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Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. -Thomas Paine

REQUIREMENTS FOR A SUCCESSFUL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION

The Save Our City Coalition (SOCC) adheres to three principles of organizing which it believes can result in a democratic community organization capable of addressing the political establishment in an effective and fair manner. These principles are:

  • To strive to represent a majority perspective on issue resolution in the community
  • To strive to maintain political and fiscal independence
  • To seek accountability from political and private institutions that affect residents in their community
In all of its organizing endeavors, SOCC encourages communities to adopt these principles as their own, as the most effective way of establishing fair and long-lasting community organizations.

The following requirements cover both operational activities (those that benefit the organizing effort/issue campaigns) and legal and fiscal requirements (functions specifically of the Board). Because both sets of requirements are necessary to create a successful community organization, we have combined them into a comprehensive checklist to be used by organizations as a means of evaluation and future planning. However, for convenience, the first ten requirements pertain to operational activities and the remaining cover the fiscal/legal management by the Board.

A successful organization must meet the following to satisfactorily address the concerns of the majority of residents in a given community:
  1. A core leadership of 3-6 leaders
  2. A volunteer core of 15-30 residents who attend regularly scheduled meetings, distribute literature, and collect signatures
  3. Ability to distribute literature over the entire territory a minimum of six times a year
  4. Ability to collect signatures on 3/4 of the blocks in the area
  5. Maintenance of participant lists with appropriate contact information, and lists of task volunteers (mailings, phone calls, literature distribution, signature collection)
  6. Two or more meeting locations for larger Community meetings
  7. Ability to distribute literature through local institutions (churches, schools, etc.)
  8. Access to professional organizing staff to recruit, prepare, and coordinate volunteers and to provide logistical support
  9. Access to professional staff to provide consultation/training/services
  10. Ability to collaborate with other neighborhood groups on an individual issue basis, or combined into a federation of similar, democratic neighborhood groups to address larger concerns, while remaining loyal to the majority perspective of residents
  11. Establish Board of Directors with legally required offices filled (Chair, secretary), with regularly scheduled meetings and minutes recorded
  12. Adopt by-laws appropriate to the mission of the organization
  13. Complete Articles of Incorporation, and maintain legal status by annually filing with the Secretary of State
  14. Establish a Federal Tax Identification Number
  15. Open a bank account
  16. Maintain a record of income and expenditures, including receipts and check registers
  17. Develop an annual budget
  18. Raise funds to cover costs of materials (printing, postage)
  19. Raise funds to cover costs of professional services and consulting fees
  20. Apply for and receive 501c(3) tax-exempt status
  21. Maintain income/expense statements
  22. After annual income exceeds $25,000, register with Attorney General and submit annual reports; receive report of record from auditor, submit IRS 990
  23. Purchase liability insurance
  24. Begin process of hiring and maintaining staff (need workman's compensation insurance, health insurance; withhold US and IL taxes and file appropriate quarterly forms; register and pay for US and IL unemployment insurance; maintain and file W-4 and I-9 forms; prepare annual W-2 and submit with W-3; establish personnel policy)


This document was prepared by Kimberly VanWagner for the Save Our City Coalition to assist those considering the founding of a neighborhood organization.


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