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.

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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Can-Do Spirit Equals Success

Small rural communities often get discouraged either because they feel they are “too small” to make effectual changes in a slow economy or the revitalization needs of the community just seem too overwhelming. Not so for the inspirational town of Water Valley, Mississippi. According to this article, a couple who fell in love with the people in this small town decided to invest in the community and its businesses. Through a cooperative effort from other local investors, they now have a brewery, art gallery and a coding school for students.

“I think the biggest thing that has changed here is the attitude about what’s possible,” says Howley. “I think there’s really a can-do spirit and we’re going to do it ourselves. If you wait for someone to help you, it will never happen.”

Town Square Center for the Arts, Glade Spring, VA

Town Square Center for the Arts, Glade Spring, VA

Glade Spring, Virginia has a population of about 1,500. A few years ago, a small community of volunteers came together to form a non-profit named Project Glade. With only a $1,000 allocation from Town Council each year and a strong volunteer ethic, Project Glade is able to paint buildings, replace landscaping and vegetation, and complete other small improvement projects. The group also applied for Virginia Tobacco Commission and Appalachian Regional Commission funding in 2012 to rehabilitate an old bank building in the middle of their downtown. It now serves as the Town Square Center for the Arts and houses six artist in residence.

“Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.” –Marva Collins

Main Street Insurance Program Announced

program-by-the-numbersRecently, Main Street managers have been asking about options for the insurance required for their organizations. Although we don’t endorse any program, we wanted to make you aware that the National Main Street Center, together with National Trust Insurance Services (NTIS), has announced the Main Street Insurance Program. For every insurance package a Main Street program secures through NTIS, NTIS will in turn provide financial support to the Main Street America movement nationally.

National Trust Insurance Services is the for-profit subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and, thus, the “sister” organization to the National Main Street Center. NTIS was created in 2003 to address the growing issues and concerns regarding proper insurance coverage for historic properties as well as the organizations that work to maintain them. They have extensive experience insuring individual historic properties, small businesses, and preservation organizations.

NTIS currently works with 300+ Main Streets, offering comprehensive insurance products, including General Liability, Blanket Event Liability, Directors & Officers Liability, and Volunteer Liability, just to name a few. In addition, NTIS offers  General Risk Management and Contractual Risk Transfer guidance to their clients.

NTIS will be hosting a webinar through the National Main Street Center on Risk Management & Main Street on Wednesday, February 15. They will be able to answer any questions about the program, quote process, and how to protect yourself and your organization from the common risks that threaten Main Street organizations.

If you are interested in learning more about the packages NTIS offers and the process to obtain a quote, please visit the NTIS website, or contact their Main Street representative, Shannon O’Hare, at 443-529-0396 or sohare@mdpins.com.

My 2017 Virginia Main Street Resolutions

Happy New Year, one and all! After the hustle and bustle (and bronchitis) of the holidays I, for one, am happy to be back at my desk. The Virginia Main Street staff is in full-on planning mode for 2017. We are finalizing arrangements for the Directors’ Retreat in Lexington later this month, setting a date for a design oriented webinar with Frazier Associates for this spring, and working with potential key note speakers for Downtown Intersections this July in Winchester – just to name a few!

But before I was even back at my desk; before I was knee deep in calendars and travel plans and National Main Street services, I was thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and Virginia Main Street. As a planner and as someone who loves making to-do lists I get excited for resolutions every year. I can’t say that I’m always successful, but it is said that making your resolutions public is one way of ensuring accountability. So, here we go.farmville-love

 

I, Rebecca Rowe, Virginia Main Street state coordinator, resolve to

  1. Visit each and every designated VMS community this calendar year, meeting with the directors, board members and local partners.
  2. Provide training and assistance on fundraising, leadership, work planning for outcomes, and working with developers for our communities and partners.
  3. Take at least two (2) mini vacations incorporating at least four (4) VMS communities.

When I put the question of resolutions to the rest of the VMS super-staff, these were their responses.


Joy Rumley resolves tocar-show-photo-credit-sunny-reynolds

  1. Attend/participate in an event in each of her designated communities, supporting them with her time and money.
  2. Assist VMS communities in developing and implementing their Transformation Strategies, with a focus on qualitative and quantitative impacts.
  3. Introduce Transformation Strategies to Affiliate communities who are ready to pursue more focused, strategic work.

 

Kyle Meyer will

  1. Help the programs build strong, ongoing community relationships for inclusiveness and applying a collective vision for the benefit of the community.
  2. Make the Main Street methodology a widespread, “go-to” strategy for downtown revitalization.
  3. Make doing Main Street fun!

 

And Tory McGowan

  1. Seconds Joy’s resolutions on  Transformation Strategies creation and implementation as well as event attendance.
  2. Will increase his annual gift purchase from VMS communities, shopping “local.”
  3. Will work with communities on diversifying their funding streams to create more sustainable organizations and operations.

What are your 2017 Virginia Main Street resolutions?

 

streetscape at RIE

Congratulations to Virginia’s 2016 National Main Street Accredited Communities

VMS-logo-colorEach year, the National Main Street Center and its coordinating program partners announce the list of accredited Main Street America programs in recognition of their exemplary commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach®. This year twenty-one Virginia Main Street Communities met the rigorous performance standards set by the National Main Street Center to be accredited Main Street America™! Congratulations to:

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

Each local organization’s performance is evaluated annually by Virginia Main Street, which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet ten performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings.

In 2015, Virginia’s designated Main Street communities sparked more than $43 million in private investment in their districts.  In that time, more than 325 businesses and 850 jobs were created, many of them on the entrepreneurial scale that our downtowns were founded.

Main Street America has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 35 years. Today, it is a network of more than 1,000 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, who share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development.

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Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Grants Awarded

entrepreneur-ecosystemGovernor McAuliffe recently announced over $200,000 in Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grant awards for eight projects in the Commonwealth. The BEE grant program provides funding to local governments and nonprofit organizations for entrepreneurship programs aligned with local and regional economic development strategies, primarily in distressed communities and populations.

“Small business development is a vital component of the new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The Building Entrepreneurial Economies grant awards will support our homegrown assets and create new opportunities for economic diversification. By supporting small business programs in communities across the Commonwealth, we are building a strong entrepreneurial environment that will ensure that Virginia continues to be the best place for individuals to start and grow their companies.”

BEE offers two types of grants: implementation and planning. The implementation grants are awards up to $40,000 for projects that expand coverage for small business support services or implement innovative ideas that have already been funded and field tested through the BEE planning grant program. Planning grants are awards of up to $15,000 to research, develop and plan for a potential project.

The projects that were awarded funding include the development of a one-stop information, training and work space for entrepreneurs, an accelerator program and youth entrepreneurship programs. Planning grants were awarded for regional market analysis, the creation of an infrastructure network for entrepreneurs, and the development of a co-working space.

View the governor’s press release: http://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18332

Funding for FY 2018 Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grants will open on January 1, 2017, and applications will be due on March 1, 2017. Click here for more information on the BEE program.