Growing Communities Initiative Toolbox
This page - our GCI Toolbox - is designed to provide tools to help you address issues, plan and carry out improvement projects, grow your businesses, and run your organization effectively. Some of the tools can be downloaded and posted on local websites. Others can be linked to local websites. New tools added regularly so check back often. Access full PDFs with interactive links describing CGI Services in the column at right, below Contact information.
Ideas for Rural Communities and Small Towns
Business Recruitment and Entrepreneurship
Quality-of-Life-Based Retail Recruitment in Towns and Cities with Populations Under about 35,000, by N. David Milder
Business Starts in the Midwest: potential entrepreneurial groups
Should your Downtown Development Organization Start a Business?
It is becoming increasingly common for nonprofit organizations to engage in managing business ventures when state laws and regulations permit. Downtown development organizations may find these ventures especially valuable as a potential source of revenue and as a way to encourage downtown growth. If your organization is considering starting a venture, there are several points to consider. (None of these items should be interpreted as offering advice or suggestions for a nonprofit to undertake a business activity.) To learn more, refer to the following articles:
For practical information about starting a business:
Can a church coffee shop be a nonprofit? CNN Money
Taking Care of Business: Use of a For-Profit Subsidiary by a Nonprofit Organization, American Bar Association
Community Supported Businesses, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs Rural Research Report
NEW! "Movie Theaters," by N. David Milder
Of the 31 operating historic theaters in North Dakota identified by one researcher, 19 are community-run. See: Patricia Leigh Brown, "Movie Houses Find Audience in the Plains,” New York Times, July 4, 2010; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/05/us/05theater.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
In New York, the Adirondack Film Society and the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) created a Go Digital Or Go Dark program that won state grants and used the Razoo online crowdfunding service to raise matching funds from local residents. See: Paul Post, “Small Theaters in Adirondacks Face Choice in Switch to Digital: Pay or Perish,” New York Times, Dec. 25, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/26/nyregion/in-switch-to-digital-small-theaters-in-adirondacks-face-choice-pay-or-perish.html
Services for Businesses
Local Downtown Development organizations provide assistance to existing downtown businesses, businesses thinking of opening a downtown location and entrepreneurs considering starting a new business. Here you will find tools useful to businesses in all stages of operation.
Managing a local Downtown Development organization requires skills in many areas including fund raising, budgeting, staffing and volunteers, communications and more. This section of the toolbox includes resources useful in the day to day management of the organization and in planning for the future.
Innovations in Organization Management
Changing lifestyles, declining public funding and a crowded nonprofit sector make it challenging for nonprofit organizations to find and retain well-qualified executive directors, recruit and keep volunteers, develop sustainable funding, and work within traditional committee structures. CGS led an extended conversation among 36 successful Main Street executive directors on meeting these challenges. This report includes their experiences and ideas, along with current thinking from nonprofit leaders nationwide. The findings are then distilled into an easy to use Organization Solutions Grid. Read it here.
Market Study Guide
A market study provides valuable information on downtown’s potential and guidance in developing a plan for downtown growth. The following websites provide guides to understanding the market study process and help in preparing your own market study.
Historic Preservation and Design Resources
Downtown Development design projects include everything from street furniture to historic building restorations. The tools in this section can help with a variety of types of projects as well as educate volunteers and residents.
For additional information about Growing Communities Initiative, please contact:
Center for Governmental Studies, NIU
Senior Research Scholar
Center for Governmental Studies, NIU
Click on each image below to access interactive PDFs that include details about each service category: