Make your nonprofit a “trusted agent” for local government

Early Days

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Community Development Corporations (CDC’s) were the prime innovators in North Carolina’s urban and rural corridors for revitalization, affordable housing and small retail development. Organizations like Northwest Corridor CDC in Charlotte, Project Homestead in Greensboro and Rocky Mount-Edgecombe CDC were very successful in both housing and small retail development. Metropolitan Housing in Washington, NC excelled in both housing and health services. These organizations demonstrated that nonprofits were ideal vehicles and partners for Community Economic Development (CED) long before the term was coined.

However, after the General Assembly withdrew its formidable support of these organizations and groups like the Rural Center, the Association of CDC’s and the North Carolina Community Development Initiative lost the capital to support these CDC’s, the work has slowed to a trickle. But CED may be the renaissance these groups need.

Community economic development

Community economic development (CED) has been defined as “a field of study that actively elicits community involvement when working with government and private sectors to build strong communities, industries, and markets.” This view of revitalization and building efforts as a result of strong community-based participation is precisely what the CDC’s were doing early on. These organizations are prepared to join the CED movement in the next phase of redevelopment. But what about other serious, nonprofits how can they participate in the new CED movements? Become a Trusted Agent.

What is a Trusted Agent?

Recently at the North Carolina City and County Manager Association, the concept of the Trusted Agent was introduced, and the concept illustrated the importance of strong community involvement in the public-private partnerships desired in CED. The Trusted Agent, as defined there, is that community group, agency or nonprofit that has true ties to the community — its legitimate voice — as well as, the capacity to project that voice to the local and regional municipalities with authenticity, confidence and integrity.

Why is the Trusted Agent Important?

When the trusted agent is at the table, the public/private partnerships can be assured the trusted agent speaks with the authority of the community it represents. Furthermore, the public/private partnership does not have to concern itself with ability of the Trusted Agent to deliver its promises.

As municipalities are looking to rebuild their downtown corridors, many are focusing on real community input into their projects. The City of Hickory commissioned a Bond Implementation Commission of 40 people to ensure that they had the community support for their $40 million bond projects. Many towns are seeking similar strong community involvement.

In addition, agencies like HUD and USDA are still seeking nonprofits as part of their remaining grant programs that can benefit both rural and urban areas alike. The nonprofit trusted agent is still as valuable as in the CDC days.

Become a Trusted Agent!

If your nonprofit has a strong community base and equally strong ties to your local municipality, you may be a candidate for a Trusted Agent in your community. Before you can claim that mantle as your role within your community, we believe you need to put your house in order before you seek the title.

Examine your Board of Directors; Are they stagnant? Are they representative of the community? Do they have real business experience and skills? Are your bylaws up to date? Do they conform with NC General Statutes 55A? Is your IRS paperwork up to date? Are you a 501 (c) 3? Are your minutes, finances and bookkeeping able to pass the scrutiny of Foundations like Z. Smith Reynolds and Ford? Would HUD and the USDA fund you if you were to apply for a grant?

These are many questions, but to become a trusted agent, these are the self-examinations you must go through in order to take your place as the 21st century CED leader in your community.

The new model for redevelopment is locally and regionally based. Many local governments are using the power of the taxation to rebuild their desolate areas and they are listening to their community partners. Why not be one?

If this is a role you want to assume in your community, Our Firm can help you get there. Let us help you to be the best Trusted Agent you can be. Call us, or send us an email to see if we can help.

Please see the disclaimer and let us know if you have questions or comments about this post, or if we can otherwise be of help.