Neighborhoods

City of Aiken Neighborhood Organization Toolkit

What is a Neighborhood Association?

A neighborhood association is a group of homeowners, renters, apartment dwellers, representatives from businesses, churches and schools who organize to improve conditions in the neighborhood. Through regular meetings, the group has the opportunity to participate at the “grassroots” level in activities that affect the whole neighborhood. Each member is allowed to express an opinion and is eligible to vote on all neighborhood issues.

How could my neighborhood benefit from a Neighborhood Association

The benefits to organizing as a neighborhood association vary as each neighborhood’s needs and goals vary. One primary benefit is getting to know your neighbors. This simple act will generate its own rewards. As we come to know those who live closest to us, we can build a foundation of mutual respect and greater awareness of how neighbors are bound together by many of the same concerns and needs. Yards tend to be kept neater, litter tends to decrease, and the idea that someone is looking out for a neighbor is the backbone of the community.

Establishing A Neighborhood Association

Organizing a neighborhood association is a big job, but the City of Aiken is here to help. While it may seem difficult at first, developing your association will be enormously exciting as people come together to address common problems and learn to work together as a group. Keep in mind some important guidelines as you begin to organize:

  • Building an organization is a process. It can’t be done overnight. Be patient. Identify your priorities and build step-by-step.
  • Set realistic goals. Start small and build upward. As your organizational capacity grows, start setting your goals higher.
  • How you treat people is crucial to your success. By treating people with respect and integrity, people will be more likely to get involved in the organization.

People join neighborhood groups for a variety of reasons. One of them is to get to know their neighbors and to feel a sense of community. So, as you build your organization, be sure to have FUN!

What Do Neighborhood Associations Do

Neighborhood associations get people together to establish a sense of community for residents. They plan projects and activities beneficial to the area and provide a forum for discussion of local and citywide issues. A partnership can be established with the City to help maintain neighborhood standards through code enforcement and police protection. Through neighborhood associations, residents can stay informed on city policies and procedures and can provide input on issues.

How to Form a Successful Neighborhood Association

A neighborhood association can be started by organizing a core group of three or four interested neighbors. To establish and maintain a solid foundation for your neighborhood association, consider these components. These guidelines are not all inclusive, but an outline of the basics.

Written Operating Procedures

To ensure continuity from year to year, especially when officers and leaders change, your association needs to have written operating procedures and policies. These written procedures can take many forms. The most common operating documents are bylaws. Your association does not have to be incorporated to adopt bylaws. The written procedures should address the purpose of the association, the boundaries it serves, titles and duties of your group’s leadership, when and how leaders are selected, frequency of meetings, voting procedures, definition of membership, etc. We can give you sample bylaws to assist you in developing your own.

Democratic Process of Leadership/Officer Elections

Members should have a voice in the leadership of the association. Through election of officers/leadership, members are able to participate in the development and direction of the association. Election of officers also helps to promote officer/leadership accountability to the members. Assuming a leadership position with a neighborhood association is not to be taken lightly. A leader is in the position of impacting the association and the neighborhood for years. According to Milton Doheny, 1995 President of Neighborhoods USA, “good leadership is shared leadership.” A neighborhood leader needs to have the vision and the ability to build consensus, to delegate duties and authority to others, to encourage neighbor involvement and maximize neighborhood talent. A leader needs to help the association cultivate future leaders for the association. A good leader knows how important it is for the association to experience a change in leadership committees. Shared leadership is healthy for a neighborhood association.

Committees are the basic operating tool for associations.

Committees allow the neighborhood leadership to delegate issues, identify and research problems and solutions, and meet its goals by involving a number of members. Many associations have standing committees, which operated continually, that address key issues, such as newsletter and communication, welcome, safety, social functions, etc. Special committees and/or task forces may be created to address short-term issues. Special committees and /or task forces are dissolved after the issue has been addressed to the satisfaction of the members.

Neighborhood Input and Involvement.

A neighborhood association is only as strong as its weakest member. The key to a vital and active association is members—neighbors involved in their association. A neighborhood association serves as the foundation to bring neighbors together to address neighborhood issues, promote team building, and serve as a vehicle for neighbors to pool their resources and maintain the integrity of their neighborhood. Associations help promote the self-help tradition and empower neighbors.

Clear Goals and Objectives

Goals and Objectives provide a road map for associations and give them a reason to exist. Clearly defined goals promote communication and provide members with direction and a sense of accomplishment. Goals and objectives need to be realistic and attainable for the members.

Funding

Neighborhood associations have expenses and should operate with a budget capable of supporting association goals. Membership dues are the main source of funding for neighborhood associations. The association leadership, specifically the treasurer, should provide a monthly report of the revenues, expenses, and balance on hand.

Samples of Helpful Documents
  • Survey for Organizing a neighborhood Association
  • Association Bylaws
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Essentials of Good Minutes
Survey for Organization a Neighborhood Association

Every neighborhood is different and so it makes sense that neighborhood associations are not all alike. Most of the time though, one of the first steps that a group does want to take is to determine the needs of its members. By understanding your area’s needs, your association can respond to and address immediate needs and work to formulate plans to deal with larger, long-term issues.

Tools for Neighborhood Associations:

The Neighborhood and Development Services Division works with existing and emerging neighborhood associations to formulate plans that will enhance the quality of life for all residents. We have many programs established to assist your neighborhood association. They are:

  • Neighborhood Coordinator
  • Clean-ups & Crime Watch
  • Funding

Another way to strengthen the Aiken Community Neighborhoods is through the Action Plan Implementation. The City of Aiken “Action” plan helps team leaders put their essential plans into action. Aiken Communities Taking Initiative – Now!

Block Party Information

What steps do I take to organize a Block Party for my neighborhood?

  • Contact us at 803-642-7780 for assistance.
  • Meet with your Association to pool ideas and decide on a date and activities.
  • Make assignment lists.
  • Assign Association members to tasks with deadline.
  • Don’t forget to involve the youth.
  • Be flexible and have fun!

For more information, contact your City of Aiken Neighborhood Coordinator.