Clouds and sun
86°
Clouds and sun
Hi 86° | Lo 62°

Taking heart in community

Grassroots groups that took the next step, incorporating as nonprofits

  • Recent nonprofit start-ups discuss the challenges of getting their organizations off the ground.
  • Recent nonprofit start-ups discuss the challenges of getting their organizations off the ground.
  • Recent nonprofit start-ups discuss the challenges of getting their organizations off the ground.
  • Recent nonprofit start-ups discuss the challenges of getting their organizations off the ground.

When you think of nonprofits, the words caring, concern, fundraising and volunteers come to mind. They may not all have big budgets, but nonprofits make up a significant portion of our economy, employing, supporting, and caring for people, pets and the environment, and touching our lives in countless ways.

Nonprofits make up roughly $9.1 billion of New Hampshire’s gross domestic product, according to a 2012 report put out by the N.H. Center for Nonprofits. The nonprofit sector, made up of about 8,400 organizations and growing, employs more than 100,000 people.

And it’s quite a diverse sector, with such organizations tackling everything from pet adoption to land conservation to strengthening families and their economic well-being. There isn’t a person alive who isn’t touched by their work.

We talked with folks from two nonprofits, both of which incorporated in the last few years, about what prompted them to seek nonprofit status and some of the hoops they had to jump through.

Why become a nonprofit?

Both Rindge Crime Watch and the Dublin Community Center decided early on that becoming a nonprofit was the way to go for them.

“We wanted to become incorporated and collect contributions that people could write off,” said Bob Hamilton, president of Crime Watch.

Nancy Cayford, who co-founded the Dublin Community Center with Bruce Simpson, said their motivation was similar. “We thought we would be able to raise more money by being a nonprofit,” she said.

With the goal of bringing people of all ages together, Cayford and her fellow board members set about buying the building at 1123 Main St., where they thought they could do that. Having nonprofit status allowed the purchasing funds to be deemed a legal donation.

Growing out of a grassroots group concerned about crime in Rindge, Crime Watch’s goal from the start has been to educate the community. “Education is the backbone of the group,” Hamilton said.

An organization takes shape

Incorporating took some work, Hamilton said, but it also offered structure for Crime Watch’s 150 members. They needed five incorporators, which make up the organization’s board, and a set of bylaws to begin the process of attaining 501C3 tax exempt status, first applying to the state and then the IRS. They eventually named zone captains, too, dividing the town into four manageable areas.

But the group’s affairs aren’t dictated from the top down; rather the organization is very much a democracy.

“It’s the general membership at the meetings that dictates what we do,” Hamilton said, with anywhere from 20 to 100 members voting at a given meeting. “The members are the group. Without the group, there’s nothing.”

The Dublin Community Center is currently running with volunteers, but there are hopes of hiring a director in the near future, Cayford noted.

Pitfalls

When Crime Watch first got going, Rindge residents had come together around an issue of concern, mainly the number of home break-ins. Their education and awareness efforts paid off, and crime went down, Hamilton said, but there’s still more work to done.

“The more successful you are, the more nonchalant [residents] get to be,” he noted. “Right now, we’re having problems with shoplifting because of the drug influx.”

If you can’t make it work, what then?

Nonprofits have to have a dissolution plan that names who gets the nonprofit, Cayford explained, in case you can’t make a go of it. “It has to be a nonprofit like yours,” she said.

When a nonprofit doesn’t take in enough money to support itself, it has to dissolve. “You’ve got to pay for everything. You have to pay for the lights,” said Cayford, referring to the cost of operating a community center.

What keeps you going

Hamilton, who retired not too long ago, said that having Crime Watch is a deterrent to crime, but it’s also something that’s brought people together for mutual benefit. “It’s just a community effort looking out for your neighbors,” he said, which also means “they’re looking out for me.”

Cayford said, for her, bringing the community center to life is a joy. “I want to do it,” she said. “I think it will be good for the town. I want to build community.”

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.