How often do we hear of people in our communities that have been constricted by lack of funds when an unexpected bill at the end of the month comes up or when we need to get groceries for our families we cannot afford? Our local communities, when properly utilized, can be a strong resource in times of need. You may be asking how so? Well, one way we can help each other is to create a group that provides emergency funds for its contributors. Here are five steps to follow to create a community emergency fund.
1. Develop expected member commitments. Develop and adapt the expected financial commitment of each member for the community emergency fund. Also decide how frequently the money will be collected. Consider the characteristics of your community when making these decisions! You may find anywhere from $1 to $20 is a reasonable place to start, this may be altered as needed.
2. Create the group. Now, when we are organizing and picking the members of our emergency fund who want to participate it is important we choose people who are reliable. Reliable members will donate each time money is collected which is the key to success. Start with between 10 and 20 if possible, but do not be afraid to grow!
3. Develop a system of governance. It is important for the group to choose who controls the money. While you may organize the group, do not force them to make you in charge of the money. Another option would be to elect a new person each month that is responsible for handling the fund.
4. Develop your collection policy. Weekly contributions will create a larger pool of funds at the end of the month that can be distributed. Make contributing to the fund as easy as possible for the members. Since the group is based in your community, set-up a time each week to meet at a location for the collection. Maybe it’s the gym the members work out at or the school when you pick your children up from.
5. Distribute the funds when needed. Only members who contribute to the emergency fund can apply for the funds each month. Members may apply for whatever portion of the fund they need. The more severe cases should be who receives a portion of the fund first. At the end of the month if no one needs any funding, keep it saved and continue the weekly contributions! This will allow for more funds when a crisis or unfortunate situation arises.
Creating an emergency fund is a creative way to raise money for the community and has the ability to make a positive impact. Supporting and promoting our local communities is going to be vital to how we function in our daily lives. Simple ideas like this will help increase awareness and increase sustainable practices in our every day lives.
Clayton Sutherland is a Fall 2013 Residential Outreach Intern at Zealous Good, an in-kind donations marketplace in Chicago. You can connect with Clayton via Google+ or Zealous Good on Facebook and Zealous Good on Twitter at @ZealousGood.