Maintaining a Neighborhood Association
by Yelena Mitrofanova, Extension Educator
Nobody likes to attend meetings that are a waste of time. Meetings which seem to be endless and accomplish little or nothing leave people extremely frustrated. As a neighborhood leader, you have the opportunity and responsibility to make meetings effective, productive and even pleasant. You need to make people feel the time they devote to meetings is time well spent.
The following is a guide for successful and effective meetings:
- Decide on a convenient time and date to meet by consulting with your core group and neighbors.
- Develop a well-planned agenda, which includes:
- topics for discussion; presenter or discussion leader for each topic; time allotment for each topic.
- Invite a neutral facilitator to sensitive meetings.
- Meeting information needs to be circulated to everyone before the meeting. Make sure to include: meeting objectives; meeting agenda; location/date/time; background information; assigned items for preparation.
- Determine a method of follow-up to remind the neighborhood volunteers. This may be done by phone calls, letters and flyers.
- Set up the room for the meeting in advance. Tables and chairs should be in place.
- Display any handouts near the entrance.
- Meeting notes must be recorded and made part of the organization's meeting information archives.
- During the meeting:
- greet members and make them feel welcome, even late members when appropriate;
- serve light refreshments, they make good icebreakers and people feel comfortable;
- start on time and end on time; review the agenda and set priorities for the meeting;
- stick to the agenda.
- After the meeting, the minutes must be distributed to all members.
Organizations accomplish their objectives through the dedicated work of committees. The committees are the heart of a successful neighborhood association. The task of the committees is to consider and respond to issues presented from the community. The types of committees depend on the overall purpose and structure of your neighborhood association.
Committees also allow residents to work together to plan events and other activities that build the community. The committee structure should be fun and is meant as a way for residents to get to know each other and develop community working relationships.
There are generally two major categories:
- Housing conditions
- Police-neighborhood relations
- Economic development
- Neighborhood maintenance
- Community services and resources
- Traffic safety
- Youth development/kids clubs
- Meeting arrangements
- Social events
To maintain active, productive and motivated members on the committees:
- Encourage members to participate in the association and the committee planning process; help members find a place in the organization - find a task for each person to do, no matter how small, as they feel they are contributing.
- Define and discuss the goals and objectives of the committees; provide people with some structure.
- Give recognition to members and committees on their contributions to the neighborhood association.
- Help members develop communication skills; encourage long-time members to mentor new members.
- Make meetings and committee work as productive as possible; no one wants to feel they are wasting time.
Whether trying to reach potential members, funders or the general public many neighborhood associations fail to develop a communication strategy that will help them to reach their audience.
Communication is a key to success in neighborhoods on many different levels. Do not keep your great work a secret; spread the word. This will help others in the neighborhood join the association and take part in making a difference.
There are different ways to communicate with your neighborhood:
- Neighborhood association newsletter
- Weekly area newspapers
- Schools, churches and club newsletters
- Door-to-door handouts
- Person-to-person by phone among friends and neighbors
- Neighborhood survey by mail, phone and door-to-door
- Bulletins, notices, pamphlets, posters and flyers placed with permission in schools, laundromats, libraries, supermarkets, local restaurants, stores and waiting rooms in dentist/doctor's offices
- A neighborhood Web page
- Booths at local events
- Speakers at business groups, service clubs, youth groups, schools and churches
- Lawn signs
- Telephone tree
- Cooperative efforts with adjoining neighborhoods
The work of a neighborhood association should not be drudgery - much of what you need to do is to build the social fabric of your neighborhood - this should include many parties and get-togethers! Have events that appeal to all, particularly children.
Source: "How to Build a Neighborhood Association," www.ci.renton.wa.us/ednsp/neighassn.htm; "Neighborhood Guidebook," www.cityofwenatche.com/acrofiles/NeighborhoodGuidebook.pdf
For more information, contact:
Yelena Mitrofanova, Extension Educator
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528.