These are some ideas I have shared with the FPA Board.
How can the Freestyle Players Association improve in its role as an educational organization? In a small organization with limited resources, how can we go beyond competitions to reach potential freestylers and fans? How can we grow memberships so the FPA can be more ambitious in spreading the jam? What do we say when a potential benefactor asks what the FPA does? What is its story?
The FPA has accomplished much over the years, but its potential goes far beyond sanctioning tournaments, writing rules or even publishing a website. The future of the FPA is as a catalyst for freestylers and lovers of freestylers to get things done. The FPA has the potential to enable individuals to grow our sport, to spread the jam.
The FPA needs to consider a fundamental shift in how it operates in order to reach its potential. Until now, the organization has relied on volunteers to handle all its programs. If the FPA is to take freestyle out in the world and become more than a small club, it cannot rely on unpaid work.
Insisting on volunteerism is a dead end. Volunteer projects are wonderful, but in the end there is no incentive for quality, meeting deadlines or even finishing. People need to be compensated for their time, and that takes nothing away from all of us who have poured our hearts and souls into FPA projects over the years. On the contrary, making this shift honors all the previous volunteer work by building on it, by decentralizing outreach efforts and laying the groundwork for the longterm health of freestyle.
The FPA can be a catalyst for greater participation in freestyle by supporting the spread-the-jam projects of its members. Membership money should be used for grants that fulfill our educational goal. Not enormous amounts but micro-grants that make a project happen.
For instance, what if a compelling local disc program can be set up in a city, but only if a local freestyler can spend time planning with the city during work hours? If the freestyler cannot afford to take time off from work, the entire program will not happen. The FPA can be a catalyst for creating that program with a micro-grant that compensates the freestyler for his lost wages. But if the FPA gets stuck on a rigid “he should volunteer” philosophy, it misses the point. If this guy cannot volunteer for this program, there may not be anyone who can replace him in his area. Our sport loses a great opportunity. The FPA has to step in and make success happen, even by compensating people for their time.
Freestyle have been fortunate to have amazing design talent on the FPA Board throughout the years, but that talent is stretched to its limits. What happens if a non-designer has a local or regional project that needs a professional look to succeed? An FPA grant needs to be an option for helping hire the talent necessary for spreading the jam.
Everyone understands the organization has limited resources. Hard decisions will be made. That’s what happens with grants. Many worthy projects will not get funded, but more importantly many will get funded and will do a great service to our sport
Beyond granting money, the FPA needs to partner with project creators to help them acquire outside grant money, to go beyond the FPA’s limited finances. A grant proposal written by a freestyler in partnership with the FPA has a much greater chance of success than if the freestyler sent it out as an individual.
The FPA needs to parlay grantmaking and grantseeking into corporate matching relationships. As a non-profit, it will be eligible for matching gift programs from the employers of some freestylers. Members of the footbag community are benefiting from these matching gifts right now; disc freestyle should do the same.
Right now, the FPA is a dormant organization. Sanctioning a world championships, collecting membership money and publishing a website are not enough. Members deserve more for their annual membership fee beyond a disc and some promotional items. One way to give more value to members is to fund projects that support the sport’s growth. An FPA membership becomes a lot more meaningful if we know the organization is putting our money to work.
The FPA needs a story to tell, and the way we write that story is by partnering with enthusiastic people to fulfill the FPA’s educational mission in a professional way.