Starting Up & Running An Effective Group

15 Ways You Can Save Your River & Watershed

When starting a new organization to protect a river that isn’t facing a “looming crisis,” knowing how to begin implementing the goals of your organization can be difficult. Similarly, watershed groups with long histories sometimes forget about the many ways they can protect their river. This tool offers a list of actions that your group can take to discover, promote, and advocate healthy rivers and watersheds. While not all of these activities may be applicable to your own organization, we hope the list will stir up some creative ways to accomplish your goals and provide a stepping off point from which your group can begin its work.

Fifteen Ways You Can Save Your River and Watershed (PDF)

Becoming a Nonprofit Organization

In choosing how to structure your own organization, you will be making some important decisions on the issues of incorporation, bylaws, nonprofit status and tax-exempt status. You will want to consider these decisions carefully, as they will affect how your organization conducts its business, raises funds and handles financial reporting. The goal of this guide is to provide you some basic information regarding becoming a nonprofit organization, and to help you determine the appropriate organizational structure for you.

Becoming A Nonprofit Organization (PDF)

Sample Bylaws for Watershed Organizations

Drafting your organization’s bylaws is a very important step in creating a successful river or watershed group. When writing bylaws, you will be forced to consider your organization’s mission and purpose. You’ll also decide important elements of how your group will be organized, led, and run. Your bylaws are the rule book of your organization. They give your organization structure, help prevent potential conflicts, and protect against the misuse of funds.

Sample Bylaws for Watershed Organizations (PDF)

Filings & Forms for a Nonprofit Organization

The information contained in this guide provides a handy reminder of what needs to be filed for your organization, both as you are just starting up and on an annual basis once you are up and running. However, you should always check to make sure you are using the most up to date forms and know the current filing requirements, as regulations can change.

Filings and Forms for a Nonprofit Organization (PDF)

Financial Reporting Requirements

The River Alliance of Wisconsin asked river and watershed groups to share accounting and financial reporting questions. This document provides responses, prepared by a CPA, for these four issues:

  • Reporting income tax for WI Nonstock Corporations that are not tax-exempt
  • Operating as tax-exempt without filing a federal application
  • Accepting contributions while your tax-exempt status is pending
  • Reporting raffle income

Financial Reporting Requirements (PDF)

Building an Effective Board of Directors

An active, well-informed, well-trained Board of Directors is absolutely essential to the success of an organization. Board members have accepted the responsibility for building and managing an organization, and this requires skill, good will, patience and commitment. Most board directors willingly make this tremendous investment expecting that, in exchange, they will have a rewarding experience and gain back respect, recognition for their efforts and opportunities to build relationships. As you read the following tips, remember that there is no single model of board size, or composition, and no framework that works for all organizations all the time. Although Board members and their responsibilities are fundamentally the same for all organizations, how they fulfill these will vary.

Building an Effective Board of Directors (PDF)

Running Effective Meetings

Because it’s not possible to have a one-size-fits-all approach to running effective meetings that accounts for each meeting’s uniqueness, this tool instead lays out some tips, tricks, and words of wisdom to break down meeting organization in a way that can be helpful to your group in particular.

Running Effective Meetings (PDF)

Liability & Risk Management

This tool looks at the various sources of liability for organizations and their boards, members and volunteers, and discusses strategies to limit risk and find the right insurance package for you. Of course, this advice is of a general nature and should not replace the discussion of your organization’s particular situation with an attorney, insurance agent or other risk management professional if you find it necessary.

Liability and Risk Management (PDF)

Issues You’d Rather Not Think About

Quick summary document that covers the basics on several administrative subjects that local groups face on a regular basis. Topics include: financial controls, employment considerations and liability issues for staffed nonprofit organizations.

Issues You’d Rather Not Think About: Financial Controls, Employment Considerations and Liability Issues for Staffed Nonprofits (PDF)