How to Properly Start a Walking Club

Laughing friends walking on forest path
John Fedele / Getty Images

Are you tired of walking alone? Want to meet other walkers or turn your informal group of walking friends into a force to be reckoned with? Time to think about forming a walking club.

Before you take the leap to organize it yourself, check on existing walking clubs in your area. The International Volkssport Association (IVV) is the largest association of walking clubs in the world. There are also many walking groups. Other places to check are the local malls, the medical centers, and HMOs, health clubs, and look for brochures in running shoe stores.

Why Form a Walking Club?

  • There is no club in your area.
  • The clubs in your area are not active enough or do not have the kind of activities you want.
  • You want to fill a niche that is unfilled by another club in your area: tougher walks, easier walks, weeknight walks, group walks, morning workouts, more social aspects of walking together, etc.
  • You want to build camaraderie among your walking friends with an identity, club name, t-shirts, etc.
  • You want to build an incentive into your walking such as awards for distance achieved.
  • You want to have a newsletter, email group, website, etc. to unite your walking friends.
  • You want to form a team for a charity event or relay.
  • You want a formal structure for liability insurance, incorporation, and assets. 

Should You Be Informal or Incorporated?

If you simply plan to walk together without any exchange of money, your club may be able to simply be an informal organization. But once you collect money, you need to think about a more formal structure to protect the club organizers from both tax liability and liability for accidents and injuries to the club members during club activities.

If you form as a sub-committee or offshoot of another non-profit organization, such as the school district, local medical center, YMCA, senior center, etc., you will not need separate incorporation and bank accounts and you may be covered by their liability insurance.

If you are not part of a larger organization and you plan for the club to have its own bank account and to engage in group purchases, then you will need to go through the steps to get a Tax ID Number and consider incorporating. In some states, it is an easy and inexpensive process to incorporate, whereas it is more expensive and difficult in others.  

Getting Walking Club Members

Gaining members is the biggest challenge of any club. Start with your present walking friends. Set up club officers and committee chairs to get everyone involved in the mechanics of the club.

Advertise for members in places where there are many potential walkers. You can set up a Facebook page, Twitter, or other social media accounts. Consider also starting a group, as that will promote your club to others who are interested in walking. Place flyers in a local running shoe and athletic stores, at health clubs, schools, parks departments, medical centers, malls, senior centers, and churches.

When your club is out walking together, make sure you have some business cards printed with the club name and contact numbers on them to give out to interested people.

Join a Larger Organization

If your club joins with a larger organization of clubs, you have many benefits but also responsibilities. For example, the US branch of the IVV, the American Volkssport Association, welcomes new member clubs. The purpose of AVA clubs is to host walking events for the public as well as for club members. The requirements for AVA clubs are in the AVA Handbook along with guidelines and rules for hosting volkssport events. Forms you will need are found in the handbook or online through the AVA Forms page. To explore becoming an AVA clubs, see Forming an AVA Club. An advantage of joining the AVA is that your walking events will be covered by the AVA's liability policy.

Racewalking clubs will want to explore joining the USATF to have sanctioned events.

Activities for the New Walking Club

Your club must provide activities for your members to keep them interested.

  • Regular meetings
  • Walking together regularly — Make up a calendar of group walks, attending other events together.
  • Coaching in walking techniques
  • Social time together — Breakfast after the morning walk, picnics, carpooling to events.
  • Email group.
  • Newsletter — Paper or email
  • Club Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, website, blog
  • Club incentive program. Certificates or awards for attaining mileage marks or achieving other goals.
  • Host a walking event for the public or assist in hosting the March of Dimes Walk for Babies, American Heart Walk, or another charity event.
  • Club hats, t-shirts, patches, or other identifying articles.
  • Track your walks together with ​walking logs and trackers
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