Local Government & Community Resources

Government Resources

There are many rules and regulations that need to be followed when having a governmental meeting, this includes town meetings, village meetings, town board meetings and many others.  The following links can be helpful for any person that is to conduct any such meetings.

Community Resources


How to Write a Business Plan

This document will give you a general guideline on business plan writing followed by various website links that will prove useful for anyone undertaking the task of business plan writing.

The benefits to preparing a business plan:

  • Outlines your business idea
  • Assists you in obtaining financing for your business
  • Provides you with a measure for evaluating results
  • Helps you uncover potential weaknesses
  • Commits your plans to writing
  • Helps you identify overlooked opportunities
  • Helps you anticipate and adapt to change
  • Tests the commitment of you and your partners

The contents of a business plan include:

  • Cover sheet – simply list the name and address of the company, a telephone number and who wrote the business plan
  • Executive summary
  • The Business
    • Business Description – explain in general terms the following points
      • What type of business you will be involved in?
      • What form of business you will be organized under?
      • How you will operate the business?
      • Why you will be successful?
    • Product or Service Description – discuss in details your product or service area
      • What product or service are you selling?
      • What are the specific features and benefits of your product or service?
      • Is there anything unique or different about your product or service that will give you a competitive edge in the market?
      • Why will people buy your product?
    • Market Analysis
      • Industry Information – discuss the particular industry that your product or service falls in. Include information such as industry size and a brief history of the industry. Describe the specific characteristics and trends of the industry and what is expected to happen in the future. Discuss the major customer groups and how similar companies in other areas are operating their businesses.
      • Target Market(s) – D escribe what your markets are in general. Are you a wholesaler or retailer? What are the specific characteristics of your customer group(s)/ What is the market size? WShat is your anticipated share of the market? How will you determine pricing? Are there any secondary target markets?
      • Location – Describe where the business is located. What are the physical features of the building and what type of location are you in? Why was this location chosen over others as it relates to your target market and your product or service? If available, provide statistical information such as traffic patterns for the area.
      • Competition – Seek out and evaluate your major competitors and study how each operates their business. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor and how will you deal with these in your business?
      • Marketing strategies – Determine what your share of the market can be and what strategies you will use to attain that share. Develop promotional and sales strategies that will help you reach the goals you set.
    • Management and Personnal – Describe the experience and skills of the principals and key managers of the business. Discuss how these will help in the successful operation of the business. Discuss the other personnel that will be utilized in the business. Briefly include job descriptions of all employees. Explain such things as whether they will be full-time or part-time, how they will be paid and other benefits that will be offered.
    • Capital Sources and Uses – Detail the total amount needed and how it will be used. Include a description of how much of the total you as the owner will be financing and how much you are seeking from a lender or investor.
  • Financial Data
    • Project Cash Flow Statement (3 years)
    • Financial Statements
    • Tax Returns
  • Appendix – Include items that offer support to above information, such as resumes, important articles, brochures, market surveys, legal information, leases and letters of support.

The following is a business plan writing website link that may prove useful:

  • http://www.planware.org/strategy.htm This site contains information on business plans as well as strategic planning, venture strategies, business ideas, financial projections and cashflow forecasts.

Other small business sites that may be useful include:

How to Start a Community Foundation

This site will give some basic guidelines regarding community foundation and provide you with some valuable website links where you can obtain further information. A community foundation is basically a “community savings account”. It consists of a collection of permanently restricted and unrestricted funds that serve a specific geographic area.

Some of the factors to consider are:

  • Population size: As a community’s population grows, a fund will likely find it easier to grow.
  • Philanthropic tradition: Some questions to ask – Who controls the wealth currently and are these people philanthropically inclined? Does your area have any family, corporate, or school foundations? Are the corporations or small companies in your town philanthropically and socially responsible? What other major fund raising campaigns occur locally? What are the number, range and scope of nonprofits in your area? From where do they get their funding?
  • Sense of community: If people feel strong connections to their comunity they are more inclined to want to give something back to the community.
  • Staffing: Foundations that tend to grow faster have the benefit of someone who can spend the time required to develop the foundation, usually someone working full time.
  • Board leadership: Board members should represent all aspects of a community and they need to be committed to spend the time and energy necessary for a successful foundation.
  • Challenge grants and technical assistance: Private foundations, corporations, wealthy community members, and governmental units are all sources of the seed money to help a community foundation get off the ground.

Some useful websites that will help your community begin its foundation are:

  • http://www.cof.org/newsroom/factsheets/communityfacts.htm This site is provided by the Council on Foundations and includes the following topics: what is a foundation, starting a foundation, resources for foundations, legal and government affairs, links and networking, and the future of foundations.
  • http://www.cof.org  This website lists the community foundation located in various states.

Other useful sources:

  • Agard, Kathryn A., Helen Monore, and Ed SUllivan. 1992. Community Foundation Primer; An Outline for Discussion and an Initial Orgnization Start-Up Kit. Grand Haven: Council of Michigan Foundations.
  • Council of Michigan Foundation, One South Harbor Avenue, Suite Three, PO Box 599, Grand Haven, MI 49417 (616) 842-7080, Director for Community Foundations: Donnell Mersereau
  • Council of Foundations, 1828 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 (202) 466-6512
  • Mayer, E. Steven. 1994. Building Community Capacity: The Potential of Community Foundations. Minneapolis: Rainbow Research Inc.

How to Write a Grant

Every funding source has different requirements, you will need to review the guidelines of the funding agency. Some things to pay attention to are:

  • funding level allowed
  • should the grant be in the form of a letter proposal or full proposal
  • the format requested
  • the specific forms to complete
  • page limitations
  • should the grant be double-spaced or single-spaced

The typical grant proposal includes the following components:

  • Cover Letter (includes date, should be personalized, state the number of proposals enclosed, project information: title of project, need and uniqueness of project, contact person and phone number)
  • Project Summary – 2 pages or less (identify grant applicant, identify lead organization, outline general concepts or proposed project, list expected outcomes, provide budget figure)
  • Title Page – 1 page (title of project, funding agency, name and address of grantee, date of submission)
  • Table of Contents – (follow funding source guidelines for formatting, listing of appendices)
  • Problem Statement (present the problem in such a way that the funding agency will also perceive it to be an important issue that warrants their resources and attention, use a variety of data)
  • Goals and Objectives (maximum of 4-5 goals)
  • Methodology (introduction, background of participating organizations, role of participating organizations, project description)
  • Project Staffing (list each individual’s name, title, time to contribute, area of expertise, assigned responsibilities)
  • Timeline (use graph format)
  • Evaluation (what type of evaluation is required by funding agency, internal or external evaluator, cost)
  • Budget and Budget Narrative (be realistic, follow funding agency guidelines, carefully review methodology section and timeline, use tables, include a narrative along with the budget summary, know requirements for cost sharing, matching and in-kind contributions)
  • Appendices (letters of support, letters of commitment, audited financial statements, other pertinent information)

Before submission, make sure to edit, edit, edit. Then check guidelines for submission binding instructions, check each copy for completeness, include appropriate number of copies, and mail in one box/envelope.

The following are some grant-writing websites that may prove useful before tackling this project:

  • The best place to link up to Internet resources for grants and foundations can be found at http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/ppo/resources/writinggrant.cfm This site provides a detailed list of useful Internet links on topics covering Best Starting Places/Megasources, Organizations, Directories, Government Funding, Grant Writing, Electronic Journals/Magazines, and Other Interesting Sites. Definitely a great place to start!
  • The best place to find information on grant-writing may be at http://www.fundsnetservices.com/This website contains four pages of fundraising and grant-writing resources. Some of these sources charge fees; however, many of them do not and some of the better ones are listed below. Within this website is also a section on informational web sites and resources, nonprofit salary surveys, and forming nonprofit organizations.
  • A good site that includes a grant-writing tutorial is http://www.epa.gov/ogd/recipient/tips.htm This website offers an interactive software tool that walks the user through the grant-writing process and helps them learn to write more competitive grants.

How to Write a Press Release

What is it? It is an announcement of an event, a performance, or other newsworthy item that is issued to attract the attention of the press. It answers the five questions (AKA 5Ws): what, who, where, when and why? It is a method utilized by organizations to commission and release studies, announce new or unique programs, celebrate successful fundraising campaigns, introduce new staff or comment on current events. Releases should generally be sent one to two weeks prior to the publication date of the newspaper where you’d like it to appear or at least two days prior to the event it publicizes.

What are the elements of a press release?

  • Release date:
    • For Immediate Release
    • For Release (Date)
  • Contact information
  • Headline
  • Dateline
  • Lead Paragraph – grasps readers’ attention; focuses on 5 Ws
    • Lead paragraph is part of “text” part of release and should be double spaced
  • Text-main body
  • Recap-summary; organization info/history; contact summary (“For additional information contact…”)

What is the format?

  • All flushed to the left with no indentation.
  • One inch margins all the way around.
  • Double-space the actual text section of the release and only use one side of the page.
  • Use 8 1/2″ X 11″ letterhead that includes the organization’s name, log, address, and telephone number – fir the first page of the release. Use plain bond paper. If the organization doesn’t have it own letterhead, type out the name, address, telephone number, fax number, single-spaced at the top left-hand corner of the sheet.
  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – under the letterhead and always in caps or release date – FOR RELEASE MAY, 1996
  • Conctact information should come directly underneath. This includes, the name and position of the person who is most informed on the subject, the company name, the phone number (be sure to include a day and evening number), fax number, address, and URL and e-mail address.
  • The headline follows contact information.
  • Text (double-spaced from here)
    • Text Dateline
      • City and state the release is being sent from and the date it is being mailed, followed by two hyphens (–) and then text may begin, EX: MACOMB, IL, Oct. 31, 2000 —
    • Lead Paragraph should follow dateline (–lead paragraph)
    • Line space between paragraphs
    • It is important that the paragraph on the bottom of one page does not run over to the top of the next (each page should be complete unto itself)
    • At the end of a page put – more – centered on the bottom line
    • The second page (and all following pages) should have an abbreviated form of the headline (in bold) and page 2 in brackets on the top line. Ex: Write Press Releases (page 2)
    • Recap – cover all the essential information: contact (not all, just name, number, email), product, company, or other news bit with a brief summary of what the news is)
    • End with short paragraph of organization history
  • On the last page of the release you place ###, -30- (the traditional Morse Code signoff), ***, or END – on the bottom line.

What are dos and don’ts of press release writing?

  • Do make sure that your subject is newsworthy.
  • Do get and use good quotes in your press release. It gives the organization control of what they want the media to publish as well as relieving some extra work for reporters.
  • Do send photographs if available.
    • Provide information about photo using a label and stick it to the back of the photo – where it is, what it is and who it is
  • Do get your timing right – too early and it may be overlooked/too late and it will not receive publicity.
  • Do keep all the important information at the top of release (editors cut releases from the bottom)
  • Don’t repeatedly call to check if the editor received your release.
  • Don’t send off a release that is poorly written or hasn’t been proofread by more than one person.
  • Don’t write a long release including unnnecessary information.
    • Try to confine release to one page if possible

Example of press release

Type “sample press release” using any on-line search engine for additional examples (and there are a lot of them!)

Resources

  • Ashcroft, Linda. (1994). Effective press releases. Library Management, 15 (8), 24-27.
  • Dobkin, Jeffrey. (1996). Getting your press release into print. Agency Sales Magazine, 26(12), 34-38.
  • Lanning, Rick. (1993). How to write a press release that gets published! Supervision, 54(1), 9-11.
  • M. Booth & Associates, Inc. (1995). Promoting issues and ideas: A guide to public relations for nonprofit organizations. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data.
  • Marken, G.A. (1994). Press releases: When nothing else will do, do it right. Public Relations Quarterly, 39(3), 9-11.
  • Morton, Linda. (1993). Producing publishable press releases: A research perspective. Public Relations Quarterly, 37(4), 9-11.
  • Schuttrow, Chuck. (1996). Community planners, news media share common interest. Rural Research Report, 7(5).
  • Weiner, Richard. (1978). Professional’s guide to publicity. New York: Richard Weiner, Inc.

Seeking Funding Sources

There are two basic types of funding sources: Public (federal agencies, state agencies, local organizations/businesses) and private (fundation, corporation).

Advantages of Public Funding

  • Purpose set by legislation
  • Focus of functions usually impacting significant groups in society
  • Have the most money
  • More likely to make big grants
  • More likely to cover indirect costs
  • Easier to identify and to keep current
  • Have known application processes and firm deadlines
  • Use prescribed formats for proposals
  • Lots of staff with resources for technical assistance
  • Funds available to wider array of organizations

Advantages of Private Funding

  • More likely to focus on emerging issues, new needs
  • Will often allow their funds to be pooled with other sources
  • Some can make very large grants
  • Better source of start-up or experimental funds
  • Proposals need not be complex or lengthy
  • Can be much more flexible in responding to unique needs and circumstances
  • Seldom have bureaucratic requirements to follow in administering grants
  • Carry more stature and prestige
  • Can often provide forms of help other than just cash
  • Usually have fewer applicants
  • Can generally be much more informal
  • Often better source for more local needs and smaller agencies

There are so many funding sources available. Here are a few of the many sources including libraries, the Internet and publications.

Libraries

  • State Library – many state librariers provide on-line searching (e.g. Dialog Searches) for funding sources for a fee-for-service basis.
  • James J. Hill Reference Library – a professional business and commerce library located in St. Paul, MN. The library provides an on-line research service based on a fee schedule. Services are available to the public. 1-877-700-4455 or 612-265-5500.

Internet

  • The Foundation Center’s web site is at http://fdncenter.org/  The Foundation Center operates a mailing list of current information of interest to grant writers. Locate the following site http://fdncenter.org/pnd/current/index.html for free information such as the Philanthrophy News Digest which highlights grants made to various organizations.
  • The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance is one resource listing federal government grant programs. It may be found at https://www.cfda.gov It is searchable but effective searching requires some familiarity with the terminology used in the document. Most of the documents found by searching the databases are available in full text.
  • The Government Printing Office (GPO) maintains a site which contains over 40 databases which index government offices and/or documents. This site is found at http://www.gpo.gov
  • TGCI – The Grantsmanship Center website maintains a site that links you to federal government sources, state government sources (you choose the state), community foundations (by state and county), and international funding. The site is http://www.tgci.com

Publications

  • Annual Register of Grant Support. Chicago: Marquis Who’s Who. Published Annually.
  • Corporate Giving Directory. Provides detailed descriptive profiles of nearly 1,000 of the largest and most important corporate charitable giving programs in the United States.
  • Directory of Grants in the Humanities. Phoenix: Oryx Press. Focus on humanties.
  • Foundation Directory. New York: Columbia University Press. Published annually. Arranged geographically with a subject index. Focus on largest foundations.
  • Funding Sources for K-12 Schools and Adult Basic Education. Phoenix: Oryx Press. Details grant funding for K-12 schools and other educational organizations, including libraries and museums, and for adult basic education programs, including job skills training.

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