The Art of Building Community

“The Art of Building Community” is a series of posts exploring the process of rebuilding a neighborhood association known as Redwood Heights Neighborhood Association.

Well, now I have gone and done it, they made me a Co-President! It’s that take-charge, figure-it-out, get-it-done character flaw trait of mine. Okay, I say that, but honestly, I love volunteering, especially for school or community organizations. It gives me a sense of belonging. I started volunteering at a young age. Back then, the Red Cross was my volunteer organization of choice, where I met some wonderful people that I am blessed to still be friends with today.

Recently, I came across an article on the Psychology Today website, titled 5 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer that made me happy about my decision to join the Association board. If you are hesitating about volunteering for something, think about this:

  1. Volunteers live longer and are healthier.
  2. Volunteering establishes strong relationships.
  3. Volunteering is good for your career.
  4. Volunteering is good for society.
  5. Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose.

All very good reasons! With that said, I am ready, and now the challenge in front of me is…what to do first?

Similar to what I do in my work life, the first thing I like to do is understand the big picture…an inventory of sorts – the who, what, when, where, why, and how list. In this case, from the 10,000 feet view, I wanted to know the following:

  • Who are the people? Answer: We need many more!
  • Do we have an online presence? Answer: Yes, a website and Facebook, but they haven’t been updated in a while.
  • Do we have a physical presence? Answer: No, unless you count the P.O. Box.
  • What is the mission? Answer: Redwood Heights Neighborhood Association, supported and guided by its membership, works to advance and protect the social, environmental, and civic welfare of our neighborhood by promoting sociability, safety, and inclusivity.
  • Who has all the stuff? Remember, it’s not like a company with systems in place. Answer: Board members have boxes and folders of information in their homes.

Even though this is a volunteer organization, it’s important to remember the components to success are the same as for a business, thus it is important to develop a strategy. I like to think of it in terms of pulling together the components of the executive summary of a business plan. SCORE provides a plethora of resources for small businesses, which can easily be adapted for associations. I am using its executive summary outline shown below to get me started.

The Company/Business

  • When was the company formed?
  • Describe the venture’s purpose
  • Choose whether to develop a new product, or service, or combination

The Product(s)/Service(s)

  • What are you selling?
  • What makes it unique?
  • Is it proprietary?/ Are there other entry barriers?
  • At what stage is its development?
  • What are the distinguishing features from the competition: pricing, quality, variety, service

The Market

  • Current size – what market share can the company establish?
  • Breakdown of domestic and international sales or other measures
  • Recent growth (cite sources)
  • Projected growth (cite sources)


  • How complete is the team?
  • Give brief past relevant experience, highlighting strengths


  • Financing sought: how much and for what purpose?
  • This will carry the company how far?
  • Projections of when profits will begin
  • Breakeven point
  • Payback plan
  • Three to five-year revenue and net income projections

In the next several posts, I will address each of these areas as they relate to the Association. For now, I’m feeling great about the value of volunteering; I have a few answers; I have a general plan to move forward; and there are several enthusiastic people on the board. This will be fun!

To learn more about the Redwood Heights Neighborhood Association, please visit

The Art of Building Community

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