Building Community Capacity
Looking for resources to build leadership and organizational capacity in your local community group? There is a wealth of resources and training experiences available to you. You can develop capacity through partnerships with more experienced organizations, through participation in Neighborhood Watch, Main Street or Habitat for Humanity Programs and through training and mentoring programs. The West Virginia Community Development Hub has staff that can give guidance on available community development resources. It also sponsors programs and events to bring together communities that are working on areas of common interest. Find descriptions and links for resources below.
Fledgling or inexperienced community based organizations often do not have the capacity to achieve their community vision alone. Before jumping into the risks and responsibilities of creating your own non-profit organization, look around your area to see if you can find existing agencies that might have the capacity to take on your project.
Do your homework. There are many agencies that do important work in our communities that may be unknown to you or maybe you have heard the name but their mission is unknown to you. Go through the phone book and look under “social service agencies”, ask at a local food bank, the emergency services director at the DHHR, mental health case managers, the senior center or Family Resource Network.
Once you’ve identified the organization, you could:
• Volunteer as a board member
• Ask the Executive Director to come to a community meeting.
• Ask if the agency would be willing to take on your idea as a special project.
• Offer to help assemble and advisory council
• Offer to leverage financial and community support.
Some grant programs require a non-profit partner or in the case of some housing grants, a provider of social services has to be willing to come to the table. This is an opportunity for a community person to facilitate this kind of partnership.
Be polite, persuasive and persistent in talking to your potential partners. Many executive directors are overwhelmed but if they know that there is community support, many will look for opportunities to work together.
2. Single Issue Focused Programs that Build Capacity
- Neighborhood Watch
This a program of the National Sheriff’s Association. It unites the community and local law enforcement to prevent crime from happening to persons or property.
- Main Street West Virginia
The Main Street program uses a common-sense approach to tackle the complex issue of downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization, capitalizing on the history and the resources of the community itself.
- Habitat for Humanity
“The mission of the state office of Habitat for Humanity is to support to local affiliates with resources, training, awareness and advocacy so that they can provide opportunities for safe affordable housing to the people of West Virginia.” There are local affiliates around the state but many counties are lacking their own Habitat organization. The state office provides assistance in getting an affiliate ready to start a housing project. Partnering with an already existing Habitat organization should be explored before starting a new entity
3. Community Development and Leadership Training Programs and Workshops: Learn more about the many programs that focus on general areas of community development or leadership here.
4. WV Community Development Hub and the Community Development Network
The WV Community Development Hub can increase a community’s ability to do community development in many ways. The Hub can link a community to resources including technical assistance and sometimes funding. The Hub gathers communities with similar projects together for mini-workshops. In addition, the Hub brings together service providers in specific arenas of community development in an effort to reduce redundancies and fill service gaps. For example, one of these niche networks, focused on non-profit capacity building, is now in the process of starting a statewide non-profit association.
The Hub is also the convener of a statewide network of technical assistance providers, funders and practitioners in the field of community development. This group comes together twice a year to learn what is going on in this field in West Virginia. Through networking at these meetings, they find ways to mutually benefit each other’s work.
5. Starting a Non-Profit Organization
If a community group wants to start its own non-profit corporation, it is important to research all that is involved. Filing the incorporation papers and applying for non-profit status is just the beginning. Be sure to understand all the legal and financial reporting requirements that are due on a regular basis. Determine who will be responsible for creating and submitting these reports. Failure to comply could lead to fines as well as a withdrawal of the non-profit status.
One of the most comprehensive links to resources for starting a non-profit 501c3 organization is found at the Foundation Center Website.
In addition to Federal Law and IRS regulations, the WV Code addresses non-profit organizations. The WV Code requires that the non-profit organization register annually. Late fees of $25 per month can be charged for non-compliance. For information required by the WV Code and the WV Secretary of State, consult the website below: