Create a home repair cooperative

A repair cooperative works in much the same way as other coops, making home and property repair and renovation accessible to every member.

You may have heard of other types of coops in which members of a community network to trade and share skills, talents, services, and resources for the betterment of the community as a whole. Starting a repair coop in your community will draw people together to help improve local neighborhoods, increasing their sense of pride.

Here are some tips for getting started:

GATHER MEMBERS

Begin by gathering interested parties to help form the coop. Set a time and place to conduct a meeting and invite as many people as possible to attend. You may be able to borrow the community civic center, a church reception hall, or a school auditorium to hold your meeting.

You will need to vote to select a president, a bookkeeper, and other officers and define their specific tasks. A set of bylaws should be developed so everyone understands what is expected of them and how they will benefit from the arrangement. Bylaws must be developed by agreement of officers and should be voted on by members.

STICK TO THE RULES

The bylaws should indicate how much help any person, entity, or group can expect to obtain from the coop and how much they will be expected to give in return. This may be determined by hours, man-hours, or total cost of a job. It should always be a fair exchange.

In what order projects will be done should also be addressed, giving priority to properties that have dangerous items that need repair. After any dangerous items are taken care of, the coop needs to develop a system for organizing projects. Will projects be taken on a first come, first serve basis? Will the size of the project determine its place on the list? Will the type of project be a determining factor?

EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING TO OFFER

Do not leave out would be members because they do not appear to have a relevant skill. Find creative ways that everyone can help and participate. The young man fresh out of college who has never lifted a hammer, may have a knack for numbers, or may be perfect for soliciting donations. He may be an exceptional painter.



The mom of three, who cannot be on site to perform physical labor because she has three small children in tow, may be the best person to arrange for and deliver drinks and snacks to the work crew. She may also be willing to sit for other members' children while they work.

Speaking of kids, they want to get in on the excitement when a community project is going on. As long as they are properly supervised, there is no reason why children cannot help out with non-dangerous, age appropriate tasks. Sweeping up, passing out drinks, or planting grass or flowers are great ways for kids to get involved.

SEEK DONATIONS

Do not leave out local business owners, contractors, and suppliers. Many businesses will be glad to donate money, supplies, expertise, and labor to such an effort, and they can write many donations off on their taxes. They will also enjoy the good publicity, and it may be a good idea to place a thank you ad in the classified section of a prominent local paper from time to time thanking such benefactors for their generosity.

Check with your local home improvement centers, hardware stores, etc. for possible discounts. Even those professionals that do not wish to join or donate to the cooperative may offer discounts on products or services to coop members, so be sure to ask.

UTILIZE AVAILABLE SKILLS AND TALENTS PRODUCTIVELY

People with specific skills should be using those skills to accelerate the progress of each project. In other words, do not send a carpenter out to pick up lunch. Most professionals have full time jobs or businesses of their own, and therefore have less time to devote to community projects. If you waste their time sending them out to run errands, they are less likely to put more time aside to help. Send someone else on errands and keep the professionals busy doing things that only they can do.

Keep in mind that time is money for professionals. Do not call an electrician out to do some wiring and then keep him or her standing around waiting. Make sure you are ready for that person before you schedule the task. Have the supplies available, and let them get the job done.

Good organization is the key to building a successful home repair cooperative.

© High Speed Ventures 2011