BEST COMMUNITY-BASED PROGRAM

The Atlantic Club • Red Bank and Manasquan, NJ

By organizing its club community around a common cause, The Atlantic Club created a win-win situation for itself and for Augie's Quest, earning it the Best Community-Based Program award.

The Atlantic Club's grassroots charitable organization, Clubs for a Cure, teamed with Augie's Quest, started by Life Fitness founder Augie Nieto, to raise money to fund research to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Initially, Pat Laus, CEO for The Atlantic Club, started Clubs for the Cure in 2006 to support breast cancer research and awareness. However, she discovered that this model of operation lent itself well to a partnership with Augie's Quest.

“The template we created for the Clubs for the Cure concept and used locally can be broadened to use for all the clubs in the U.S.,” says Laus. “What started here in Red Bank and Manasquan has grown into a global initiative now. The whole foundation for the template is the power of relationships we all have.”

By leveraging relationships among the clubs' staff, members and community, Clubs for the Cure has made a big impact. The organization's goal is to raise $1 million for ALS research and sign up 1,000 participating clubs. Since starting the effort in January 2008, the company has raised $600,000 and welcomed 600 clubs.

“It's about making a difference in the world. Our template for the current campaign with Augie is to reach out and involve clubs. That grew into vendors, and that has grown into a global initiative,” Laus says. “Clubs for the Cure is rolling out in Europe with what we hope will be 600 clubs there taking part in our 12 Days of Fitness program.”

The 12 Days of Fitness program is planned during November and December of this year. Participating clubs in both the United States and Europe will invite residents of their communities to enjoy 12 consecutive days of fitness at their facility for a donation of $20 to ALS research.

The Atlantic Club hosted a winter fundraising event earlier this year that raised $30,000 for Augie's Quest. They shut down the club on a Friday night for Winterquest and invited members and guests to enjoy live music and a community-sponsored auction. In addition to having a good time, members felt good about the event, Laus notes.

“They love to share the community of the club with their friends,” says Laus. “So they invite guests, and it becomes a contagious experience that we have for these events. The members have had fun and feel they've made a difference by offering a donation, so they feel good about themselves.”

Although Clubs for a Cure wasn't started as a public relations tool, the sense of community built at such events is invaluable, Laus says.

“What is brought in is an expanded sense of community. Increasing revenue or retention is not why we're doing it — it's not quantifiable,” she says. “The perception in our community of the club is that we're here to make a difference, and we're doing something about it. From a standpoint of public relations, we've gotten that back a thousandfold.”

In encouraging other clubs to join the cause with Clubs for a Cure, Laus notes that the special events can draw in community members that may not have visited the club before. To make it easier for clubs of all sizes to participate, Clubs for a Cure teamed with an ad agency that volunteered its time to create customizable marketing materials available as PDF downloads from www.clubsforthecure.com.