Formal Neighborhood Watch groups often find the need to raise money in order to fund activities and projects in the community. While fundraising can be challenging, it can also be fun for the watch group when well-organized. If your group is ready to take neighborhood watch to the next level here are some creative ideas to explore, but some caution must be taken when beginning any fundraising activities.
Neighborhood Watch is a community-based group. While law enforcement often support a group's efforts, usually the local sheriff's office or police department does not have the funding to support anything beyond the salary of the NW officer and perhaps a few signs. It is not necessary to have enormous funds to operate a strong NW program; the most important asset of neighborhood watch is a strong community. However signs, brochures and meeting supplies invoke cost. If the local law enforcement agency doesn't provide much funding, the watch group can explore alternative methods. Some neighborhood watch groups have explored seeking grants from city and private groups. But fundraising by watch members can be an excellent way to increase operating funds and increase involvement. Fundraising opens doors for activities. As a vision for the community is created the group becomes stronger through action and achieving goals.
Benefits of Fundraising
Raising Money : It is not necessary to have money to run a Neighborhood Watch group. The basics of NW are being aware of the neighborhood and building relations with law enforcement. Holding meetings shouldn't cost a group anything and many groups choose to keep neighborhood watch minimal. It doesn't cost anything to hold meetings in someone's living room and each neighbor can take turns bringing snacks to a meeting. However, many neighborhood watch groups want to become more active and need a source of funding to carry out projects. Raising money outside traditional funding methods allows the group to explore additional opportunities for the community.
Increasing Awareness : Community members may not be aware there is a NW in the neighborhood. One way to increase awareness (and more importantly interest) is to make NW sound as appealing as possible. Instead of sending out a flying for a NW meeting, send out a meeting flyer including a description of the upcoming neighborhood carwash or community clean-up. The average American is very busy and doesn't want to waste his or her time at a meeting with no purpose. Community members may be willing to donate their time to efforts they believe there is a focus and it will not be another fruitless meeting.
Getting People Involved : Other than preventing crime in neighborhoods, a great benefit to Neighborhood Watch in general is building relations among community members. Knowing your neighbors is essential to understanding when something is out of order in the neighborhood. Besides holding meetings, organized events will bring people out of their homes to participate. A community clean-up may introduce new neighbors to the rest of the street. Spending time working together on an auction will allow neighbors to connect and recognize what they have in common. Fundraising is also a great way to involve youth in Neighborhood Watch. Participating in community activities gives children and teens a sense of belonging and connection. While attending monthly meetings to discuss stop signs might seem tedious to a 13 year old, he or she might be excited to plan a car wash for a Saturday afternoon.
Fundraising does more than raise money. It builds partnerships between community organizations and Neighborhood Watch groups. Businesses in the community should be included in crime prevention projects. Take a trip to the local hardware store and ask the manager if the store would be willing to donate rakes for a neighborhood clean-up. Once this partnership is formed, community members will support the business and in turn the business will continue to support neighborhood watch.
Take Caution with Fundraising
- While there are many benefits to fundraising, Neighborhood Watch groups must also be careful to obey the law and be wary of dangers which may be in the community.
- When making phone calls remember to respect the privacy of the potential donor. Politely explain the purpose of your call, but if the person is not interested do not push. A phone solicitation gone wrong may turn a community off from NW forever!
- Going door to door creates a physical danger. A personal appearance is optimal when asking for support or donations, but be sure several members are working together. If children are involved in door to door fundraising make sure there are a sufficient number of adults to supervise.
- Tax consequences. If your watch group is not a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization make sure the donor is aware their donations cannot be taken off on their taxes. Some people may be turned off from donating if there is no tax benefit, but it is better to be honest than cause tax problems down the road.
- Ideas for Fundraisers in Neighborhoods
In Pine Bluff , Arkansas , the city's Neighborhood Watch program sponsored a rummage sale to raise funds for the program. The Pine Bluff Convention Center donated the hall to the Neighborhood Watch program. Funds were raised by renting out spaces to individuals or nonprofits. Then each participant sold items. All contributors were pleased with the results. The city raised funds for neighborhood watch and those renting spaces made some money for themselves. More importantly Neighborhood Watch in Pine Bluff received good press and attention from the community.
San Francisco SAFE, Inc. is having fun with fundraising. The city-wide nonprofit organization works in association with the police department, mayor's office and other city groups. Although San Francisco SAFE receives substantial grants from the city, they also rely on private donations. Recently they held an auction to raise money. The most sought after prize- auctioning off 10 police captains who serve the various districts in the city. It was a fun social event which served the fundraising purposes of bringing in money, increasing awareness for neighborhood watch, and bringing the community together.
Showcasing classic cars brought money to a local neighborhood watch in East Knoxville , TN . The watch group has worked tirelessly over many years to remove illegal activity from their economically challenged neighborhood. Each year the group holds a fundraiser and last summer they brought in classic cars for a show. Using the ticket proceeds from the event the group buys signs and supplies for the watch group. Plus the watch group has taken neighborhood watch to the next level by helping to repair homes of elderly neighbors and offering renovation financing with money raised from fundraisers.
- Don't be afraid to ask: If you are turned down you are no worse position but people won't donate if they are not asked.
- Be creative in what you are asking for from individuals and businesses. Instead of just asking for monetary donations, ask for supplies you may need.
- Have a plan to show potential donors. Be prepared to account for what you are asking others to give accompanied by an explanation of the group's fundraising purpose.
- Reach out to the rest of the community with fundraising efforts. Individual businesses will be more inclined to contribute if they realize the whole community will benefit.
- Personality goes a long way. Individuals and businesses are more likely to donate if there has been a personal connection.
A website sponsored by the US government which gives tax advice and links to grant opportunities. If your watch group plans on conducting substantial fundraising activities, you might want to consider applying for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. A link to information from the IRS is on this website.
Always remember to be careful when searching the internet for ideas or when exploring any kind of fundraising activities. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Consult the advice of an attorney in your jurisdiction regarding laws affecting your community.