Howto:Start a Block Association

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NYC howto: Melting pot or salad bowl, "cook up" your neighborhood with this tasty civic recipe

Creating and maintaining a strong, active Block Association is a rewarding process. With positive and consistent outreach, organizations can effect change that will have a positive influence on your neighborhood for years to come. Associations have the power to link neighbors on issues that affect the quality of life in the community. There is the benefit of creating a united coalition of “like minded” individuals working together for the improvement of the community.

Contents

What You Need to Start

  • 3-5 people, 5 hours week, Computer.
  • Computer Skills: Knowledge of Microsoft Outlook, Excel and Word as well as knowledge of social media and the internet
  • Networking Skills: Someone who can articulate goals and the need for the group. Someone who is not shy to ask people for their contact info
  • Graphic Design Skills: Creating professional looking flyers, brochures and a website are really important to the growth of your association. It instills a sense of confidence and caring from those in charge…very important!

Instructions

Form the Leadership

Find at least three to five individuals on your block/building who feel strongly about the formation of an association. At least two of those initial leaders need to be computer and internet savvy. You may want to ask around to see if anyone has any institutional memory of any previous attempts to organize an association on your block.

Think About Nonprofit Status

Contact a competent and reputable attorney to find out what you need to form a 501(c)(3) or (c)(5). (Don’t let the absence of this stop you from getting the group off the ground.)

Spread the Word

Create an engaging, colorful flyer that announces the FIRST “Meet and Greet” of the association. This flyer has to be posted in every building along the block and include an email/phone for a contact person. Get the meeting on Facebook as well. Start a group on Facebook for your budding association.

Hold an Initial Meeting

The initial meeting should be held about a local concern that is easy for your potential members to access. It is helpful to serve something to eat at the meeting. It is better not have the first meeting in someone’s home. Many people are not comfortable with that at first. You may invite someone from an established association to speak to your group about he benefits of starting a Block Association. Goals of the first meeting should include:

  • A. Introduction of the Organizers
  • B. Guest Speaker: Benefits of having a Block Association
  • C. Brainstorm with the participants on how they feel the group can address the needs of residents. Make a list of what the group thinks those needs are.
  • D. Come up with a list of preferably no more than five goals for the group for the year
  • E. Ask for everyone’s email, address and phone
  • F. With the names of the participants, you MUST start a database. A database is the key to growing an association. It should be constantly updated as current members meet new neighbors. Assign a “Keeper” and “Protector” of the database. They will be responsible for adding names/emails/addresses to the list. Microsoft Outlook is a good database builder, but there are others equally as effective.
  • G. Establish an amount for annual dues for the group. You may want to divide membership as follows: Individual; Family; Building; Merchant
  • H. Set the date for the next meeting and have a local elected official come to talk to the group
  • I. Set a goal for each person present to give five names for inclusion into the database before the next meeting. Challenge each person to talk to neighbors about the group.
  • J. Take pictures at the meeting and make sure they are posted

Announce the Success

After the initial meeting, post a flyer that announces the success of the meeting. Be sure to list the GOALS on the flyer. Ask residents to get involved and leave an email/phone number where they can contact a leader. Continue to outreach and add names to your database. Once every two weeks send a reminder about the next meeting along with interesting information about what is happening in the community.

Additional Outreach

Reach out to Coop/Condo buildings on your block. Send a Block update to the President and ask him/her to share with the Board members. Ask to speak at the Board meetings about the work of the association.

Plan an Event

Plan a Block Event such as a “planting day,” or “neighborhood clean up.” Use the internet and email to get the word out.

Conclusion

Creating a Block Association that is active and vibrant does not happen overnight and often not in one or two years. Patience and perseverance are required on the part of the leaders. You plant seeds at every opportunity. Set your goals each year and articulate them to neighbors whenever you can make the opportunity. Be a presence in your community and your association will grow.

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