Form a group

Define the purpose of organization

What are the issues the organization wants to tackle? What do you need to get the job done? To start a successful, long-term bicycle advocacy organization, you need the following:

  • A clear, agreed-upon mission statement
  • A strong, competent executive director
  • A dynamic board of directors
  • An organization-wide commitment to fundraising

Develop your board of directors

What is the role of the Board of Directors? Duties of the Board of Directors include the following:

  • Selecting the Executive Director
  • Assessing his or her performance
  • Reviewing and authorizing goals and direction
  • Ensuring compliance with legal and contract requirements
  • Evaluating the organization's work
  • Developing resources through fundraising and membership development

Create bylaws

What is the purpose of bylaws? What should they include? Bylaws-the operating rule of the organization-should be drafted and approved by the board early in the organization's development. Seek an attorney experienced in non-profit law for help. Key sections should include the following:

  • Membership-its composition, how/when membership meetings occur, special events
  • Board of Directors-election process, meetings, length of term, officers, committees
  • Financial Management-fiscal year, dues
  • Amendments-how to amend Bylaws

Develop a strategic plan

What is involved in developing a strategic plan? Steps to develop a strategic plan should include the following:

  • Formulate the advocacy organization's mission statement considering the short term and long term issues the organization aims to tackle. Do some of those issues include facilities, safety and education, and/or increased government relations? How do you accomplish these goals? Who are the beneficiaries of your work?
  • Develop a strategy to achieve the mission. Make a list of critical issues that demand a response from the organization, prioritizing the most important issues.
  • Create a structure for the organization that will successfully use its resources to carry out this strategy.

Develop membership and retention strategies

How should an organization acquire new members? How does it keep them? For a successful membership campaign, you need the following elements:

  • A positive attitude toward direct mail, the only way to significantly grow your donor base
  • A compelling recruitment package, including a carrier envelope, a personalized 4-page letter that's easy to read, a reply form, and a return address envelope
  • A source of good mailing lists by asking board members and volunteers to give names and addresses of those whom they think might want to become involved, by trading lists for one-time use with similar organizations, renting/exchanging lists from other organizations in your area, and renting local portions of national lists which support causes similar to what your group does
  • A systematic way to test what motivates donors to give money to your cause, such as which lists you are mailing and the price you are asking
  • A reasonable budget

Most organizations budget to make no profit from new membership acquisition through direct mail. In fact, most organizations budget to lose money on acquisition. Answer the following questions to determine how much money you should budget to lose in acquisition:

  • What does is cost you now to acquire a new member?
  • How much does the average member give over three years?
  • What is the average number of gifts per member each year?
  • How much is the average gift?
  • What is the average number of total gifts per member's lifetime?
  • What does it cost to maintain your member?
  • How many members do you want next year?
  • Is the answer to the first question too low?

For a successful retention campaign, you need the following elements:

  • A 1-page renewal letter that reminds membership that their membership is about to expire
  • A 1-page renewal letter that reminds members of their benefits
  • A 1-page renewal letter that reminds members of their previous gifts
  • A mailing schedule of 5-9 mailings that include those letters set 5–8 weeks apart