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Come together... right now
People come together for many reasons including similar hobbies, sports, cultural celebrations, community initiatives, politics and social functions. Often what starts as a casual get-together becomes a regular event and more formal than originally planned. This can often lead to the necessity of becoming more organized and structured.
According to the Center for Association Leadership, informal gatherings are how the majority of associations begin. People in the Midwest are gatherers. They enjoy coming together and making a difference as a group. It satisfies the need to be accepted and the need to give back to society. In fact, based on a study done by the AARP, 9 out of 10 adults belong to some sort of association or organized group.
The IRS definition is open for interpretation: “In general, an association is a group of persons banded together for a specific purpose.”
To create a movement in the community or host an organized event that will bring people together and increase awareness of a specific agenda, forming an association may be the answer.
Identify the purpose, interest or occasion
This is the thing that draws people together. It ranges from personal, vocational, and philanthropic to community-focused and professional interests.
Select other leaders that want to be involved
Keep in mind that these original people will likely be the first “board” or official organizers. Be sure they have the time and desire to dedicate to this effort. Be sure you all feel comfortable together and that you make a good team. Often taking personality assessments can be a first step in this process. This helps the team see strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of balance.
Research other similar groups & potential partnerships
Before reinventing a group, it may be likely there is already one on a larger scale that you can join and simply start a new chapter or local group. There may also be local groups that you can partner with and form an even stronger union to make a bold impact in your area. At the very least, look at the groups that do exist for helpful tips and guidelines for forming your group. Using already successful procedures can be a benefit for a nascent group as it develops.
Explore potential members of your association & how you will reach them
Do potential members already gather for other reasons such as at work, at the schools of their children, at a specific shopping center or club? This can be the way to reach people. This is much like identifying your target customer in a business.
Will membership be available to anyone wanting to join or is there an application process? It is important to clarify the criteria for membership as the group grows. This will ensure the interests continue on a parallel trajectory.
Create a mission for the group & follow it up with objectives & goals
It is important to have this clearly defined. As you raise funds, motivate members, and move forward with activities, each stakeholder needs to be on the same path for a unified effort.
Objectives are immediate tasks that the group has to execute for a project or program. Goals are the longer-term targets that give everyone something to work toward.
Choose an organizational structure
Will the group be formal or informal? Will it have finances that must be managed? Will it benefit from a specific tax status such as non-profit or as a corporation?
Will there be a board of directors and how will this be formed? These are all considerations when forming the group. A more formal group with finances and/or a board may want to create bylaws that guide the group through all processes.
Decide on financial support
Finances may be necessary. The group will have to determine what it needs to operate and carry out the mission. It can be gathered through fundraising, membership fees and other means. It will be important to have a specific person (usually a treasurer) who manages this for the group.
Establish member benefits
In order to be a member, sometimes there has to be a benefit bigger than the common interest. This could include special discounts, insurance programs, annual conferences, training, and rights to use specific brands, logos or other identifiers. This is where a group can get creative and specific to their mission.
Designate office and/or meeting space
The first step might be to determine what “stuff” will go with the group and what is needed when meeting. The group should also be in a place that is non-intimidating for members and provide ample services and space.
Determine how often the group will meet & how decisions will be made
This decision will be based on the mission of the group and also the specific activities of the group. It might be seasonal or require more frequency in order to plan. Again, having bylaws or guidelines will be helpful to the association as it moves forward and makes decisions.
Decide group activities & how they will be managed
This is something that must be decided early on. Many associations are volunteer-based, but some have to eventually hire a director or part-time coordinator as the group grows. The board or leadership team should discuss this early in the process.
Plan for the futureThe beginning and formation stages are always fun, but how will this association disband if needed? What outside factors could impact the association’s existence? How does leadership change? This is something that should also be planned in the beginning and will help when the time comes for a transition.
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