RESOURCES for lake associations

Important details on starting, organizing, and fundraising for your local lake association.

Whether you're starting a new lake association from scratch, or codifying rules and processes for your existing organization, why re-invent the wheel? Take advantage of Maine Lakes decades of experience helping others successfully get their association up and running. (Note that all links refer back to our helpful page on starting your own local lake association.)


Below is our suggested agenda for the first meeting to help you get your new association off the ground.

Be sure to plan ahead, print out an agenda, and be ready to encourage others to take on part of the responsibility for starting the association. And don't forget to provide snacks and a beverage!)


  1. Introductions, including asking people to tell “What I value about our lake.” This will prompt people to share their values, and help you formulate your mission.
  2. What aspects of this lake and our watershed do you want to preserve?
  3. What concerns do you have about the lake?
  4. What would you like to accomplish in three years?
  5. What projects will be necessary to get there?
  6. Prioritize these Projects and focus immediately only on the top 2 or 3. Use the action plan table which follows to assign responsibility and due dates for necessary actions.
  7. Structure the Lake Association
    1. Create your member database
    2. Schedule dates for steering committee meetings and the public Organizational Meeting
    3. Establish a date for your first Annual Meeting the year following the Organizational Meeting


Bylaws are significant written rules by which an organization is governed, and a requirement for incorporation in the State of Maine.

With minor exceptions, they are largely the same for all organizations since the mission of the organization does not ordinarily affect the structure of the governance document.

Although boards formalize their rules in bylaws, they are frequently neglected o ignored if their wording and structure are cumbersome.

For many reasons, nonprofits should pay careful attention to bylaws. Take the size of a board, for example. An unnecessarily large and unwieldy board of directors can impair an organization’s ability to make decisions, while an entrenched group of long-time board members might prevent it from innovating and adapting to change. Bylaws are the tool by which organizations address questions of board membership by specifying board size and term limits. The latter is important to keep your board renewed with fresh members.

During governing controversies, bylaws take on heightened importance. Dispute might involve a member voted out of office who seeks reinstatement, a dissident group within the organization which attempts to gain control of the board, a legal challenge to a board decision, etc. Carefully crafted bylaws and adherence to them can help ensure the fairness of board decisions and provide protection against legal challenges.


Think hard before requiring a majority vote of all the association’s members to change bylaws because assembling a majority of members at one time and place during the busy summer season is hard for lake associations to do.


By-Laws of the _____________________________________

  1. Name: The name of this nonprofit corporation shall be ______________________________________________________
  2. Purpose: The Corporation is organized to operate exclusively for charitable, scientific, and educational purposes [within the meaning of Section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code], specifically:
    1. To preserve and improve _______________ Lake and its watershed for quality use by future generations.
    2. To preserve natural and scenic areas and recreational resources
    3. To carry on activities permitted by exempt organizations under Section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended.
  1. Responsibilities: The Board of Directors shall establish practices for this nonprofit corporation and provide for the election of the Board of Directors and the Officers. At the outset, a Steering Committee for the _________________________________________ shall appoint Directors and Officers who will serve until duly elected at the first Annual Meeting of the Corporation.
  2. Number: There shall be [15] members of the Board of Directors
  3. Term: Each Director shall serve for a term of [three] years. A person may serve for more than one term.
  4. Election: Five members shall be elected to the Board of Directors each year at the Annual Meeting of the ______________________________________.
  5. Nomination: A Nominating Committee appointed by the President, shall prepare a slate of candidates for the Board of Directors at least 30 days prior to the Annual Meeting.
  6. Quorum: 50% of the members of the Board of Directors shall constitute a quorum.
  7. Voting: For all matters coming before the Board of Directors, a majority vote of those present at a meeting at which a quorum is present shall govern.
  8. Vacancy: In the event of a vacancy on the Board of Directors, the President shall have the right to appoint another Director to serve until the next Annual Meeting of the Association.
  9. Qualification: A person must be recognized as a member in good standing of the __________________________________ to be a member of the Board of Directors.
  10. Disqualification: 3 absences from meetings of the Board of Directors shall constitute grounds for disqualification.
  11. Termination: Two-thirds (2/3) of the Board of Directors shall have the authority to terminate a person’s position on the Board of Directors. Good cause for termination is not required.
  1. Officers: The officers shall consist of a President, one or more Vice Presidents and Secretaries, and a Treasurer.
  2. Term: The officers shall serve for a term of [one] year. Officers may be elected to serve for more than one term.
  3. Elections: The officers shall be elected from the Board of Directors by the membership of the _____________________________________ at its Annual Meeting.
  4. Duties: The duties of the officers shall be such as are implied by their respective titles.
    1. President: The President shall preside over all meetings and may attend all committee meetings.
    2. Vice-President(s): The Vice President shall preside in the Absence of the President
    3. Secretary(ies): The Secretary shall keep the roll of sponsors and members, the minutes of all meetings, and shall maintain committee reports. The Secretary shall also tend to all correspondence designated by the Board.
    4. Treasurer: The Treasurer shall collect the dues, all other monies, pay the bills, and oversee filing of all appropriate government reports and forms. The Treasurer shall maintain an itemized account of all receipts and disbursements. The Treasurer shall present an Annual Financial Report to the membership at the Annual Meeting.
  1. Qualifications: Membership shall be open to all persons who support the mission of this nonprofit corporation. Any person, family, or entity contributing membership dues shall be recognized as a member, subject to the discretion of the Board of Trustees.
  2. Dues: The amount of membership dues shall be established by the Board of Directors.
  1. Annual Meeting: The Annual Meeting of the membership of the ________________________________________________________ shall be held during the month of ____________ each year. Notification of the date, place and time of the Annual Meeting shall be sent to the membership no later than 30 days prior to the date of the Annual Meeting.
  2. Special Meetings: Special Meetings of the ___________________ _____________________may be called by the President, on 14 days’ notice. The notice shall specify the purpose of the special meeting.
  1. Procedure: The By-laws may be amended by a majority of the Board of Directors present at a meeting at which a quorum is present. Amendments to the By-laws shall be effective immediately upon the vote of the Board of Directors.


Incorporation provides a degree of legal protection for the association’s board members and officers. It is also a pre-requisite for acquiring nonprofit status with the federal government. In Maine, the lake association’s articles of incorporation must be filed with the Secretary of State’s office and must convey the purpose of the corporation, the name, the primary place of business, names of several directors with their physical addresses. Click here for information and to incorporate online.

Acquiring nonprofit status is a further and beneficial step which an organization can take. This entails being recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a nonprofit corporation. Once the IRS has determined that the organization is a nonprofit corporation, the association can offer tax deductibility to its members for their membership fees, gifts, and donations. This promotes fundraising. Acquiring IRS certification is a complex process. Legal counsel is helpful.

fundraising for lake associations

1. Increase membership contributions
  • Mail Membership Renewal letter to all members at the start of each fiscal year, follow up with a reminder 3-4 months later to those who have not yet responded.
  • Use a remit envelope which lists giving levels
  • basic membership and up
  • Cultivate Business Memberships with merchants who depend on healthy lakes
2. Establish an Annual Appeal
  • This is a regular mailing event, separate from your membership renewal.
  • Proceeds will grow over time as the organization fulfills member expectations about mission.
3. Seek large donors for special programs like Courtesy Boat Inspections or LakeSmart
4. Hold a Silent Auction at your Annual Meeting
  • Requires 3-4 months lead time - Requires volunteers to secure donations of auction items, set up the auction, tally the results, announce the winners, deliver the goods, etc.
  • Needs good pre-event publicity, benefits from having a named purpose for the fundraiser (fund Youth Conservation Corps, Buffer Brigade, rebuild dam, etc.)
  • Benefits from an exciting item or items that will stimulate competitive bidding at the auction and generate pre-event buzz.
  • Requires Annual Meeting Agenda to include sufficient time for mingling and viewing the auction items
  • sufficient time for bidding
5. Hold a Barbecue or Lobster Bake at your Annual Meeting (can augment Silent Auction)
6. Hold a Raffle*
  • Requires at least 8 months lead time and good relationship with merchants
  • Potentially, a lot of money, depending on items
  • Requires commitment to marketing via newsletter, web, posters, word of mouth
  • Requires printed tickets you can mail out to your members and sell in a public venue
  • Strengthens branding if raffle item matches your mission (for example, auctioning a rain garden including plants and labor reinforces runoff prevention.)
7. Produce a Cook Book
  • Requires 12-18 months lead time
  • Great outreach tool and branding device
  • Provides a good platform for creating collaborative relationships with local businesses
  • Requires good marketing to make a profit
8. Organize an Entertainment Event and Charge Admission
  • One-time event, limited funding
  • Requires at least 6 months lead time
  • Engage performance artist, high school drama department or a movie
9. Hold a Run for the Lakes - Start a year in advance
10. Hold a Help Your Lake Day: ask local businesses to give a certain percent of profits from that day to the lake association for a special purpose
  • Not hard to do, probably a slow starter but would grow over time
  • Could fit into other activities as part of Lake Appreciation Month (July)
  • Cultivates relationships with merchants who depend on healthy lakes.

*NB: A raffle is a “Game of Chance” and is regulated under Maine law. Important things to know: any nonprofit which has been incorporated in Maine for at least two years may hold a raffle without getting a permit if the raffle prize is worth less than $10,000. If the prize exceeds $10,000, a permit from the Maine Department of Public Safety, and a monthly fee of $60 for the duration of the raffle is required. A nonprofit may not raffle a prize worth more than $75,000. More info at Please search Games of Chance on the website.