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.”

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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 >>

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Local Incentives Drive Community Development

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Manassas Ribbon Cutting

One of the most important ways that a municipality can support it’s small business community is through targeted financial incentives. A recent Potomac Local article touted the expansion of the city of Manassas’ business incentive programs, including Façade Improvement Grants and Landscape Improvement Grants. These incentives will assist with the exterior renovations and landscaping of existing commercial or industrial properties.  The new initiatives are designed to encourage business owners to reinvest in properties throughout the City and serve as a redevelopment tool intended to bring new life to older structures.  Each pilot program has been allocated $50,000 and property owners must agree to invest $2 for every $1 the City invests.

Incentives like these are used alone or as part of a package to retain and attract business to a Main Street district or generally catalyze projects.  They are often in the form of a grant or a zero- to low-interest loan to promote improvements and appropriate design.  Seed funding sources can come from Tax Increment Financing (TIF), bank partnerships, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), municipal/county targeted funds, or private loans and grants.  Incentives can mean the difference between vacant storefronts and a vibrant downtown neighborhood.

Congratulations to Manassas!

Learn more >>

 

The Bright Buzz: Kindling entrepreneur-focused transformation in Winchester

Many communities have decided that supporting local entrepreneurs is key to a thriving Main Street and one Virginia initiative is receiving national attention!

The National Main Street Center’s Main Street Story of the Week takes a look at how a local property owner created an innovative community space for entrepreneurs and entertainment to thrive.  Jennifer Bell, Winchester’s Downtown Manager, highlights the Bright Center, a 38,000 square-foot mixed-use development housing offices for 20 businesses and organizations, the Bright Buzz for entrepreneurs, and the Bright Box for entertainment.  This entrepreneur-focused downtown project kindles a movement of dramatic transformation within Old Town Winchester.

Read more >>

 

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The Bright Center, Winchester, Virginia

Check the local news stands: Virginia Main Street in Southern Living

In the September 2015 issue of Southern Living, you will find a spread highlighting travel destinations across the commonwealth, including a special nod to our beloved Virginia Main Street communities.  Thank you to our partners at Virginia Tourism Corporation.  Web links direct readers to a list of the designated communities and points travelers to the heart of each community, its downtown district.  Turn up that smile and cool down the taps, the neighbors are coming!

Virginia is for Main Street Lovers!

Celebrate Downtown with Virginia Main Streets - September 2015 Issue of Southern Living

September 2015 Issue of Southern Living

 

 

Launch Gloucester announces winner of first Community Business Launch

A bakery and cafe, a business catering to pets and pet owners and a massage and wellness clinic will be the newest businesses to open or expand on Main Street following the Launch Gloucester awards ceremony on Tuesday, May 19.  Participants in the entrepreneur contest that launched earlier this year also got a surprise element when the Cook Foundation granted a $5,00 award to the sole business in the competition with an arts  component.  Three winners, and the fourth that won the Cook Foundation prize, were among 10 businesses whittled down from an original field that exceeded 40 when Launch Gloucester got under way last year.  The entrepreneurs vied for a combined value of $95,000 in good, services and start-up capital to launch a business on Main Street.

The Launch Gloucester program was one of three in the state that are part of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Virginia Community Business Launch initiative, managed by DHCD.

Hopewell and Staunton will be announcing their winners in the next few weeks, so be on the lookout.

How-to-apply workshops are being conducted in the next two weeks for the 2016 Community Business Launch application.

CBL Gloucester

Winner Launch Gloucester – Sweet Tooth Parlor & Cafe

Winchester’s Main Street agriculture event was a success, as expected!

On Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, Winchester’s downtown walking mall was filled with excitement for local farms. Farm Bureau, in partnership with the Winchester Old Town Development Board, Winchester Main Street Foundation and Virginia Main Street program, produced an extraordinary community event, Winchester’s Main Street Agriculture, held on the historic Loudon Street Pedestrian Mall.

The partnership was a natural fit. “There is a Farm Bureau and a Main Street in every state,” said Dee Cook, membership development specialist with Virginia Farm Bureau. Winchester is one of 25 Virginia communities designated as Virginia Main Street communities. Cook said that she hopes Frederick County’s successful Main Street Agriculture event will lead to similar events all over Virginia in the near future. “This has been the pilot,” she said. “We hope to roll it out statewide next year,” Cook added.

More than 20 vendors set up booths to sell their farm products and provide interactive, educational activities for the public. There were also many educational demonstrations including a hydroponics display, grape crushing, a live beehive and farm-to-table cooking demonstrations, along with others.

photo credit: lancasterfarming.com 2012

Here is a nice article from LancasterFarming.com about the event, Taking the Farm to the City.

Gentlemen of the Road stopover in Bristol

Bristol, TN/VA is a unique place.  “Two States; One State of Mind” is their motto, but navigating two sets of  building regulations, garbage pickups, tax codes and general government type operations can get a bit confusing.

Famous Bristol Sign Across State Street

However, Christina Blevins, executive director of Believe in Bristol, Bristol’s Main Street organization, bridges the gaps everyday in a positive, energetic and infectious manner.

Her coalition’s building skills recently paid off when Mumford & Sons were looking at communities  in which to hold their traveling Gentlemen of the Road music festival.

Already known worldwide for the Rhythm & Roots Reunion and as the Birthplace of Country Music, Bristol had an inate attraction for the band.  However, the ability to coordinate the many moving parts that an all day outdoor festival requires, in addition to the evenings music selections across the street (and consequently across the state line), Bristol cinched the deal.

Already, Bristol is getting tons of press about this event, but the real lesson is to be prepared when opportunity knocks.  Keep building relationships, offer value to all of your partners, understand the needs of your stakeholders, offer assistance without reservation and become indespensible.

Read more about the festival here, here, here, here and hereDiscounted tickets are on sale June 1.