Let's get together.

Before you begin asking your neighbors to organize, let's walk through what a neighborhood association is, why a neighborhood association is valuable, and what benefits it can provide.

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What is a neighborhood association?

A neighborhood association is a geographically-based partnership to improve conditions in a neighborhood through advocacy and the organization of activities. It can include homeowners, renters, and landlords, as well as representatives from businesses, faith based groups, non-profits and schools. The members of the associations should represent the entire neighborhood community and all of its issues and assets. All associations must be representative of the community by being inclusive, non-discriminatory and have elected officers. A minimum of quarterly meetings of the members is required.

Why are neighborhood associations valuable?

Neighborhood associations provide a forum for discussion of local issues and an opportunity to work together and make a difference in their neighborhood. Through their work, members develop the stability, credibility and political influence necessary to be an effective force in making a stronger neighborhood. Neighborhood associations provide a critical link to City and County officials, allowing residents to more actively participate in two-way dialogue with elected representatives and stay aware of policies and programs impacting the neighborhood. Finally, building relationships between neighbors through shared goals and social activities provides a sense of security in the neighborhood.

What does an organized neighborhood look like?

  • Strong neighborhood pride, identity, and active involvement
  • Development of effective neighborhood watch programs
  • Better communication with neighborhood leaders, landlords, and City government
  • Improved property maintenance, removal/repair of abandoned buildings, decreased litter and weeds
  • Development of affordable housing options
  • Decreased perception of crime, increased communication with police
  • Decreased speed and better traffic enforcement
  • Increased recreational opportunities and re-establishment of traditional neighborhood commercials centers
  • Development of businesses that provide services to neighborhoods
  • Increased investment in the success of their youth and a collective vision for the future

Let's Get Started

Organize a core group of leaders in the neighborhood.

Every neighborhood association is different. Some start in response to a particular issue or crisis, such as specific redevelopment project, and are established to respond to targeted issues. Other neighborhood associations are more general in nature and are intended to increase communication and awareness. For example, the initial focus of some associations may be to host an annual block party in order to build camaraderie between neighbors.

In either case, the group should strive to represent all of the people and interests in the neighborhood. This core group should define the major issues facing the neighborhood and serve as a steering committee to help plan the first general stakeholder meeting for the entire neighborhood.

Define a list of small "kick-off" projects to get the momentum started.

The projects should be fairly targeted and simple such as a block clean-up, letter writing/email campaign, a neighborhood-wide rummage sale, or a potluck fundraising event. The idea is to make it easy for the people who come to the first meeting to get involved and to generate excitement.

Conduct research about each of the major issues that have been identified for the neighborhood.

Designate someone in the core group to research and understand the history of the important issues, so that you know what has already been done in the past and you don't repeat any previous mistakes. Talk to residents who have lived in the neighborhood for a long time, long-standing businesses, city officials, the alderman, the police department, etc.

Establish neighborhood boundaries.

Determine a preliminary boundary of your neighborhood, so that the group knows what areas to survey. Check the map of existing associations be sure the boundaries do not overlap with those of another registered association. Keep the neighborhood manageable in size. The neighborhood should be small enough for members to pass out flyers door-to-door. For example, a neighborhood with twenty blocks might be too large to organize; four blocks may be too small.

The Lucas County Land Bank maintains a map of neighborhoods that may be a starting point. Ultimately, the association is responsible for determining the boundaries of their neighborhood. Keep in mind, the boundaries should include both sides of the street.

Give the neighborhood a name.

The name may be based on the subdivision name, the history, a historic designation, a landmark, a nearby school, or a symbolic image. By researching the general background of the neighborhood, the group can install a sense of pride and motivation in the residents.

Conduct a community survey.

Prepare a survey to gather input from the neighborhood on a variety of topics, including the name and boundaries of the neighborhood, issues/concerns, and future opportunities.

The best time for a survey is Saturday. The door-to-door survey will take approximate four hours to complete with teams of two people canvassing different parts of the neighborhood. Other neighborhood survey efforts have found that people are most likely to be home between 10am and 2pm on Saturdays. However, we stress that each neighborhood is different, so select a time that will be the most beneficial to your neighborhood.

Each team of two people should be assigned a designated area that represents a certain type of character within the initial boundaries of the neighborhood. For example, areas may be defined by different ethnic enclaves, businesses, churches, housing types, school zones, etc. If a team finishes surveying their designated area early, they should provide assistance in another area. If a team cannot finish surveying their area within time allotted, they should highlight which areas were not surveyed when the group reconvenes at the end of the afternoon. The group should decide if they have a large enough sample of opinions to stop the surveying in that area or if they need to develop a strategy for finishing the area.

Once the surveys have been complied, the group will need to organize the answers in a format that can be analyzed and easily communicated to the neighborhood. Someone in the group should be responsible for the tallying of survey responses and reporting the results back to the group at the next meeting. Programs such as Microsoft Excel can be useful in this process.

Plan the first general stakeholder meeting.

Once the core group has completed their "homework," they should decide on a date, time, and location for the general membership meeting. Keep in mind that you want to choose a date and time that is going to be convenient for the largest number of people possible. Mid-week meetings during the evening or weekend meetings in the early afternoon usually work the best. Schools, public libraries, churches, and community centers make great locations for the meeting and will often be free of charge.

Get the word out.

Designate someone in the core group to be in charge of creating and managing a list of contacts, such as community newspapers, local government, churches, and other neighborhood groups. Work on recruiting neighbors to be general members of the neighborhood association and be sure to publicize your meeting to ensure high attendance.

Create flyers advertising your meeting, including the purpose of the meeting, as well as the time, date, and place. Distribute to all neighborhood stakeholders (residents, landowners, tenants, landlords, realtors, etc). Take your flyers door-to-door and canvass the neighborhood, nothing can replace the value of face-to-face communication. Request an article in the local paper announcing the meeting.

Create the meeting agenda.

The first general stakeholder meeting is very important, as it will lay the foundation for the organization. The goal of the general stakeholder meeting is to generate agreement on the goals and issues that the organization will target. Below is a framework for what your agenda might look like at this first meeting.

Host your kick-off meeting!

The day has arrived! You've done a ton of work to get to this step, so congratulations. Here are some tips to make your first meeting a success.

  • Arrive early to set up the meeting area. Have a table set up to greet people, and ask people to sign in when they arrive so you can continue building your contact list.
  • Be prepared for a big meeting with lots of discussion and more ideas than you might have expected.
  • Be prepared for a small meeting; low attendance is common for new organizations. If this happens, stay positive and enlist the energies of everyone who does show up.
  • Keep it short, interesting, and goal-oriented. Stick to the agenda, and keep people on track if the conversation starts to digress.
  • Offer refreshments and time for mingling.
  • Give everyone the opportunity to speak and consider all ideas. Treat everyone with respect.
  • No one should leave the meeting without a task, even if it is simple.

Register your neighborhood association.

Once registered, the primary contact will be added to the Department of Neighborhood’s public notice distribution list and your organization will be added to the online map of official associations.

Continue to meet on a regular basis.

Develop a newsletter, distribute flyers, create a Facebook group or start an email list and use it to consistently communicate with your group. Have regular community meals (pot lucks, etc.) to help members connect and get to know one another. Be inclusive in all affairs and ensure everyone feels welcome.

Organize small groups around common interests or goals. Offer programs of training in areas of interest. You may want to occasionally repeat the community survey to update your organizations priorities and interests. Topics your organization may choose to tackle could include:

  • Neighborhood watch
  • Neighborhood sports
  • Neighborhood beautification
  • Violence prevention
  • Parks and playgrounds
  • Parenting

Finally, aim high. Expect professionalism and hold members accountable. Recognize and reward good work routinely, and stress the positive wherever possible. The more positive you can make the experience, the more success your group will have.