Neighborhood Association Toolbox

About the Guide
This guide will assist you in getting your neighborhood association off the ground. Each neighborhood is different. What is presented in this guide and what may have worked for one neighborhood may not be right for yours. We hope that your neighborhood organization will be successful for years to come.

Tips for Building a Strong Neighborhood Organization
The most common complaint of neighborhood leaders is that they can't get people to participate. Questions to consider: Is your group inclusive? Does your group demonstrate effective teamwork, recognizing the needs, interests and skills of all its residents?

Tips for Greater Involvement in Your Association
Most tasks will continue to fall on the shoulders of a core group of leaders. However, there are many ways for neighborhood leaders to get people involved and keep their interest. Here are some suggestions:
  • Be inclusive: Too narrow of a focus and extreme positions can often alienate the very people you'd like to include.
  • Welcome new people: Make sure people attending a meeting for the first time are welcomed, listened to and given opportunities to become involved. Get the names and phone numbers of newcomers; give them an opportunity to sign up for a task that interests them, and follow up.
  • Recognize your assets: Conduct a survey to identify the skills of residents that might be hidden assets.
  • Stay focused on the bigger picture: Set goals each year and stay focused on those goals. Utilize subcommittees to handle the bulk of the work. Ask subcommittees for a report. Don't spend time at regular meetings on issues that can be considered by a subcommittee.
  • Bring in young people as constructive participants: Activities that let young people know there is a neighborhood group that cares about them will build their respect for the community's values. Such activities might include a recreational function, a youth summit, a school supply drive or a scholarship program. Ask you neighborhood school principal to provide ideas and appropriate activities.
  • Host productive meetings with relevant topics: Start meetings on time and keep them brief. Use an agenda with established amounts of time for each item. When time runs over, ask the group whether the issue deserves more time. Topics for meetings should be varied to attract new people. Limit the number of business meetings per year. Instead of a meeting, host an activity.
  • Listen and let everyone speak: Asking for introductions at the beginning of a meeting can often break the ice for people who might be afraid to speak up. An open forum for half an hour can make a big difference in whether someone stays involved.
  • Work with other community organizations: Don't forget to capitalize on the resources and skills of other community organizations. An inventory of the neighborhood might uncover a variety of helpful organizations, such as churches, schools, service clubs, nonprofit organizations and youth organizations.
  • Be flexible: More progress will come from a group whose leader is a facilitator rather than a domineering chairperson. If most of the people in a meeting want to carry a discussion in a new direction, effective leaders will swim with the tide rather than fight it.
  • Anticipate issues: By staying on top of issues, you can often identify a potential zoning change, crime trend or other problem before it becomes harder to battle.
  • Act quickly and decisively: "Strike while the iron is hot" is an important reminder in times of crisis. This is when other people are most likely to get involved and give their time.
  • Set clear time lines and responsibilities: Many internal conflicts occur because leadership is not clear in summing up discussions, identifying who is responsible for follow-up work and deciding a timeline for action. Ask the secretary to help you summarize discussions and clarify decisions.
  • Develop new leaders: Term limits for officers are helpful in forcing leaders to make way for new people. Committee chairs and project leaders are important positions for testing new leaders.
  • Admit and learn from mistakes: Recognize mistakes and move on.
  • Celebrate accomplishments: Too often we forget to celebrate accomplishments or to even notify people of the results of our work. Even small victories can encourage people to attend neighborhood functions and give their time more freely.
  • Recognize / reward personal achievements: Newsletters are great places to recognize people for awards, graduations, new babies and important anniversaries. Good Neighbor awards are a great technique for reinforcing certain actions, whether it is an individual contribution to the group or community-minded activities like a business cleaning up its grounds.