knowledge. Collaboration. Strength in numbers. The impacts of being a part of something bigger. Some of the reasons to become an IMBA Chapter are pragmatic and administrative. Some rest in the realm of philosophy, advocacy, and belief in the power of critical masses of like-minded individuals.
For IMBA the impact of local membership orgs is deep. Anthony Duncan, IMBA’s Director of Local Programs said it best, “Our direct connection to the grassroots efforts of our Local Member Organizations helps us keep perspective on the challenges of local advocacy. We developed the Local Program to provide consistency in our support for our friends around the country. We believe that an IMBA Local Member Organization should reflect the qualities that embody a model trail champion, and we endeavor to empower and support their development and success.”
By becoming an IMBA Local Chapter, clubs get access to administrative and financial support, world-class education, and advocacy support to uplift needs and voices locally, statewide, and even across the nation. All the membership benefits aren’t listed here, so be sure to check them out on IMBA.com. Regardless of motivations, IMBA is grateful for our Local Chapters and Affiliates, and excited to flex and innovate to continue to meet the diverse and dynamic needs of the mountain biking communities of today, and of the future.