These Questions & Answers have been assembled from several years of various emails that come our way. This is posted to be used as a general resource for organizations in Montana to use to get started….prior to applying for the MSA Grant. If you are an organizer and have specific questions, please contact us.
When getting started on a project like this, who should we contact for support?
We appealed to all who were interested in helping our community establish a skateboard park with the goal of creating additional recreational opportunities and positive alternatives for its residents and underprivileged youth. This included the city, local businesses, foundations invested in youth, individuals, etc.
What factors influenced you to become a nonprofit organization (pros & cons)?
Advantages of forming a nonprofit organization include:
Tax exemption: Those organizations that qualify, as public charities under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) are eligible for federal exemption from payment of corporate income tax.
Eligibility for public and private grants: Nonprofit organizations are allowed to solicit donations from the public. Contributions to public charities offer tax benefits to individuals. Many foundations and government agencies restrict their grants to public charities.
Formal structure: Incorporation puts the mission and structure of the nonprofit above the personal interests of individuals associated with it.
Limited liability: Under the law, creditors and courts are limited to the assets of the nonprofit organization. The founders, directors, members, and employees are not personally liable for the nonprofit’s debts.
The disadvantages include:
Cost: Creating a nonprofit organization takes time, effort, and money. Aside from legal or other consultant fees, incorporation in most states, including the application for federal tax exemption, costs $200–$400.
Paperwork: Because it is a legal entity, a nonprofit organization will be required by the state in which it is incorporated to keep detailed records. Certain documents—articles of incorporation, bylaws, annual reports, financial records—must be prepared in a specific manner and filed with specified agencies by certain deadlines. The nonprofit may also have to file Form 990 with the IRS annually.
Shared control: Although the people who create nonprofits like to shape and control their creations, personal control is limited. A nonprofit organization is subject to laws and regulations, including its own articles of incorporation and bylaws.
Scrutiny by the public: A nonprofit is dedicated to the public interest; therefore, its finances are open to public inspection. The public may obtain copies of a nonprofit organization’s state and federal filings and learn about salaries and other expenditures.
Did you start your own 501(c)(3) or attach to someone else?
We started our own.
Would you recommend that someone starting a project similar to yours go non-profit, partner with local government, or other organizations?
Whatever is going to get the job done in your community – it may help to do all three. It is really up to the individual or group of individuals what is going to work best for them. The advantages of becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit certainly helped open doors for us at the MSA when we built the park here in Missoula.
What process did you use to find your site?
We tried to find a place near our downtown area where most of the skateboarding was already taking place. The site is also close to the highway – for out of town folks.
How was it acquired?
One of the MSA Board Members sat on a McCormick Park Redesign Committee through our Parks and Rec. Dept. to help ensure a “footprint” for our park. Then we worked with MDOT to purchase a portion of the land that they owned and establish all of the necessary rights-of-way. The land is owned and maintained by the City of Missoula.
What strategies did you use when doing your initial fundraising?
We tried to build a strong sense of ownership in the community by hosting many local video premieres, skate contests, art shows, and concerts as well as developing ideas that raised awareness within schools and local businesses. We also tried to focus as much energy as possible into options for raising funds that weren’t specifically tied to the local community. Doing this helped ease the burden on local businesses and opened us up to opportunities beyond just “skateboarders” and members of the Missoula community. For instance, we held a vehicle auction for a heavily customized Jeep Wrangler. This auction tapped into the Jeep enthusiast community and raised a significant amount of money from people who felt good about our project but were not related to Missoula or skateboarding.
How often do you put on fundraising events in a given year?
Some years we did as many as 5 or 6.
What groups have been your biggest long-term supporters?
Parents, local businesses, City of Missoula, Missoula Parks and Recreation, and a local organization called the Missoula Redevelopment Association that helped us acquire tax increment fund monies.
What is the response to your website?
Huge, probably one of our most valuable tools.
What has been your best marketing tool?
Aside from the website, we started a program called “skate rocks” which we modeled after the Muscular Dystrophy Association. We created a slip of paper that you could purchase at local businesses for $1, sign your name on them, and then they would be posted as showing support for the project.
Is the success or failure of the park dependent on having a professional skater’s affiliation or endorsement?
No, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.
How would you describe a marketing strategy?
If you want your community to be informed and involved then you have to make sure they know what you are up to! Contact the media as soon as your group is organized and informed, and also share your new knowledge by creating something like a pamphlet to hand out to individuals, or by hosting a public question and answer period. By creating a good relationship with the media early, your group can benefit from the publicity by gaining more public support.
What process did you use for finding a company or business to build your park?
We performed a RFQ in which we asked skatepark builders to submit their qualifications to us. Then we narrowed them down per our specific requirements.
Did you have a project manager?
Did you have an attorney overseeing the project?
No, but we do have an attorney that has donated his time to our project and was readily available for miscellaneous questions as they came up. Creating this relationship, and one with an accountant will save lots of headaches along the way.
What strategies do you have for sustaining the project?
Continuing education for skatepark maintenance and safety/lesson programs. We also set up contests and demos to encourage people to keep skating and using the park.
What ways do you bring in money other than fundraising?
Grant writing, general donations, sticker and T-shirt sales, art shows, etc…
What kind of feedback do you get from the community about the work you do?
Amazing feedback. Our community has been super supportive and we believe that people feel we have provided an amazing resource to the people of Missoula.
What were your biggest unexpected roadblocks?
Construction delays and rising construction costs continued to plague us along the way. Considering that it takes a significant amount of time to raise money for a skatepark, one should consider building inflation into the overall budget right from the beginning.