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Community Tennis Associations
USTA Community Tennis Associations (CTAs) are not-for-profit, volunteer-based organizations supporting programs that grow the game of tennis. They are located in towns across the country and are great entry points if you’re looking to get started in the game, to play more often or to give back to our lifetime sport.
What can a CTA accomplish?
Clubs, teaching professionals, after school programs, and public parks are just a few of the tennis related entities that coexist in a community. In many instances, it may appear that the tennis community is fragmented and unconnected. This is where the formation of a CTA can provide an umbrella and seek to pull together these numerous elements of the tennis ecosystem. With the coordinated effort from a CTA, the biggest benefactor will be the current or potential tennis players.
When there is an active and engaged CTA that has created a strong community presence, the organization allows multiple people to be involved and contribute to the overall mission. The formation of a diverse and connected board ensures the continuity of the CTA beyond just one individual. In addition, the tennis advocacy message is much more powerful when it is delivered from an organized and united effort of a CTA.
Starting a CTA
Forming a new CTA is a huge, but very rewarding, undertaking. It involves ongoing coordinated efforts by a group of dedicated tennis players who want to serve their community. Some CTAs offer only one program, tournament or special event, some run a tennis program at a specific facility, some simply fundraise, some operate similar to Little League and soccer youth groups - handling registration, coaches, etc. to partner with multiple recreation agencies to provide tennis at various facilities. The links and topics contained below have been selected to give guidance on how to navigate the process of forming a CTA.
Click on each of the numbers below to review how you can start a CTA.
Develop your Bylaws & Mission Statement
The first step in forming your CTA is to develop Bylaws, which will serve as your governing document. For an example, please view the 2022 Constitution and Bylaws for the United States Tennis Association. In developing Bylaws for your CTA, it is very helpful to look at the Bylaws of other CTAs in your state and section. A very important part of your Bylaws is your mission statement. The mission statement for the USTA is to “promote and develop the growth of tennis.” Find contact information for your section here.
The USTA Constitution and Bylaws define Community Tennis Associations as: “Any multipurpose, incorporated, geographically defined, not-for-profit, volunteer tennis support organization which supports or provides comprehensive programs.”
Your CTA has already defined its mission in your Bylaws. Shortly after forming your CTA, it is recommended that you engage an expert to conduct a strategic planning session with your board. Many USTA state and section offices assist CTAs by facilitating strategic planning sessions. A wealth of information about strategic plans can be found at the Council of Nonprofit web page.
Board of Directors and Committees
Establishing a knowledgeable and diverse Board of Directors is vital to the success of a CTA. Your CTA will be responsible for meeting a number of federal, state, and USTA requirements, and your Board members can be of great assistance.
Your Board will most likely include tennis enthusiasts from your community, but you will also want to include individuals who can help achieve your mission that have special skills in addition to their love of tennis. Many Boards include attorneys, accountants and representatives from schools, recreation and parks departments and other non-profit organizations with similar purposes.
Your committee structure will most likely be related to your mission statement. You may start with a few committees, such as governance, youth programs, adult programs and communications. As your programs grow, you will want to create additional committees.
The Council of Nonprofits is an excellent organization that provides a tremendous amount of information for non-profit organizations. It has valuable information on forming your Board of Directors and Committees.
Articles of Incorporation & Applying for a Federal Tax ID
CTAs are considered to be corporations under most state laws. Therefore, you must file Articles of Incorporation with the State. Generally, the Secretary of State is responsible for corporate filings. Websites for most Secretary of State Office include sample forms that are very helpful. E-Secretary of State is a helpful web page where you can find information regarding your state. You can find contact information for your Secretary of State.
Applying for a Federal Tax ID (Employer Identification Number)
You can apply to the IRS online, by fax, or mail. You can find additional information and also submit an online application on the IRS web page.
Applying for Tax Exempt Status with the IRS
It is required that CTAs become non-profit organizations approved by the Internal Revenue Service. Once your CTA begins to offer more programming, you will need to solicit charitable contributions to help run your programs. Information on how to apply to the IRS to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is found on the IRS web page. It is critical that you seek assistance from a CPA or other individual who is very knowledgeable about this application process.
Register your Organization with the USTA & Insurance Programs
In order to qualify as a CTA, your organization must meet the requirements set forth in the Bylaws. One of the requirements to become a registered CTA is to have an active USTA Organizational Membership. To purchase or renew your USTA Organizational Membership, please click here.
To complete the application to become a registered CTA, please visit the CTA Registration website. Please note that CTA registration is annual and all organizations will be asked to renew for the next year in November. After submitting your application, it will be reviewed and approved by your state/district and/or section and the USTA national office. For assistance with CTA registration, please inquire here.
Registered CTA Insurance Programs
One of the benefits of registering your CTA with the USTA is the ability to purchase discounted insurance. The USTA offers two types of insurance, a Master Liability Insurance Program and a Directors and Officers Insurance Program. Information on these programs can be found on the USTA CTA Insurance web page.
Compliance with your State’s Charitable Solicitation Registration Requirements
Most states require organizations that solicit charitable contributions to register under their Charitable Solicitations law. The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) has contact information for all states on the NASCO website.
Submitting Annual Tax Returns to the IRS
If your CTA is approved for tax-exempt status by the IRS, you are required to file annual returns in the form of a 990N, 990, or 990EZ. Instructions for completing and filing these forms can be found on the IRS web page.
Check out our
The USTA offers free webinars on varying topics to help you grow the game and strengthen your CTA and/or Parks Department tennis programming. These webinars cover topics including fundraising, grants and scholarships, USTA and USTA Foundation 101, volunteer management, and many more.
Growing a CTA
One of the major reasons for forming a Community Tennis Association is to grow the sport of tennis in your community. The USTA offers programs, many times in partnership with public and private clubs, parks and recreation departments, schools, and many other tennis advocates for all levels of tennis players. The USTA wants every one of all ages and abilities to participate in tennis as a fun, lifetime sport.
Tennis is a lifetime sport that can be played and enjoyed by people of any age and of every ability. Whether you’re picking up a tennis racquet for the first time or you’ve played the game for years, you’ll find that tennis is a sport whose bounty of benefits is unmatched by any other sport or activity. It’s a great way to stay fit, make friends, spend quality time with your family life – and have fun! Tennis is a sport that can add years to your life and life to your years. When you find yourself in the game, you’ll find yourself in a happier, healthier place. Learn more about opportunities for youth, adult, wheelchair, and adaptive programs.
Unless your CTA has the financial resources for a paid staff, you will need a stream of volunteers to assist with everything from organizational improvement to operational sustainability to implementing grassroots tennis programs. It is recommended that a portion of every board meeting and/or annual meeting be spent on recruiting volunteers. Identify areas where you need expertise – social media, accounting, legal, advocacy, etc., and make sure you find quality people in each of these areas. And don’t forget to include diverse populations and high school and college tennis enthusiasts; they will all be a valuable pipeline for volunteer sustainability.
A lot of people might ask, why does my CTA need community partners? The answer is, to make your life as a CTA a lot easier. Think about what your CTA might need to be accomplished but you don’t have the critical mass to get it done – advocacy, funding, local government support, program implementation, and diversity and inclusion, to name a few. See below for a list of possible community partners and how they can help your CTA.
Schools: board and committee volunteers
Park & recreation departments: programming assistance
YMCAs: programming assistance
Boys & Girls Clubs: youth programming
Chamber of Commerce: advocacy
Parent organizations: volunteers
Healthcare organizations: advocacy, financial assistance, co-marketing opportunities
This is a subject CTAs do not like to discuss but nevertheless is necessary – who is going to take over the CTA when the current leadership is ready to move on? It is important to know the expertise and timelines for your key personnel - president, treasurer, secretary, committee chairs and Board members - to plan for their departure. Establishing terms and term limits is a good start but CTAs need to go beyond the basics and create a pathway and education mechanism for transitioning leadership. The Council of Nonprofits website has suggestions for doing this successfully.
In addition to the partners listed above, your CTA should develop a relationship with key personnel within your District/State and Section. Each offers a number of resources available for your CTA’s organizational and operational improvement. Check with your local Executive Director or Tennis Service Representative or Section CTA Coordinator for help.
While it is critically important to include all the elements listed above in your CTAs planning process, it is equally important to have a pipeline of income to support your programming and operational existence. It doesn’t take much financial support but here are a few ideas to keep your CTA financially viable.
Most CTAs run programs that have a participation/entry fee which hopefully cumulatively exceeds the cost of running the program. So whether you are hosting a tournament, running a Junior Team Tennis program, initiating an adult social tennis event, or conducting youth tennis lessons, make sure revenues exceed expenses.
Your district/state, section and/or the USTA national organization may have funds available for a variety of programming, equipment and educational assistance. There are often monies available for grassroots start-up programming, social events, training teachers and pros, tennis equipment, and minority and adaptive specific initiatives.
You would be surprised at the number of companies in your community looking for opportunities to donate to worthy causes. And if the cause has anything to do with the health and fitness of community members, that’s even better. Look for donations from banks, grocery stores, hospitals and health clinics, insurance companies, and other sports organizations, such as professional sports teams.
While this may seem obvious, it’s one of the more difficult donors to engage. Why? Because most are looking for a reason to donate - a specific cause to support. So if you are going to go the route of soliciting donations from individuals, make sure there is a reason beyond supporting your CTA. Personalize it with people that you will be supporting.
Every community has foundations looking for worthy causes to support. Most are supported by wealthy individuals (past or present) looking for a cause to support. Some might be affiliated with a company or association, but in most cases you will need to fill out a “request form” stating the reason you need the funding. These are particularly good sources if you are looking to upgrade or build a tennis facility.
This may sound strange but many grocery stores and restaurants (especially chains) will allow your CTA to designate specific days for your fundraising venture. You simply speak with the manager, pick a day or two for your fundraiser, promote it, and you often collect a percentage of the sales (from your patrons) that go towards your CTA’s bank account. Nice! There is a limitless source of funding for your CTA, it requires a bit of work and creativity but could sustain your organization for decades.
It is important for a Community Tennis Associations to have established channels of communication with periodic messaging. These communication channels should be both internal and external as well as in-person and online. This would include regular CTA Board and/or management meetings, documentation of those meetings, and communication to providers, participants and community partners.
Communication with board members, staff, and volunteers are examples of internal communication while communication with participants, community partners, and the general public are examples of external communication.
Examples of CTA communication methods:
CTA Newsletter (email or direct mail)
Other Sporting Events
Posted Notices (banners, yard signs, etc.)
Third Party Newsletter
The USTA is here for you with Serve Tennis, a flexible digital tool designed specifically for tennis that helps you manage your organization or individual tennis business. Plus, customer care and training that’s there for you every step of the way.
Serve Tennis includes digital tools provided by the USTA that allows you to automate your administrative and management processes simply by allowing you to register players, administer online payments, communicate with customers, ultimately making delivering tennis easier.
Advocacy for tennis involves taking our knowledge and passion for tennis and connecting it to the needs of communities, schools, colleges and local governments. Advocacy is the ability to demonstrate to decision-makers how tennis programs can benefit the community.
The USTA has developed an extensive Advocacy Handbook that can help you succeed in engaging with public- and private-sector decision-makers in support of tennis at the local level. This engagement will help to harness the public support and resources needed to expand the availability and quality of tennis facilities and programming like yours.
The sport of tennis can be an important part of improving communities, schools, the health of individuals and the quality of life for all. As members of the tennis family, we know how this sport can make a difference in people’s lives. As advocates for tennis, our mission is to convince decision- makers in the public, private and non-profit sectors of this to gain their support.
CTA Insurance Programs
Learn about professional high-quality insurance program offerings for your CTA.