The Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood Council doesn’t have a bank account and can’t write a check, just like most other neighborhood councils. It also can’t receive a direct donation.
That’s about to change. At a recent meeting, Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood Council in northwest Spokane decided to apply for 501(c)(3) status and become a nonprofit.
“It’s very simple: We can’t afford not to do it,” said Liorah Wichser, president of Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood Council. “All our funding comes from the city and that dependency is not healthy. We need to be more self-sustaining.”
Whether to go the nonprofit route has been up for discussion before, and Wichser said the idea was voted down because it costs too much to register. Wichser said the application fee is between $200 and $300 and that the council plans to “pass the hat around to pay for that.”
Members of the Emerson-Garfield Neighborhood Council often pay out of pocket for various needs, Wichser said.
She’s hoping the neighborhood council will be approved as a nonprofit by late spring.
“We will become a community development corporation with 501(c)(3) status,” Wichser said.
The biggest administrative change for the neighborhood council will be that as a nonprofit, it needs a board of directors.
Neighborhood councils operate with a set of bylaws developed by the city and Wichser said those will be retained in the new organization.
“We will have a discussion about how to form a board at our next meeting,” Wichser said.
That meeting is Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Corbin Senior Center, 827 W. Cleveland Ave.
To become a nonprofit organization, Emerson-Garfield must define its purpose in legal terms.
“That has really helped us look at the organization and compare what we do with other organizations,” said Wichser. “It’s always important to define who you are.”
Using a neighborhood assessment completed during neighborhood cleanup day when residents were waiting in their cars to drop off trash, Wichser said Emerson-Garfield has defined five priorities for the neighborhood: programs for youth and the elderly, park and public space maintenance, collaboration with business districts, public safety and promotion of arts.
“We have so many artists living in our neighborhood,” Wichser said.
She added that the biggest hurdle so far in the nonprofit process has been overcoming the assumption that someone else will do the work.
“We just have to be more present, volunteer more, we need to reconnect,” Wichser said. “We simply can’t afford not to go through with this.”
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