HOW TO START A LAKE ASSOCIATION
Protect your lake’s beauty, habitat, recreational opportunities & property values.
Great lake associations are as varied as the lakes and people that live around them. Maine has dozens of outstanding models for civic-minded, generous groups that work to achieve these benefits:
- Creating a community that values the lake and has fun together
- Making connections with all who visit or use the lake
- Showing residents and visitors how to protect water quality and wildlife
- Monitoring lake health
- Defending against invasive aquatic plants and animals
- Protecting property values and helping local businesses
If your lake doesn’t have an association, we’re here to help you start one! You’ll not only reap the benefits of living by a healthy, beautiful lake, but also be remembered for working to make sure the benefits you enjoy today will be there for the generations to come.
12 STEPS TO FORMING A LAKE ASSOCIATION
1. FORM A STEERING COMMITTEE
Identify several people interested in lake protection and invite them to a meeting to discuss forming a lake association. You can find a sample Steering Committee Meeting Agenda here.
2. DEFINE THE PURPOSE OF YOUR GROUP & FRAME IT AS A MISSION STATEMENT
Your mission will guide all objectives, goals and actions of your group. Example: “Crystal Lake Association protects the water quality of Crystal Lake through education, action, and preservation.” You may want to do a little research before your meeting; call your county Soil and Water Conservation District, call Maine Lakes at (207) 495-2301.
3. DEVELOP AN ACTION PROGRAM
Brainstorm what you’d like to accomplish in 1-3 years, then choose one or two objectives from that list. For each one, create an action plan stating objective, listing tasks and assignments for accomplishing them, assigning responsibilities, and setting a timeline for accomplishment. (See the following Action Planning Worksheet.)
4. DEVELOP A DATABASE OF MEMBER NAMES & CONTACT INFORMATION
Appoint one person to be responsible for maintaining an address list of present and potential members.
5. HOLD A PUBLIC MEETING
This is an organizing meeting where you will share your plans with other lake and watershed residents to enlist their support and membership. (It is often helpful at this stage to invite an outside speaker to talk about lakes and how lake associations can protect them). Share your mission, objectives and action plans. Invite discussion and decide which actions the group will undertake. Elect the group of people who will carry out necessary steps (Publish a Newsletter & Send out Membership Requests, Write Your By-Laws, and Work the Action Plan for the Activities You Have Chosen) and enlist volunteers. Decide the date of your next meeting.
6. PUBLISH A NEWSLETTER & SEND OUT MEMBERSHIP REQUESTS
Publish a newsletter right away, even if it’s only one page. Announce the birth of the association and sketch plans for the future. Ask residents and visitors to join and include a membership form readers can clip and mail back to you.
7. WRITE YOUR BY-LAWS
By-laws are significant written rules by which an organization is governed. 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. By-laws are a requirement for incorporation in the State of Maine. You can find a sample By-Laws Template here.
8. WORK THE ACTION PLAN FOR THE ACTIVITIES YOU HAVE CHOSEN
The key is completing actions that support your mission. Your plan may be as simple as distributing education information at a lakeside picnic, or ambitious as a watershed survey. Just do it!
9. HOLD YOUR FIRST ANNUAL MEETING
Ask members to approve By-laws, elect a Board, and accept the budget you propose for the coming year. Use the gathering to celebrate your lake. Have fun, publicize your accomplishments and plans, and share lake stewardship information.
10. REGISTER AS A NONPROFIT CORPORATION WITH THE MAINE SECRETARY OF STATE
This does not make your organization a nonprofit in the eyes of the IRS, but it does establish your corporate identity with the state of Maine. Learn more here.
11. MARKET YOUR BRAND!
Commit to vigorous communication and outreach. Publicize your accomplishments. Seek ways to celebrate your lake and build community around it as you protect its water quality. Picnics, sailboat races raffles, and children’s activities build community and your identity.
12. LEARN MORE & BECOME A MEMBER OF MAINE LAKES
Learn as much as you can about lakes, watersheds, water quality, and the programs and resources available to help you grow and succeed. Plan to attend the Maine Lakes Conference each June and network with other lake readers. For more information, call us at (207) 495-2301.