Funding the Good Fight
If you’re seeking funds to protect your neighborhood or the environment from growth impacts or other threats anywhere in the USA then contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 (call-text) or Help@ceds.org for an initial no-cost discussion of options.
Most of the funds citizens raise to protect communities and the environment from development impacts comes from those directly affected by the project, not foundations or other institutions. CEDS has perfected a quick, highly effective approach for raising the funds essential to preserving quality of life.
How does $3,000 to $30,000 in one night sound?
And the approach costs almost nothing, which means that all the proceeds go to community and environmental defense. Plus, the fundraiser can take place within three- to four-weeks of when you make the decision to establish a quality of life defense fund. The fundraiser is in the form of an evening community meeting.
Community Fund Raising Meeting Key Points
The community meeting can be designed for a dozen attendees in your living room or 500 or more in a fire hall or school auditorium. There are five key points that must be conveyed during a no more than 45-minute agenda:
- How the project may affect those attending the meeting,
- Your strategy for preventing project impacts,
- Why the strategy has a good chance of succeeding,
- How much it will cost to carry out the strategy, and
- How much you need each meeting attendee to contribute so you can preserve their quality of life.
Each attendee is given factsheet and a pledge form after signing in at the meeting room entrance. The one- or two-page factsheet summarizes the preceding five key points. You want attendees to read the factsheet while they’re waiting for the meeting to begin since the information it conveys increases the likelihood of a large contribution. The factsheet and pledge form should be the only thing attendees receive. Following are links to two factsheet examples:
- Neighborhood Preservation, Ellicott City, MD factsheet
- Golf Course Community Preservation, Wilmington, NC factsheet
The pledge form is for folks who either left their check book at home or who prefer to contribute by mail or online. With services such as PayPal you can email an invoice to attendees after the meeting so they can pay with a credit or debit card. It is critical that the invoice go out the morning after the meeting. Click to see a: Pledge Form Example.
Nonprofit Status, Checking Account, Taxes, Etc.
Nonprofit Status: Most folks think their group must be an IRS certified (501c3) tax-deductible, nonprofit organization to raise funds. This is not true and could impede success.
First, most of the folks who support your cause will do so regardless of whether their contribution is tax-deductible. IRS nonprofit status is only important if you’re seeking funds from foundations or major donors. However, most foundations will not support efforts involving a proposed development project. If you have an interested major donor then it’s usually possible to find a bona fide (501c3) organization that can accept the funds then pay for expenses critical to success. This is usually done where litigation expenses are substantial. Fortunately, most campaigns can be won without having to pay thousands of dollars in legal cost, provided you follow our Equitable Solutions and Smart Legal Strategies approaches.
Second, it is likely you’ll need to engage in either lobbying or electioneering to win. Nonprofit organizations are restricted in the amount of lobbing they can do and are prohibited from influencing elections. So tax-exempt status can end up impeding or preventing success.
Third, all of your income should quickly go out to cover the expenses for executing your strategy. If you do not carry over a balance from one year to the next then you should not have to pay taxes. Therefore, tax-exempt status is not an issue. Of course check with an account or other tax-professional since requirements vary from state to state and change with time. Chances are one of these professional is among your supporters.
Fourth, it can take months to get IRS tax-exempt status and most campaigns will be over long before you get a determination.
Checking Account: A a checking account will be needed to deposit contributions and pay expenses. Chances are there’s an accountant or other tax professional among your supporters. Ask them how you go about setting up a checking account in your state. You can also talk with the bank manager where you have your personal accounts. You should also ask if you need incorporate, apply for a trade name and if there are other legal requirements you must meet. Finally, ask about any requirements you must meet to raise funds in your state.
Meeting Agenda Example
You control the meeting. The applicant, government officials, and others only get a place on the agenda if you chose to grant it, though usually it’s best no to. Attendees will begin leaving an hour after the time the meeting was supposed to start. This is why the agenda must be no more than 45-minutes long. Remember, your goal is to raise funds; not to educate ad nauseam.
Successful meetings follow an agenda such as:
Following are links to two examples of the 15-minute PowerPoint presentations referenced in the agenda, above:
- Neighborhood Preservation Campaign, Ellicott City, MD
- Golf Course Community Preservation, Wilmington, NC
Whom To Invite
The folks invited to the meeting are all those potentially impacted by the project, which includes nearby residents as well as:
- those who drive roads that may become more congested because of the project;
- parents of children who attend schools that may become overcrowded because of the project;
- those whose viewshed or night-sky view would be affected;
- downstream residents who may be harmed by floodwaters or aquatic resource impacts;
- those who cherish the forests and other natural resources threatened by the project; and
- those affected by a long list of other potential impacts.
Publicizing the Meeting
We’ve found a palm card or flyer to be the best way of getting the word out about the meeting:
A follow-up phone call to those most directly impacted by a project will further increase turn-out.
The cheapest and quickest way to distribute the card or flyer is to have a couple of volunteers handing them out to drivers stopped at a traffic light during morning rush-hour. If you pick the right traffic light then you reach most of the impact-zone households in a single, two-hour period. Check with the local police to verify that this is legal. Volunteers should also wear a safety vest and follow other safety precautions. Large signs easily read by drivers sitting at a traffic light will help get folks to roll down their window so a volunteer can hand them a palm card. Leave the signs up after rush-hour to inform other motorists of the meeting.
Meeting announcements can also be distributed (with permission) at shopping centers, religious facilities or any other location where impact zone residents congregate.
Further CEDS Assistance
Detailed advice on how to organize and conduct a community meeting can be found in Chapter 36: Mobilizing Support For Your Strategy, of our free book How To Win Land Development Issues.
CEDS offers a service called an Initial Strategy Analysis. A part of the analysis includes providing our clients with the support needed to conduct a fundraiser-community meeting. For further detail on this service click the following webpage title: Strategy Analysis.
For further fundraising assistance contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. Our advice is always available free to citizen advocates by phone.