Running your association is about building the team and keeping members engaged for the long haul. Below you will find a number of tools to help your neighborhood association thrive.
It's no understatement to say that just about every meeting, project, strategy-building session or cookout is an opportunity for engaging new members and/or providing leadership development for existing members.
The work of association leaders will be more rewarding, more powerful and less taxing with the backing of a deep bench. As you read through this chapter—which is devoted to the nuts and bolts of communications, programs, projects and advocacy—consider all the ways you could invite others to take part in this work and grow their skills and knowledge with each step.
At every opportunity, collect the names and contact information for neighborhood association members so that you can invite them to get more involved. Sign-up sheets should be in every neighborhood leader’s car and easily found online. Every name collected should be followed up with a welcome email or phone call.
In your planning take the time to consider little volunteer jobs that may be easy to accomplish but that make a new member feel like they’re becoming a part of the team. You’ll have them hooked with collaborative invitations and frequent celebrations for the great work you’re doing together.
Learn the basics of running an association. The following trainings can help your association members quickly get up to speed:
There are an incredible number of channels and platforms for disseminating information about the neighborhood. It’s not necessary to use every option. Just like with many other aspects of running a neighborhood association, it’s smart to start small and master one tool before attempting to add another to your repertoire. Below is a robust list of all the communications tools you may want to consider. Click the tool to learn more about when and how to use it.
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Building community is one of the most fundamental values of a neighborhood association. Social events and special projects are great ways for neighbors to get to know each other and do good work for the neighborhood. Learning to use work plans will help your group be successful in the events and projects you undertake together.
Social events not only break the ice, but also give neighbors a relaxed time to discover matters of mutual interest. These events often pave the way for future meetings on common neighborhood problems, crime prevention, a neighborhood watch program, recreational needs or other projects.
Social events can be held in a neighbor's house, a local business, in a nearby park, or on a neighborhood street. If you choose to have a large community social event, such as a block party, be sure to contact the City to learn about any required permitting. Contact the Parks and Recreation District to reserve park space.
Examples of social events to consider:
- Block parties
- Holiday parties
- Christmas caroling and lighting tours
- Potluck dinners
- Progressive dinners, during which the meal moves from one house to another for each course
- Neighborhood game tournaments
- Scavenger hunts
- Neighborhood garage sales
Sometimes, neighborhood associations lose momentum when there’s not a particular issue driving interest. Programs and projects can help build community and develop sustained engagement from your membership. By working together your neighborhood association members can also make Bend better, especially when neighbors who need some extra support are taken care of by the team.
There is no end to the good programs and projects your team could devise. Just remember that it’s important to build on success rather than tackling everything all at once. Be reasonable with your expectations of neighbors’ time and resources.
Examples of programs and projects to consider:
- Neighborhood cleanups
- Visits to shut-in neighbors
- Baby-sitting cooperatives
- Crime prevention programs and neighborhood watch
- Fundraising events for neighbors in need
- Collection events to provide supplies for the needy in the community
- Traffic calming and traffic safety advocacy
- Sidewalk improvements
- Street and alley lighting
- Ride sharing
- Bicycle access ways
- House watch for neighbors
- Food buying clubs
- Discussion groups
- Painting projects, in which neighbors pitch in to help paint a neighbor's house
- Database of items neighbors are willing to share, such as a post hole digger, extension ladder, pressure washer, or an air compressor
- Weed pulls
As you begin to consider developing events, programs and projects with your team, go back to your neighborhood assessment and member surveys to make decisions about where to focus your energy.
What kind of events would attract the most interest? What projects are most valuable to engaged members? What programs can you create that would truly benefit the neighborhood?
Talk over the possibilities at your general meeting, at monthly meetings with your key leaders and during casual conversations on the block. Do your best to get everyone’s input on where the priorities lie.
Once you know what you’re ready to tackle, it’s time to get serious about work plans.
Successful neighborhood associations live and breathe work plans. Putting down on paper the goals, the pieces of work that must be accomplished, who will do them and on what timeline gives everyone a chance to weigh in and consider their own role in the success of the project.
Work plans are your best bet for keeping a project on task and the team oriented toward moving forward.
Elements of a good work plan:
- Project purpose and goals
- Project timeline
- Resources required
- Tasks that must be accomplished
- Assignment of tasks to specific people
- Plans for celebrating success
- Follow-up steps
- And most importantly—realistic expectations of the team of volunteers
When drafting a work plan, consider copying the bullet points listed above as the sections of your work plan. Ask team members to each complete a section and send to everyone else for review and editing. Just the act of making a plan together can be a powerful first step toward accomplishing it.
More tips for organizing the team:
- Be realistic. Set yourself up for success by taking an honest assessment of how much time, money and ability your team has to take on the event or project. Remember, you can build on small successes fast, but it’s hard to keep up morale if volunteers feel overwhelmed
- Set up a committee. A committee makes organizing an event much simpler. Projects are broken down into pieces, with people assigned to each task. The committee meets regularly to discuss progress. The size of the committee will depend on the size and nature of the event. It is not unusual for most activities to take place at the committee level. This is also the level at which a member can become most involved
- Appoint a committee chairperson. This is a major responsibility. The chair is the coordinator of the event. Chairs must make sure that everyone is accomplishing the assigned tasks so that everything is done for the event. The chair should work with the event committee to make all the necessary arrangements
- Try backwards planning. Create the timeline for your projects by starting at the end date. For instance, if you want to hold a block party on June 15, work backwards to figure out that the registration for the event must be opened on May 15, which means the quarterly newsletter sent in March must include an announcements, which means you’ll need to know your event time and venue by then
- Build and use checklists. Start a record of all the steps that must be taken to hold successful events, or meetings, or even to put together the newsletter. Checklists are a great way to ensure that all your knowledge will be passed on to the new neighborhood leaders when it’s their time to take over the reins