Community organizations are at the heart of every civic movement and societal change. When you want your congressman or senator to do something for the community, you find an organization that can lobby for it. Sure, writing a letter sometimes works, but it doesn’t have the impact that an organized movement has. Starting a nonprofit community organization for the underrepresented and unprivileged communities is one of the noblest things you can do. It comes with such a complicated process, though, that many decide to forego the idea.
Unfortunately, you need the guts to carry through your plans if you want to help your community. While starting a community organization is a lot of work, it is also a fulfilling agenda that will help people achieve their goals. As long as you keep your goals in mind, you’ll find it easier to start setting the organization up.
Know What the Community Wants and Needs
Although you may want to introduce a new program that you think will be valuable to the community, stop yourself right there. If you want to help the community, you have to start with the concerns and issues they already have. There are plenty of problems that beset each community. Whether it’s about house foreclosures, youth education, and employment, these are problems that you cannot ignore. Everything starts from having a home, education, and job.
So, while it sounds noble for you to start an art center in a ghetto community, this is not what they need. Rather, they need help accessing educational programs, job opportunities, micro-financing, and so much more. Identifying these needs is the first step to setting up an organization.
Start Drawing Up the Plans
You need a business plan. If you don’t know how to draw up one and you do not have the money to hire someone to make it for you, attend a few low-cost or free workshops that will teach you how to do it. These programs are usually government-sponsored. They aim to help people start a business, apply for a loan, and become more secure in their finances.
What kind of legal documents will your organization need in the future? If you are setting up an organization to help the community with their home foreclosure problems, then you need to know about how eviction works and how you can source funding for a loan or refinancing. You need to set up the terms and conditions of your programs. Detailing the exact steps on how the organization will help the community is paramount to its success.
Talk With Local Officials and Private Companies
To start an organization, you need funding. From yourself, all you have is your skills and resources. It’s the same with community members who want to be involved. They can offer their time and what limited resources they have. These are not enough to set up a community organization. You need money. You can source that money from local public officials and private companies.
First, you should know that public officials will rarely act if it doesn’t benefit them. Your programs have to make them look good in the eyes of their constituents (voters) and the media. Common issues they like supporting are job creation, micro-financing for small businesses, scholarship offers, and programs involving veterans. If one of your core issues fall under these, you may be a shoo-in for support.
Once you received initial public funding, that’s when you can start meeting with private companies. Private funding is more possible when you already received support from public officials. Without that initial support, private companies will not see your programs as competent and viable.
Get the Community Involved
Lastly, the most important thing is to have the community and stakeholders involved. Meet with them. Discuss the programs with them. If they want to join the organization, divide them into committees. Identify their strengths and weaknesses, so that the organization will benefit from them.
Do not forget to keep everyone posted about any progress. Make sure the lines of communication are open for their concerns, opinions, and suggestions. As the leader of the organization, you will gain their respect when you listen to their grievances. People like knowing that what they’re doing is making a difference, so it’s also important to show appreciation for their contributions.
Your dream of setting up a community organization is one giant step away. At first, the task may seem daunting and overwhelming. But organizing communities for change and progress, just like everything else in this world, is not meant to be easy. Otherwise, the world would not be facing the problems it now has to overcome.