How to Write and Enforce a Youth Sports Refund Policy

Tim Gusweiler

Are you unsure of what to do when parents request refunds? Or are you frustrated that parents are constantly asking for refunds after your season starts?

If you are struggling with your organization's budget you should consider creating a refund policy at your organization before your next registration period.

In this post we'll outline some tips to create, maintain, and enforce your youth sports refund policy. We also have a refund policy template you can use to help create a policy for your organization.

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    Keep it simple

    If you're volunteering to run a sports program, you should always keep things simple whenever possible. Don't overthink it when it comes to creating your refund policy. For example, there shouldn't be any need to hire an attorney, and you don't need to write several pages worth of refund rules and regulations.

    Your refund policy should be no longer than one paragraph. However, you do need to make sure that the policy is specific so that there is no room for interpretation or confusion.

    You can include a few specifics in your policy:

    • What criteria need to be met in order for a player to receive a refund (for example, refunds may only be issued if there is a player injury that prevents them from being able to participate).

    • If there is a deadline that refund requests must be submitted (for example, before your first practice or before the date that you order your uniforms).

    • If certain portions of your registration fee are non-refundable under any circumstances.

    • How refund requests must be submitted.

    Communicate Often and Educate Parents About the Need for Funding

    You should educate parents on the need for funding to purchase uniforms, pay for equipment, rent facilities, pay referees, and anything else involved in your annual budget. When your are transparent with the costs associated with running your organization, parents are more likely to understand your refund policy and not argue when refunds aren't issued.

    Communication is also critical to get more support from parents and community members. Before, during, and after registration you should communicate with parents. Use your website and social media to keep parents in the loop about any important announcements prior to your season. Make sure they know you're making purchases - including exciting announcements like new equipment, uniforms, and anything else you supply for your players before the season starts.

    If parents fully understand that their funds are needed in order to operate your non-profit organization they are less likely to demand refunds.

    Publish Your Youth Sports Refund Policy on Your Website

    You need to make sure that parents, participants, and coaches are aware of your refund policy. The refund policy should be included on your website with other important information for parents - like fee due dates, registration deadlines, codes of conduct, and equipment return information.

    You add a page on your website that lists the full refund policy, methods to request a refund, and other common refund FAQs. Make sure that the policy is easy for your board, coaches, and parents to understand so that everyone can agree on the course of action when refunds are requested.

    Your refund policy should be available to parents, coaches, and community members on your website.

    Include Policy Acknowledgements During Registration

    During registration you should require that parents have read and agree to your refund policy. You can either list the whole refund policy, or include a link to the refund policy page on your website.

    If you're registering your players online, you can require parents read the policy and check a box before registering. If they don't check the box, they won't be able to register.

    Parents should be required to acknowledge your refund policy during registration.

    Including your refund policy acknowledgment during registration won't completely prevent parents from requesting refunds outside of your criteria, or from disputing payments. But, it will help to communicate the need for player fees to operate the organization and for parents to be aware that refunds are not immediately given under any circumstance.

    Use Fundraising and Donation Techniques to Help Cover Refund Expenses

    You shouldn't rely only on player fees to fund your organization. You need other methods to collect funds throughout your year and you should have sponsorship, fundraising, and donation campaigns organized before you begin registration.

    Your organization should view some refunds as a "cost of doing business" before budgeting for your season. 1-2% of players will probably request refunds before the season starts because of injury, a family relocation, or other reason.

    Add a small amount for potential refunds to your budget before you begin registration, and you'll be less frustrated each time a parent emails you requesting a refund! Before your next season you can get a solid estimate on the amount of refunds to budget for based on previous the refund total from the previous year.

    Be Lenient When Refunds are Requested

    What happens when a parent requests a refund outside of the timeframe that they agreed to in your refund policy?

    When in doubt, you should be lenient and issue the refund to the parent. If their request is somewhat within reason you should go ahead and issue it. As a volunteer you should avoid getting in arguments with parents or undue stress if at all possible. Some battles just aren't worth winning, especially if it will just save you registration fees that haven't been spent yet.

    You also need to avoid dispute activity as much as possible. Frustrated parents that think they should receive a refund are likely to dispute the payment with their card company or bank.

    However, in certain instances - like if you've already purchased equipment or uniforms for the player - you should hold your ground and tell the parent that you can't issue a refund and refer to the refund policy on your website, and their acknowledgement during registration.

    Whenever refunds are requested you should always be respectful and try to be empathetic with the parent. If you're unwilling to issue a refund you should offer to speak on the phone with the parent rather than going back and forth through email. You should also include other board members on your email to keep everyone in the loop.

    Additional Resources

    How to Create a Youth Sports Sponsorship Package

    How to Build a Website for Youth Sports

    How to Create a Logo for Youth Sports

    The Best Tools for Nonprofit Youth Sports Organizations

    4 Best Practices for Managing Your Sports Organization's Social Media