Frequently Asked Questions

How do people find out whether there is a neighborhood association in their area?
Check our neighborhood association profiles to determine if you live in an area with an active organization. Do not hesitate giving us a call at 608-266-4635 to confirm the neighborhood association which covers your area. If there isn't an active association near your location, we will assist you in organizing your own neighborhood association.

How do I start a neighborhood association?
You must first believe that your community can benefit from having an association. This can be determined by identifying an activity, issue or project that neighborhood residents would like to address or work on. Second, you need 2-4 additional residents who share your interests and are willing to build support for the association amongst others in the neighborhood; this group is also responsible for planning the first meeting. Set a realistic goal for attendance. The more residents recruited, the easier delegation of work becomes. However, the cultivation of members should not be rushed. With enough members, you can adopt bylaws and elect a board in a timely manner.

How do we determine our neighborhood boundaries?
Keep it simple. Draw your neighborhood boundaries reflecting the natural (e.g. lake) or manmade boundaries (e.g. major transportation corridor). Many times these particular boundaries form a coherent neighborhood area. A rule of thumb is to keep it simple and start with a relatively small (but not too small) area to build the sense of community amongst neighbors. Avoid overlapping boundaries with another recognized neighborhood association.

What if the boundaries of my neighborhood association overlap the boundaries of another?
We discourage overlap because is causes confusion for the public inquiring about the association for their area. We encourage communication between associations to come up with mutually agreed upon boundaries.

Does the City of Madison have requirements on the formal structure or operations of neighborhood associations?
No. We do encourage neighborhood associations to develop an organizational structure that works for them. Some options for neighborhood associations to consider include:

  • Mission statement: An organization's vision is its driving force. The mission statement explains why a group exists and what it hopes to accomplish. A group can revise and clarify its mission statement whenever it is deemed appropriate.
  • Bylaws: Bylaws are simply the rules governing an organization's internal operations, including: purpose of organization, membership information, terms of officers, committees, voting procedures and dues. Examples are available from our office.
  • Meeting Management: Making the most effective use of your time, and your neighbors, by running effective meetings, communicating outcomes, and engaging/recruiting new participants is key to a successful organization.

What are some key organizational questions?

  • Is the neighborhood association attracting, maintaining, and recruiting new members?
  • Is the neighborhood association representative of the area? Are you involving individuals across barriers of race, religion, age and socio-economic status?
  • Are the neighborhood association meetings publicized? Status reports? Successes?
  • Are you identifying and forming partnerships with organizations that support the residents of your community, such as: the schools, centers of worship, the merchants, business associations, the employers, landlords, local government, hospitals, realty companies, libraries, community centers, etc.?
  • Are you celebrating your victories? Spread the word and tell other associations how you did it and how it can help them!

What is the difference between a neighborhood association and homeowner association?
Neighborhood associations are generally a group of residents and other stakeholders that volunteer to improve and enhance the well-defined, geographic area where they live or work. The neighborhood association meeting is a time to exchange ideas, decide on projects and priorities, proposed solutions, and make plans affecting the neighborhood. Homeowners associations are groups of homeowners who live in an area built by the same developer, usually referred to as a subdivision; formed for the purpose of improving or maintaining the quality of the area. Homeowners associations usually have a formally elected body and are governed by deed restrictions – a set of rules that the buyer agreed to when they purchased the home. These rules or covenants, often govern construction regulations, membership/dues requirement, as well as a wide variety of other issues.

What are the benefits of an organization having a tax-exempt status?
Many organizations see the financial benefits of tax-exempt status. In addition to qualifying for public and private grant money, most nonprofit groups seek the status to obtain exemptions from federal and state income taxes, and therefore can devote a larger proportion of their resources to achieving their particular goals. The status can also be beneficial to those groups who'd like special rates for services such as postage. Also, donors prefer to give contributions to these groups because they can deduct their gifts on their own taxes. On the other hand, the IRS restricts lobbying activity, political activity is prohibited, and the organization's activities must be limited to the charitable purpose. Each individual group must weigh the pros and cons of the status carefully in light of their organizational goals and values.

Many of our City of Madison neighborhood grants do not require tax-exempt status, and if they do, we will work with the neighborhood association to secure a fiscal agent that has tax-exempt status. The fiscal agent may charge an administrative fee but this might be less than the cost of obtaining/maintaining tax-exempt status for your neighborhood association.

How does my organization become tax exempt?
Once you file your articles of incorporation, your organization becomes a nonprofit. To receive tax-exemption status, your organization must meet three key components under 501(c)(3) of the IRS: be organized as a corporation, trust, or unincorporated association (articles serves this purpose); be operated with stipulation (such as agreeing to refrain from participation in political campaigns); and have an exempt purpose: charitable, educational, religious, or scientific. Contact IRS and Complete Form 557. The City of Madison does not assist organization is preparing/filing the proper paperwork.

Where should our neighborhoods hold its meetings?
Neighborhood Association meetings should be conducted in a place that is accessible and open to the public. You want to make sure that the location is welcoming so interested neighbors are willing to participate in your scheduled meetings. Be conscious of barriers to participation such as language, time of day, and accessibility/convenience of meeting location.

Most public and quasi-public facilities are usually provide meeting space free of charge to neighborhood associations. Possible locations for neighborhood meetings:

Other possible locations that could host neighborhood meetings include Centers of Worship, Financial Institutions or Neighborhood Schools

Last Updated: 10/07/2015