VMS Commercial District Affiliate Grants Now Available!

Virginia Main Street has opened the application process for our first ever Commercial District Affiliate Grants! Affiliate Grants are designed to assist organizations and communities in achieving their downtown revitalization goals and be used for projects or planning purposes.

The maximum grant amount is $7,000 and can be used for…

  • non-profit organizational development;
  • vision/mission development;
  • work plan and budget development;
  • market studies;
  • downtown organization website development;
  • design projects;
  • entrepreneur support projects;
  • wayfinding system development;
  • economic vitality projects; or
  • other consultant services that will contribute to the historic downtown and for which other funds are not available.

Affiliate grants are available to registered DHCD Commercial District Affiliates and Virginia Downtowns. DHCD invites projects that hold the potential for positive impact on the downtown neighborhood’s long-term goals.

Applications for Affiliate Grants will be due on December 1, 2017, and the projects associated with the applications should be completed in our CAMS system by June 1, 2018. Our grant manual is available here!

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Explore the Value of Partnerships at the 2017 Virginia Preservation Conference

Preservation Virginia is excited to co-host the Virginia Preservation Conference alongside the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in Petersburg, Virginia on Friday, October 6 at Union Train Station!

This year, they invite you to “Explore the Value of Partnerships” happening between organizations in the private and public sector that strengthen Virginia’s communities. You’ll get to hear from incredible guest speakers about the collaborations and preservation programs that help revitalize and sustain historic places, including Virginia’s downtowns.

Sessions will cover:

  • Leveraging Historic Tax Credits as Tools for Community Revitalization
  • Promoting Heritage and Recreational Tourism via Historical Interpretation
  • Establishing Public and Private Partnerships in Historic Preservation

As a conference sponsor, Virginia Main Street cheers our preservation partners focusing on a key topic.  Public-private partnerships are vital for a vibrant downtown, allowing your program to extend its reach and achieve better results.

Register today! >>

 

Remaking Petersburg – Style Weekly, September, 2014

Five Things your Economic Vitality Committee can do Today to Support Downtown

In my Virginia Main Street wanderings and conversations with directors I’ve been hearing a common refrain – “What should our Economic Vitality committee be doing?” A thought provoking question that I am sure goes unasked more often than asked. As fate would have it I recently participated in a Hillary Greenberg webinar on supporting small businesses that provided me with a “lightbulb” moment. Sometimes our boards and committees get caught up in thinking big and miss some of the small, every day, right-in-front-of-your-nose kinds of things that could yield big results for the district.

    1. Is your downtown business friendly? The EV committee can review municipal codes, fees, permit processes and timelines – anything that pertains to establishing or growing a business in the Main Street district. Identify anything that would be a detriment to starting a business or fixing a building then work with the municipality on a making the code friendlier to small business.
    2. Help new businesses navigate the permit process. Now that the EV committee has a thorough understanding of all of the local hoops to jump through to open a business downtown, turn that information into a step-by-step guide for new business owners.
    3. Survey retailers and business owners. In person, with a flyer, online – ask the questions. What would help you to improve your business? Have some check boxes –
      • website development?
      • access to capital?
      • cooperative advertising?
      • loan pool?
      • new signage?
    4. Hold Retailer Round Tables. Use those survey responses to generate topics! One month bring in a marketing guru to discuss website content. The next month (or quarter) have the Promotions committee members come to talk about, and get feedback on, upcoming retailing events. Bring in an accountant to give a Quickbooks lesson. Respond to the retailer’s needs to help them grow their businesses.
    5. Create a Mentorship Network. Every district has those retailers and restaurateurs who are knocking it out of the park. Set up a network of successful business owners to work one-on-one with those that are struggling.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are ideas that can be quickly assigned and implemented by a motivated EV committee that can make a real difference on the ground.

Does your EV committee do something innovative to improve downtown? We want to hear about it!

Main Street America Accredits 24 Virginia Communities

The National Main Street Center recently announced that 24 Virginia Main Street communities have been accredited for their performance in 2016 – congratulations to –

Abingdon, Altavista, Ashland, Bedford, Berryville, Blackstone, Bristol, Culpeper, Danville, Farmville, Franklin, Fredericksburg, Gloucester, Harrisonburg, Hopewell, Luray, Lynchburg, Manassas, Marion, St. Paul, South Boston, Staunton, Winchester, and Wytheville

The Main Street America™ accreditation process evaluates local Main Street programs according to 10 Standards of Performance and provides national recognition to those that meet these standards. The national accreditation program strives to:

  • Provide local and national visibility to local Main Street programs that understand and fully utilize the Main Street Four-Point Approach® and eight Main Street principles and that continue to evolve organizationally to meet new challenges;
  • Provide national standards for performance for local Main Street programs; and
  • Provide realistic goals and a tangible incentive for local Main Street programs that do not yet meet the criteria for national recognition.

Congratulations to our recognized Virginia communities!

A Tale of Two Community Engagement Events

As an inherently grassroots movement, effective community engagement is an essential component of any successful Main Street program. Without it, organization’s cannot effectively plan their work, recruit volunteers and board members, promote the district, or communicate impact. Main Street must be community driven.

This week I had the opportunity to participate in two very different community engagement events organized by Main Street organizations. One was an informal and ongoing, with a minimal agenda but strong interaction and conversation. The other was a highly planned, one-time “idea pop-up” that was focused on activity, imagination, and a critical mass of feedback from the community at large.

SDDA Monthly Round Table at Farmhouse Kitchen and Wares

Staunton Downtown Development Association has instituted monthly round-table discussions that draw about 25 stakeholders. Held in the evening at local restaurants, it is an opportunity for the board and staff to introduce specific topics to the public, get feedback, generate ideas, and impart information. The format and feel are informal and conversational, with new topics every month.

A small piece of HDR’s Idea Incubator

By contrast, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance held an interactive idea pop-up event that drew hundreds of enthusiastic participants over a three hour period. There were multiple stations for idea generation, sharing, comment, and creativity. This included an idea incubator, a pin board of urban design, mad-libs for visioning, and a physical chat room where the public could visit with board members to brainstorm together in real time.

I was blown away by both events – the energy, the participants, the enthusiasm, the snacks! Look for both Julie (Staunton) and Andrea (Harrisonburg) to walk us through their planning, their events, the impacts, and the outcomes in future blogs.

If your community wants to up its engagement game contact Virginia Main Street.

Tell a Compelling Story to Raise Awareness and Revenue

Is your nonprofit telling a compelling story?

The mission of Main Street is to enhance the economic prosperity and cultural vitality of historic downtown districts. To succeed, organization’s must be able to demonstrate real change on the ground with visible improvements AND specific metrics of success. To do this, use positive statistics such as jobs added, new businesses open, reduced storefront vacancies, and, an important one for local revenues, increase in property values.

Main Street Lexington has a great story to tell and the media is taking notice, spreading the word that downtown is “alive and thriving”.

“About 18 months ago, we had 14 or 15 [vacancies],” says Stephanie Wilkinson, Executive Director of Main Street Lexington. “Right now, we have about 2 or 4, depending on how you count.”

170106-lexington-get-downtown-2016

Lexington “Get Downtown” 2016 Event

At a recent training in Lexington, the Virginia Main Street program managers discussed The Storytelling Nonprofit: A Practical Guide to Telling Stories That Raise Money and Awareness by Vanessa Chase Lockshin. Telling a story that can point to specifics will raise awareness, boost program credibility, and inspire advocates and funders to take on the role of hero.  However, finding the balance between reporting quantitative statistics and the qualitative community experience can be a challenge.

Lockshin says, “By telling stories, we can connect donors to the emotional experiences associated with the issues our organizations are trying to solve, and emotions are the gateway to deep, meaningful relationships with donors.”

The book is chock full of practical tips for identifying and inspiring your target audience. “Know your audience” is one of the leading tips for a compelling story.

Lockshin helped write a brief storytelling guide for Network for Good.  Check out this resource to get started >>

Rev Up Fund Development: Strategic. Sustainable. Successful.

Are your revenue strategies working for your Main Street nonprofit?  How do you enhance those strategies for a prosperous (and profitable) future?

On March  20, 22, and 28 in Berryville, Danville, and Abingdon, the spring edition of the Regional Rev Up promises to load your Main Street program with the tools you need to create sustainable and successful fund development strategies.


Whether you are focusing on facade improvements, training your retailers, or developing a new website, running a successful Main Street program means raising money. But more than just fundraising, organizations need to build and cultivate relationships, show value to current and potential donors, understand their organizational strengths and weaknesses, and properly evaluate their events and activities.

Fund Development is more than raising money; it is the strategic positioning of an organization to sustain and grow its resources through relationship building.  Creating a shared vision, clear mission, creative strategies and effective communications help sustain and ensure the success of the organization.

Join the Virginia Main Street staff to learn components of a Fund Development Plan emphasizing partnership, ownership and results, including:

  • The difference between fund development and fundraising;
  • Board roles and responsibilities in fundraising;
  • How to assess and build your organization’s readiness for fund development; and
  • The importance of diversifying income to withstand losing an event or major donor.

Registration is free. Lunch will cost $15 and is only payable by cash on site at the event.  Registration for each Rev Up session closes one week prior to the event, so register now to reserve your spot!

Register now >>

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