In July of 2016, the Carroll County Veterans Independence Profject (CCVIP) was just an idea for establishing a Veterans Services Center in Carroll County. The hunt began for a location, one with free parking and office space for our operations with space for community partners as necessary. CCVIP believes in community partnerships, one that minimizes duplication of efforts and resources. Our vision was made a reality with the assistance of local business owner, Glenn Bair.
A good landlord is an essential requirement, one that understands your vision and mission and how to assist you in bringing it to realization. CCVIP board members have mostly spent their entire careers moving from job to job, location to location without having to setup operations from scratch.
Our board started with several in-depth planning sessions, followed up with individual breakout groups examining different needs for the physical plant, infrastructure, logistics, financing, IT, etc. What we learned is way too much to go into here but below are just a few of our lessons learned.
So, if you find yourself starting up an operation or some other endeavor the following are musings on how to go about it, I am not setting myself as any kind of expert, just a lessons learned list from the past four plus years.
1. Don’t give up, no matter how challenging, frustrating and on occasion mind-numbing, keep moving forward and stay true to you vision.
2. Become a corporation, one that is a 501c3 non-profit early, this will protect you and facilitate your ability to insure that your donors have a tax deduction option.
3. Get on Facebook and have a ‘web page presence’; this has the added benefit so donors can contribute online to your organization.
4. Have a board member with a financial background (critical) who will be your ‘Board Treasurer’ and keep you within budget.
5. Board members will come and go, but a diverse background of individuals is critical to obtain better results as long as they are committed to your vision and mission.
6. Start community awareness and fundraising activities early even if you do not have a physical space secured to operate out of yet.
7. Find out when and where ‘community based activities’ are planned and get a presence at as many as possible, no matter how small or big and bring plenty of handouts.
8. Paperwork, paperwork, do your paperwork, until you get a space, after which you can cull out the unnecessary bits. This also applies to emails, keep them all. They are a gold mine of contacts, potential donors, expertise, etc.
9. I mentioned the landlord, he or she is a critical player in your success, and having a poor relationship will hamper your ability to deliver you mission goals.
These lessons learned have been applied to establish our Veterans Services Center located at 95 Carroll Street, Suite 104 in Westminster. Please join us in supporting our veterans.
Good luck! You can donate to CCVIP at carrollcountyvip.org/donations.
Frank Valenti is president and Ed Cramer vice president of the Carroll County Veterans Independence Project.
Each Monday, the Carroll County Times publishes a column from a local nonprofit, allowing them to share information about their organization and the issues facing it, as our editorial. To be considered, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Nonprofit View.”