Email Globe Phone

Tips, Tools and Templates to help you build, maintain and sustain an effective neighbourhood association.

1.0 The Basics—Beginner

2.0 Things To Do — Intermediate

3.0 Organization — Advanced


Acknowledgements

This toolkit is part of a collaborative effort to support the development and sustainability of neighbourhood associations.

Most of the toolkit’s content comes directly from volunteers of London’s neighbourhood associations, who generously shared their time, experiences and expertise through a series of interviews.

The collaborative effort includes the London Strengthening Neighbourhoods Strategy, the Urban League of London, and the City of London, Neighbourhood, Children and Fire Services.

The following resources were also consulted in the development of this toolkit:

  • City of Henderson Neighborhood Leadership Toolkit
  • City of Sioux Falls Neighborhood Association Handbook
  • City of Phoenix Neighborhood & Volunteer Toolkit
  • A Toolkit for Community Leaders—Alberta Recreation and Parks Association
  • Campus for Communities of the Future

All information in this toolkit is current as of September 2015.

1.0 The Basics

1.1 What Is A Neighbourhood Association?

A neighbourhood association is a group of neighbours who work together to improve their quality of place by:

  • organizing social events
  • monitoring development proposals
  • community clean ups
  • protecting natural and built heritage
  • increasing safety
  • raising funds to improve parks, infrastructure, amenities, public art and more!

1.2 Why Start Or Join A Neighbourhood Association?

  • Get to know more of your neighbours
  • Improve parks and amenities in your neighbourhood
  • Response to a crisis: New/different development proposals, natural or built heritage protection, school or local business closure
  • Know what’s going on in your neighbourhood
  • Connect with babysitters and other family supports
  • Increase property values—people want to live in a strong neighbourhood!
  • In case of future crisis, group is ready to respond and mobilize, rather than starting from scratch
  • Neighbourhood can speak with a unified voice
  • Give back to your community

1.3 Getting Started

  1. Before You Start - Check this map and contact list to find out if you live in a neighbourhood that currently has an existing neighbourhood/community association. If you are in a pre-existing neighbourhood association, you may still want to start your own, depending on how active the group is in your area. Contact the group and inquire before you proceed.

  2. Establish A Core Group- Getting started can be the most intimidating part but it doesn’t have to be! Don’t over think it, ask a neighbour for a coffee to talk about the idea. Keep doing this until you have 3 to 5 neighbours who are willing to commit to the group.

  3. Hold The First Meeting - With the help of your Core Group, invite your neighbours to a meeting. Knock on doors, put up posters, use social media and give out flyers (see downloadable flyer template). For more help on how to hold effective meetings, see section 1.4 and 1.5.

1.4 First Meeting

Where?

The first meeting can be held at someone’s home or at a local faith based organization, library, school, community centre or restaurant. The London Public Library gives three meeting room rentals at no cost to new community groups.

What To Cover?

  • Introductions — Who is there and why?
  • Contacts — Be sure to collect names, emails, phone numbers and addresses by passing around a sign up sheet
  • Assets — What makes your neighbourhood great?
  • Issues — What parts of your neighbourhood could be improved?
  • Boundaries — Where is your neighbourhood?
  • Quick Wins — What could the group focus on in the short term? Examples include: Block Party, Community Clean up, Group Yard Sale, Welcome Wagon for new neighbours.
  • Next Meeting — When and where will you meet next?

1.5 Meetings

Where To Hold Your Meetings

Schedule / Frequency

  • When starting out it is recommended to meet monthly
  • Some groups continue to meet every month and others meet only when a need arises
  • You could meet every other month, once a quarter, twice a year or once a year depending on your activity level
  • It is a good idea to establish a routine and stick with it (e.g. first Wednesday of the month)

Effective Meeting Tips

  • Create an agenda (click here for a Sample Agenda)
  • Pass around a sign-in sheet and ask for contact info
  • Use name tags
  • Include introductions and ice breakers (click here for examples)
  • Assign a meeting facilitator to keep the discussion productive, focused, and moving forward.
  • Assign a note taker and send out meeting notes to everyone after the meeting (see [meeting minute template, Appendix ii][8])
  • Establish a decision making process (click here to see group decision options)
  • Have fun!

2.0 Things To Do

2.1 Neighbourhood Events

Events are a great way to build community in your neighbourhood. Effective neighbourhood associations usually organize two to four events per year. Click here for an Event Planning Checklist and here for a Sample Work Plan Template.

Types of Neighbourhood Events:

  • Back Yard BBQ (ideal for smaller neighbourhoods)
  • Block Party
  • Car Free Day / Open Streets
  • Art in the Park
  • Sports Tournament
  • Talent Show
  • Pot Luck Dinner
  • Garden Tours
  • Local Heritage Tour or Event
  • Movie Night
  • London Clean and Green
  • Group Yard Sale
  • Canada Day Celebration
  • Easter Egg Hunt
  • Halloween Party
  • Harvest Celebration
  • Pumpkin Retirement
  • Holiday Caroling
  • Cruise Night
  • Neighbourhood Pub Night
  • General Meetings

2.2 Environmental Projects

Cleaning, protecting and enhancing the environment in and around your area is a great way to build community and beautify your neighbourhood.

Types of Environmental Projects:

  • Park clean up (see sample project plan)
  • River clean up
  • Graffiti clean up
  • Tree planting
  • Management of Invasive Plant Species
  • London Clean and Green (See Appendix xiv for Contact)
  • AdoptAPark (Click here for Contact info)
  • AdoptAStreet

2.3 Safety Initiatives

There are lots of ways you can make your neighbourhood safer both in perception and practice.

Types of Neighbourhood Safety Initiatives:

2.4 Welcome Package For New Neighbours

A welcome package is a great way to meet new neighbours and build membership.

They can include:

  • Coupons or gifts from local businesses
  • Garbage and Recycling info
  • Info about your neighbourhood association
  • Info about neighbourhood services and parks
  • Bus route info

2.5 Raising Funds

Fundraising Events

There are countless possibilities for neighbourhood fundraising activities. Although the traditional Car Wash, Bake Sale or Bbq usually work well, the three listed below are popular among neighbourhood associations in London. Try one of these or be creative and think of your own!

Neighbourhood Yard Sale

  • Pick a good location (visible house, library, school)
  • Ask neighbours to donate unwanted items and volunteer their time
  • Promote to the neighbourhood and rest of city
  • Hope for good weather

Compost / Plant Sale

  • Seek donations of plants and compost from a local nursery or the London Civic Gardens (see appendix ix for contact)
  • Invite neighbours to come and purchase items for their gardens

Chili Cook-off

  • Find a good location/partner to host the event (church, banquet hall, library, school)
  • Invite Neighbours to prepare their very own chili in croc pots
  • Buy buns or bread to serve with the chili
  • Sell tickets to the event
  • You may also consider getting a Special Occasion Permit for the sale of alcoholic beverages

Grant Writing

Grants are a great way to fund specific projects your neighbourhood association wants to do. The most important thing to remember when applying for a grant is having a clear, well thought out idea and finding a grant that aligns with it. See Appendix x for grant writing tips.

Sparks! Neighbourhood Matching Fund (City of London)

  • A community grant program that provides funds to improve and enhance neighbourhoods.
  • Requires non-profit partner for funding
  • Applications due in February
  • Matching can be done with volunteer hours.
  • See the NeighbourGood London page on SPARKS!

Td Friends Of the Environment Foundation

  • A national charity that funds environmental projects across Canada.
  • Applications reviewed throughout the year
  • Charitable partner required
  • More info available online

London Community Foundation

  • A London based funder of various types of charitable projects and organizations. Visit their website for more info.

Sponsorships

Getting sponsors requires a lot of effort, planning, time and persistence. Although it can be tricky, it is one of the best ways to find success and sustainability for your neighbourhood’s events.

Six Tips for Getting Sponsors:

  1. Create a strong Sponsorship Proposal (see appendix xx for Sponsorship Proposal Template).
  2. Customize you Sponsorship Proposal to the business you are talking with.
  3. Research the businesses you are talking with, know who their customers are, be clear about how you will help connect with them and use their language where possible.
  4. Start with your network – the easiest way to find a sponsor is to ask someone you know personally.
  5. Approach perspective sponsors with phone calls or face to face rather than emails.
  6. Maintain the relationship after the event and be sure to meaningfully thank sponsors for their contribution.

2.6 Communication

Effective communication is an important part of a strong neighbourhood association. It is essential that members of the association are able to connect with and share relevant information in a timely fashion. It’s also a great way to keep people engaged in neighbourhood news.

Flyers

  • Flyers and posters should be simple, direct and pleasing to the eye
  • Don’t try to put too much information as the message will be lost
  • See Appendix iii for a flyer template

Emails

  • Start collecting emails at the first meeting
  • Keep the emails organized in an electronic spreadsheet
  • Avoid “spamming” your members by only sending emails when necessary
  • Use the Bcc option to keep emails addresses private
  • If you have a large database of emails you can use a free online service such as MailChimp to help manage the process

Newsletters

  • Can be digital, paper or both
  • Most word processing software have templates for newsletters to make the design process easier
  • Ask neighbours to contribute stories and picture
  • You can create them monthly, every 3 months, twice a year or just once a year
  • You can email them out to your membership or,
  • You can deliver them door to door with volunteers and block captains
  • For digital design and distribution, you could also use the free online service Mail Chimp

Websites

  • Websites or blogs are a good way to collect and share all neighbourhood news in one place
  • There are many free or inexpensive services for your group to use
  • The easiest way to set up a blog is to find someone in your neighbourhood with the technical skills to do it.
  • However, make sure he or she trains other people on how to use the service and shares all the necessary login info and passwords with the group. You don’t want to loose access to your website if something happens to the person in charge of it

Neighbourgoodguide.Ca

  • A resource for neighbourhood-based information
  • Communicate with your neighbours using the OurStreet app.

Talking With The Media

Social Media: Facebook and Twitter

  • Facebook and twitter can be used to share news or alerts with your members in a timely and easy way
  • A Facebook Group is used to communicate with members and can be private or public
  • A Facebook Page is used to communicate with the broader public
  • Twitter is used to communicate quick news items and links with the broader public
  • The easiest way to manage social media accounts is to have someone with experience in your group take it on

Phone Tree

If some of your members are not online, a phone tree may be a necessary communication tool.

How to organize a phone tree:

  • Start by collecting phone numbers (this could be done at the same time as emails)
  • Create a core team of 4 to 6 people who are willing to commit to the job
  • Give each member of the core team a list of names and phone numbers they are responsible for calling (should be no more than 10 each)
  • Test the phone tree occasionally to ensure it works

2.7 Membership

Structured membership is not necessary in the beginning but is good to consider once your group starts to formalize its structure. Membership can be nominal (no charge) or based on payment.

How Much To Charge?

  • Annual fees can range from $5 to $50 per household
  • Work with members to determine an appropriate fee for your neighbourhood, keeping in mind that no residents should be excluded based on ability to pay
  • Some groups also offer an option to make a larger one-time payment for a lifetime membership ($100-$200)
  • Some groups only collect payment every other year to reduce workload
  • Make clear what residents get out of membership (ie. a vote at the AGM, the opportunity to be on the board, a gift, etc.)

Ways To Do Sign-Up & Fee Collection

  • At the Annual General Meeting
  • Online
  • Door to Door
  • Set up a station at a central location and invite residents to join
  • Through the mail

2.8 Volunteer Recruitment And Retention

Retaining existing and engaging new volunteers on an ongoing basis in an important part of sustaining your association. Relying on a small group for too long may lead to fatigue and even burnout. Good volunteer engagement also helps develop replacement board members when the need arises.

Ways To Recruit Volunteers

  • A personal invitation to a friend or acquaintance
  • Post volunteer opportunities on your group’s website and share on social media accounts
  • Put up posters at local faith based organizations, schools, businesses, shops
  • Include a request in newsletters and emails
  • Be sure to make it easy to sign up

Volunteer Retention

  • Always respond promptly to emails or calls
  • Be clear about expectation and communicate well
  • Use their name often
  • Send a reminder the day before the commitment
  • Be organized, thankful and supportive
  • Feed and hydrate volunteers well
  • Introduce volunteers to one another and use name tags
  • Send thank you emails or postcards to all volunteers
  • Educate them about their work and the impact it has
  • Take group pictures and post on website/social media
  • Send reminders of upcoming projects

2.9 General Meetings

Annual General Meetings (AGM) are held by community organizations to update their membership on the past year’s accomplishments and plans for the year ahead. They should happen at the same time every year and align with the organization’s financial year-end (if you have one). It is important to inform all of your members of the AGM and give them plenty of warning (one month at least).

What Is Done At An AGM?

  • Financial Report of the previous year
  • Election of new Board of Directors
  • Review activities of previous year
  • Review of plan for next year
  • Changes to bylaws (if required)
  • Celebration (food and drink)

Neighbourhood groups may choose to hold Special General Meetings when issues arise that require input from the entire membership. These can happen at any time throughout the year, depending on when the issue occurs.

Tips When Organizing A General Meeting

  • Find a large venue to hold entire membership (School, Place of Worship, Banquet Hall)
  • Promote in newsletters and with door to door flyers
  • Include food, either purchased or pot luck
  • Make it fun! It should be a celebration!

3.0 Organization

3.1 Board & Committees

A neighbourhood association may be big or small, formal or informal. Regardless, it is important to have some structure to your association to help share the work load and ensure that every voice is heard.

Board Of Directors / Executive

The board positions are usually elected by the membership at the Annual General Meeting and should be rotated every 2 to 3 years to avoid dependence and ensure inclusivity. Positions include:

  • Chair: Prepares meeting agendas and facilitates the meetings
  • Vice Chair: Fills in for the Chair when he/she is not available and assists Chair with duties
  • Treasurer: Responsible for the association’s finances
  • Secretary: Keeps people informed through taking and distributing meeting minutes and informing residents of upcoming meetings

Committees

Sub-committees are used to further delegate the workload and are typically led by a facilitator who develops the reports to the Board. Typical sub-committees include:

  • Communications - Newsletter, website social media and emails
  • Fundraising - Coordinates fundraising events and activities
  • Special Events - Specific to the event
  • Membership - Manages the membership process
  • Volunteers - Coordinates volunteers when needed and works to retain existing and engage new volunteers

3.2 Bylaws & Constitution

Bylaws govern the way an association functions and defines the roles and responsibilities of members.

Neighbourhood Association Bylaws should include the following parts:

  • Name of Association
  • Boundaries
  • Mission and objectives
  • Definition of Membership
  • Board Governance
  • Executive
  • Members at large
  • Number of meetings per year
  • Quorum
  • Committee structure
  • Term for executive members
  • Process for filling vacancies
  • Annual General Meetings
  • Decision making process
  • Fees
  • Record keeping

Click here for a sample of Bylaws for a neighbourhood association.

3.3 Goals, Objectives And Plans

Establish Priorities/Goals

An association’s goals should relate to its vision and mission. They are broad and general outcomes that require long-term action. Examples include:

  • Community Engagement: To increase opportunities for residents to be involved and engaged in their neighbourhood through the use of communication and information.
  • Safety: To increase our feeling of safety and celebrate our diverse and positive voices.

Set Objectives For Each Goal

Objectives are tied to priorities/goals and may be short-term or long-term. They are the steps, actions, or projects your group will take to move toward achieving its goals. Objectives will often relate to more than one goal. Examples include:

Goal:

  • Create a healthier community
Objectives:
  • Start a Walking School Bus
  • Create a community learning garden
  • Start a neighbourhood bicycle club
  • Host healthy cooking lessons

Create A Work Or Action Plan

Every objective or project needs a plan of action to ensure success and effective delegation. Taken together, those plans produce your organization’s Strategic Plan and will help provide overall guidance and direction to your association over the course of a year.

A good plan should include the following considerations:

  • Roles and Responsibilities—who is doing what?
  • Timeline and Milestones—what are the key steps and when will they happen?
  • Resources – what equipment, space, budget, volunteer/staff or partnerships are needed to achieve the objective?
  • Success Measurements—how will you know you have succeeded?
  • Scope—what is in and what is out of the scope of this work?
  • Review and Report—was the project successful? Did the work align with the plan? Why or why not?

Click here for a Work Plan template.

3.4 Values/Vision/Mission

Although defining your mission, vision and values can be time consuming and difficult, if successful, the process can help to bring the group together and provides meaning and direction to your activities.

Values

Values are those things that really matter to each of us. The ideas and beliefs we hold as being of special quality, worth and importance.

Examples include:

  • Accountability
  • Compassion
  • Diversity
  • Integrity
  • Cooperation

Vision

A vision statement is an expression of vivid possibilities or the ideal future state that describes in a very broad sense, where you want to go as an association and a neighbourhood.

A vision statement should be:

  • Written in the present tense
  • Inspirational and motivational
  • Clear and concise

Example:

A community respecting nature, nurturing people of all ages and creating a great place for everyone to live.

Mission

A mission is an organization’s “reason for being” and describes the work it does to realize its vision. The mission can be used as a public description and should be simple enough to be recalled by all members of the board.

Your mission can be determined by answering the following three questions:

  1. What key benefit or outcome do we deliver?
  2. For whom do we do it?
  3. How will we do it?

Examples include:

  • Promote open discussion of neighborhood issues
  • Pursue solutions and actions favored by members
  • Monitor and inform members of private initiatives and public policies significant to the neighbourhood
  • Working together to build a foundation for a positive and safe environment.

There are many techniques for creating vision, mission and values statements listed in Appendix xi.

3.5 Incorporation

Incorporation is Not necessary for neighbourhood associations. In London, some groups are incorporated and many are not.

Why Incorporate?

  • Provides legal protection for members
  • Allow the association to apply for some grants independently
  • An incorporated association can also take legal action against a third party if necessary

Why Not Incorporate?

  • The cost can run anywhere from $500 to $1,000
  • Maintaining the incorporation takes time and energy
  • Membership with the Urban League provides access to legal status for grants and other requirements.

How To Incorporate?

  • Can be done federally or provincially
  • You must have a unique, non-generic name
  • Requires a clear mandate or corporate objects
  • Requires the use of a solicitor or lawyer
  • Online help at www.charityvillage.com