Before I knew about CrossFit, I used to conceptualize the gym I would own as being something unique, something that touched people's lives even beyond central role of improving health and fitness. Part of what fascinated me so much about being an affiliate owner in particular was how CrossFit gyms seemed to be cultural hubs for their communities. They were places where people had BBQs, held fundraisers, and hosted unique and interesting events for their members. Fast-forward to almost seven years into CFSBK’s affiliation and we can safely say that we've done our best to leverage our physical space in order to create some unique opportunities for building a community and contributing to the one around us. In today's article, I'll talk about some of the ways we've used our physical space to enhance our members’ experiences beyond our standard training services.
In general, our staff tries to pick events that reflect the interests of our community and we don't really approach these necessarily as money-makers. I consider them more to be investments in our community, which in turn creates stronger bonds between the gym and our athletes. People showing up and having a novel and meaningful experience define the success of these events. If the cost is reasonably low enough, the gym will front the expenses involved or perhaps we'll charge a nominal fee to cover basic overhead costs but again, collecting profit is not our primary motivator. We pay our bills through our training services and the rest of this stuff is icing on the cake that we're happy to provide as a “thank you” for being a CFSBKer. Plus, life is short and you might as well try to do interesting stuff with people you care about while you’re around.
Here are some of CFSBK’s most successful events that you might consider using as inspiration for your gym's next event. The possibilities are limitless and there are tons of other interesting and original social events other gyms have hosted. You are only limited by your time and motivation.
Fight Gone Bad
Our largest annual fundraiser and our most popular event, which involves partnership with the Brooklyn Community Foundation. We’ve raised over a quarter of a million dollars with all our FGBs combined.
Radhika Vaz’s show
Interesting and talented people will become part of your community, and you can donate your space to their cause, if that cause is meaningful and reflective of the ethos of your gym. Radhika did a stand-up comedy event in our space for the purpose of raising money for the Women’s Education Project. See if there are any talented performers in your membership and then organize a performance or talent show.
Recent Brooklyn Community Foundation Event
The Brooklyn Community Foundation hosted a gym-themed dance party in our space and raised money for the Foundation's 2014 initiatives (and also honored and thanked us for all the money we’ve raised for them over the years). Non-profit charity organizations are usually on a tight budget and donated space for their events is often highly appreciated. These events also can be an opportunity to establish your gym as a vital part of your local community.
Hurricane Sandy donation site
After Hurricane Sandy, there was so much need for clothing and food. Since we have so many members, we felt it was our responsibility to pool together our resources on behalf of the larger community around us. People dropped off clothing and food at our gym and Occupy Sandy came and picked up the supplies.
Jacket drop-off for New York Cares
Similarly, every winter in New York there is a need for jackets and we collect unused jackets from our members and drive them to New York Cares. Organizations like these often have a hard time mobilizing volunteers and getting the word out to your members is much easier since you've already got a captive audience via your blog and classes. Another idea is to work with your local Red Cross chapter to organize a blood drive.
The gym is happy to host three separate CSAs with local New York farmers. In a future article, we'll expand upon how we organize and promote these CSAs.
Visits to our CSA farms
We have great relationships with our farmers, to the point where we take field trips to the farms so people can really “meet their meat.” Given the importance of food quality and sustainablity, we thought it was important for us city slickers to get our hands a little dirty and see where our food actually comes from. Trips to farms raise awareness about food policy and politics.
Both inside and outside the gym, we’ve hosted and funded cooking classes. For our first class we had a member and local restaurant owner bring in whole rabbits which the class butchered and prepared in house.
We’ve hosted a couple annual potlucks at our gym, which are always a huge hit. We start every new year with a community potluck, which also kicks off our Look Feel Perform Better Challenge. Pro Tip: Have these on Saturdays or Sundays so that people have enough time to prep their food at the 11th hour. We had one of these on a Friday night after-work hours and the amount of people who just brought alcohol instead of dishes skyrocketed. Party time.
Miscellaneous Community Events
Just this week, we hosted a spring-cleaning clothing swap where members could pick up new duds, books, and baby clothing. We donated the remaining clothing to the Salvation Army and an organization called Dress for Success. An unexpected consequence was that the gym's event was shared on a list serve and several non-members showed up. Given the transparency and searchability of most blogs, it might be in your best interest to specify if certain events are open to non-members.
This involves using the gym as a space for babysitting and parent-focused socials. The Baby Muster was an event that brought together new parents and their offspring, so everyone could get more acquainted and talk about their shared experience. This is another opportunity to bring together a highly specified group of people within your gym. Parents usually love to talk about their kids, so you might as well channel all that energy and get them talking to each other about it.
Bike maintenance class
With the sunny weather approaching, we talked with a local bike shop and someone came to host a workshop to help people tune their bikes and learn basic maintenance. CFSBK members are big fans of bike culture and we do whatever we can to support biking in NYC.
Another local business came in to run a guided meditation for our interested members. We held the event in our upstairs space during off-hours at the gym.
Bringing the arts into your space is another possible event idea. One night, we donated the gym to a local non-profit dance company for their annual showcase.
These are held on Friday nights after Open Gym, and the films are selected based on suggestions from our members on the blog. When we screened The Big Lebowski, we also made White Russians for everyone. Originally, we started these as double features but noticed that attendence for the first film would always be quite low and then people would come out for the second. We've since modified to just screening one film per event.
A few literary-minded members contacted us about organizing a book club through the gym. One member volunteered to coordinate the meetings and book selection process. We supported them by promoting it via our blog.
All of these trips aren’t hosted within the gym, but they’re organized through our blog.
Co-ed sports teams
Park Day in Prospect Park
In 2014, CFSBK hired one of our members to be our official events coordinator. We’ve affectionately dubbed her our "cruise director" as she directs the events of our ship by organizing all our upcoming events. As the gym has grown and we’ve become busier, even our interested coaches had less time to work on these projects, which led to a dip in the number and variety of events we were offering. Luckily, this member approached us about what she could offer and she’s since done an impressive job organizing the gym's social calendar and being the liaison between the gym and any other organizations we might team up with for particular events. Having someone dedicated to events is a huge asset and a great way to ensure that things actually get done—and done well.
In CFSBK’s Teaser class exit lecture, I always mention that there is a psychosocial element of fitness that is in many ways just as important as its physical benefits. Part of being a healthy, well-rounded human involves trying new things and meeting new people in inclusive, positive, and encouraging settings. With that in mind, it's our responsibility as CrossFit gym owners to do what we can to bring our members together both inside and outside of group classes. These events are also ways to engage other local businesses in a positive way that adds value to your surrounding community.
Some events you run may fall flat on their face or attendance might be a little discouraging at first, but I promise that if you keep at it and learn from your experiences, you'll end up putting on some awesome events that redefine people's expectations about what their gym is capable of doing for them.
What interesting and successful events have your gym participated in?