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Meet Dave Lee of FFP Running Clubs in Museum District

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dave Lee.

Dave, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a technology entrepreneur specializing in emerging technologies in the energy and life sciences sectors. But my first passion has always been sports. Initially as a swimmer, water polo player, and collegiate water polo coach, but more recently as a runner, triathlete and endurance athlete, in 2008, as a way to encourage my friends who were just getting into running to join my friends who were already avid runners, I started a running club that met at a pub in Rice Village. The idea was to simply meet up at the pub, run at your own pace around a 3 mile loop, then meet back at the pub for a couple of post-run beers. It was intentionally designed to be low key, more social, with the main focus on encouraging others to add fitness into their daily lives. We named the club BON Running Club after the pub’s original name “Brian O’Neill’s Irish Pub” and we even kept the name after the pub changed its name to the “Gorgeous Gael” in 2014. The overwhelming success of BON Running Club which grew to more than 10,000 members in 5 short years prompted me to establish “FFP Running Clubs” as a 501 c 3 non-profit organization with the mission of establishing similar clubs around the country to strengthen the culture of fitness in America.

FFP today is a large and powerful community of over 50,000 runners across the U.S. that share a common dream of building a healthier, happier and more meaningful world to live in by spreading the mission of “Fitness, Fun, and Philanthropy”.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Every growing organization faces some challenges along the way, but to be honest it’s been a remarkably smooth path simply because of the amazing club officers that we have who orchestrate all of the clubs’ weekly runs and activities. We have been incredibly fortunate to attract such remarkably passionate leaders who volunteer their time and pour their hearts into leading and growing each run club. Without our officers, none of this would be possible. But I believe it has been possible because FFP’s mission resonates so well with the officers who step forward to get involved and they have all seen and experienced the sometimes life changing impact that the running clubs have had on the individuals who participate as well as the communities that we help through our fundraising efforts.

FFP Running Clubs – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
FFP Running Clubs is run entirely by volunteer officers at the local level and we have no salaried staff at all. This was designed intentionally so that we could keep our operating costs extremely low in order to maximize our main mission of fundraising on behalf of local charities (approximately 90% of all our fundraising revenue goes directly to our charity partners).

What sets our running clubs apart from more traditional running clubs is that there are absolutely no costs to membership, we have some of the largest memberships in the country (our largest club having over 10,000 members), and due to our large size and appeal we attract a lot of business and community partners who donate great milestone awards to our members every time they reach a new running milestone. So the more our members run, the more great stuff they can receive such as run club technical t-shirts, hats, jackets, and gift cards. Our business model is a win-win-win for everybody. The participants improve their fitness, make many lasting friendships, and get lots of great prizes from our sponsors. Our sponsors get access to a large and dynamic membership base, see a measurable impact on their businesses by partnering with our clubs, and get great exposure within the community by supporting many of our charitable efforts. And finally the community at large recognizes a positive impact by having the philanthropic efforts of the clubs going directly to local charities within their own community.

We are known for hosting some really fun and kinda crazy fundraising events. Our clubs have organized many costume-themed pub crawls, certified 5k races and some wacky fun runs like our upcoming Hot Undies Run in Houston, TX where everybody shows up in their “undies” or something underwear themed and they run a 2 mile loops through Rice Village that culminates in a great costume party back at our host location, the Gorgeous Gael Irish Pub. I’m most proud of the fact that this little even has raised nearly $100,000 in the past 7 years for such great charities as Children’s Tumor Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Undies for Everyone and Girls on the Run Greater Houston.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Asides from the tremendous fundraising efforts that our clubs have done over the years for many charities across the country I think I might be most proud of the fact that perhaps I’ve played a small role in helping initiate many life-long friendships between our members. Not only have I met some of my closest friends through my running clubs, but I know that thousands of other people have done the same and perhaps that would never have happened without these running clubs. A really amazing thing that I’m now able to witness is that some of these friendships have blossomed into marriages and now families. We know of at least 20 couples who have met at one of our run clubs that have gone on to get married and in fact I was asked to officiate one of them, which I gladly did for my dear friends Bernie and Zach in 2013.

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