Community centers are typically non-profit organizations that provide communities with a safe place to assemble and address their needs. Starting a community center can be a long process that involves years of planning, fundraising, and advertising. With a little determination, however, you can create a safe space where your community can gather for years to come.
It is helpful to create a list of concrete and realistic goals. You may even want to draft a mission statement for your organization. Make a list of ten goals for your community center. If your community center is targeting a certain population (such as the local LGBT community or single mothers), you should include that information in your goals. Some examples of goals include:
A community center should help fulfill certain needs and and demands of the community. To do this, you will first need to identify what those needs are. Create a list of areas that need improvement in your local area.Some common problems that communities face include:
Even if your community suffers from certain prevalent problems, it undoubtedly has certain strengths as well. For your community center to be successful, you should try to determine what those strengths are so that you can build upon them. You might consider:
You will need to decide what specific services you want to offer your community. These services should appeal to both the goals you have set for your center as well as the needs and strengths of the community. Some types of services you might consider include:
While you do not need to decide on a specific location yet, you should begin brainstorming sites where you might potentially operate your community center. You will also want to think about what kind of facilities or positions you will need. Some questions you should consider:
You will need to have a rough estimate of how much the community center will cost. This includes start-up costs, building costs, the cost of services (such as classes), and running costs. To form your budget, contact other non-profits in your area to ask about how much their services cost per month. Compare that with what you want to offer to the community. Consider:
You may be eligible for funding from the government. Typically, you will have to prove that you are providing an essential service to the community. You can search for funding opportunities on your government's website. You may also contact your local government to ask them about what kinds of resources might be available to you.
You can get donations from the public by sending out mass solicitations that ask for small amounts from each donor. This will help you rally public support while building a strong financial base. There are many ways that you can do this. They include:
A good way to get larger donations is to host an event where people pay to enter. The profit would go towards your community center. Fundraisers should be budgeted very carefully to make sure that you are earning money from the venture. Form a committee for this event. You might even want to find a corporate sponsor to help defray the costs. Some ideas for events include:
You should have your supporters sign a petition supporting your community center. On this petition, they should include their names and email addresses. You can present this petition to potential donors and politicians to demonstrate the interest in your project. You can also use it to form a mailing list to inform members about your progress.
You should try to gather some support from your local government. Contact local city councilors, managers, and the mayor. Let them know about your plans to start a new community center, and ask them if they could provide any support. They might be able to designate some funding to help with your center, or they might be able to help you advertise the center to the community at large.
Once you have found a few supporters, you can bring your idea to the town. Host a public meeting in a central space where community members can come and listen to your pitch. You may invite donors, policymakers, and the local media to attend. During this meeting, you should present your mission. At the end, allow members of the audience to provide their own ideas and suggestions.
Your community center needs a set of bylaws that will list the rules and procedures of your organization. These bylaws must follow state and federal laws regarding nonprofit organizations. The bylaws should clarify how your organization’s internal structure will operate. Your charter of bylaws should be broken up into different articles that include:
You will need a physical location to house your community center. This should be in a place that is easily accessible to the community members that you want to reach. While you can buy your own building, it may be cheaper to rent a place while you get off the ground.