Let's Go! - Community InvolvementWhere Are We Now? | Where Do We Want to Be? | How Do We Get There? |
Now after months and months of hard work everything is in place to move forward. How might the community be involved at this point?
Volunteers will be needed to help implement plans. In order to organize efforts, to make sure that everything is covered, a list should be made of all the necessary tasks, the skills required, and projected timelines. For each activity a "champion" should be selected who will be responsible for seeing that everything proceeds as planned.
Those citizens who choose not to become directly involved in the implementation can still participate by giving input on the progress that is being made. A point of contact should be designated in all newsletters or press releases that are issued to keep the public informed. Feedback is important. Like former Mayor Koch of NYC did, ask "How am I doing?" often and then make changes that will make things better.
Prioritizing for Success
What to work on first? There are a number of strategies. You could do the easy, quick things first. Or, you could do the free and low cost things first. Or, you could attack the problems the community thinks are the most important first. Whichever strategy you use, it is important to show some measurable results, some successes early on. Success is a great motivator! Check out HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development for some hints on strategy and prioritizing.
Even with lots of volunteers, you may need funding to pay for the purchase of land, for capital improvements and for hiring designers, engineers, architects, lawyers, etc. There are several avenues to pursue in raising funds:
Government Grants and Loans - Your local municipal officials and State and County planners should be familiar with grant and loan programs which might be applicable, including those on the Federal level. Note that grants often require the municipality to provide matching funds.
Foundation Grants - Taken together, foundations provide a huge source of funds. The process, though, is highly competitive. Your best bet is to contact foundations located in your geographic area and foundations of companies that have offices in your area. Directories of foundations with descriptions of the types of projects they fund are typically available in large public libraries and in the libraries of colleges and universities. Check out The Foundation Center for more information.
Donations from Local Businesses - Local businesses may be willing to donate money since improvements should help them thrive. Businesses can be recognized with stickers or certificates which can be displayed.
- Donations from Individuals - Likewise, individuals may be willing to donate funds. Donations might also include an outright gift of property or the right to lease a property for a low fee for a certain number of years.
Fundraising Events - There are all sorts of events to raise funds, from bake sales to flea markets. One type of fundraiser that is gaining popularity is selling the right to have a brick (which will make up a sidewalk or structure) engraved with your name for a fee.
Writing a Winning Proposal
In these days of a lean economy, organizations with funds to give are bombarded by requests. Some reviewers are so busy they can take only 5 minutes or so per proposal to determine whether or not they want to consider your request further. What will help to get your proposal in the winning pile?
- Make your proposal easy to read.
- Make it clear that your proposed project is the type the organization funds.
- If specific types of information are requested, like backgrounds of key personnel, use bold headings to point that out. It also helps to provide information in the order requested. Often the first step of a reviewer is to verify that all the pieces are there. Don't make them waste time hunting.
- Show that you can write well. Fix typographical errors and confusing verbiage. Reviewers may not take the time to figure something out.
- Make your proposal only as long as necessary and never exceed page limits. Redundancy will hurt rather than help you. Make it short, succinct, and sweet.
- And, if you have any questions, ask. Some organizations will show you the proposals of past winners to give you a better sense of what they are looking for.
The Pros and Cons of Forming a Non-Profit
Pros: It facilitates receiving funding from grants (some programs specify that recipients must be non-profits), and receiving money from businesses and individuals (gifts to non-profits are tax- deductible).
Cons: You'll need to go through the paperwork, pay all applicable fees, and hold meetings and file reports as required.
You're Done. Now What?
Finally, you're done. All your projects are done or on the way to being completed. Your community has never been better. You feel great! Now what?
Chattanooga chose to do "revisioning" -- starting the process all over again using their planned endpoint as their new starting point. As in total quality management, some communities will choose to seek continuous improvement with each new wave of revisioning. Some communities form a non-profit organization to oversee continued efforts or they may transfer the responsibility to an existing nonpartisan organization.
Keeping the Community Informed
Key to the continued success of implementing your action plans is keeping community members, local elected officials, the business community and others informed of your activities and progress. Many of the same techniques described elsewhere in the Green Communities Assistant Kit can be used at this stage, too.