Table of Contents


Introduction & Recycle-A-Bicycle: The New York Model

Laying the foundation

Project Definition

Organizational Structure


Nuts and Bolts

The Bicycle Collection Network

Curriculum Content

Public Relations

Finding the Funds

Safety, Quality Control, and Liability

Last Words

Resource Directory & Bibliography

Appendix I - Financial and administrative information

Appendix II - Forms and Materials used by RAB [1 MB]

The Authors

Thank yous

Tools for Life: 
A Start-Up Guide for Youth Recycling & Bicycling Programs

Organizational structure

Going it alone

Most existing bicycle education projects are housed under not-for-profit organizations. RAB was conceived from within Transportation Alternatives, a larger organization that has been in existence for over two decades. As the project came to life, we added to our organizational recipe by forming a new partnership with the Children's Aid Society. Later on, we formed more alliances with NYC schools to start our other sites. The cooperation and support of other groups and individuals is what made RAB's rapid growth possible.

You, however, may decide that your project should be self-contained. This may be the way to go for an individual or a small group with limited time and resources.

It might begin as a class for the neighborhood. With a basic tool box and a few kids who own bikes, you can begin a repair class at a playground or in someone's garage. If there is space, you can collect unwanted bikes and work with kids who want to fix them up for themselves. Once everyone has a safe bike, you may begin organizing group rides. These activities are spontaneous and generally reflect the skills and amount of time that the organizers have available.

At some point, you might want to expand beyond the neighborhood. The word will get out and other people will be interested in bringing your program to their kids. The garage and the toolbox are no longer enough. How best to grow?

Remaining independent is very attractive. You call the shots; you select the kids; you determine the goals. There are some drawbacks, however. Acquiring not-for-profit status for a new organization is a long and intricate process. Among other things, you need to have a Board of Directors who are obligated to be financially responsible for your group.

There is also the question of credibility. If you stay a lone wolf, it can take some time before you convince potential donors (not to mention a community) of the integrity and worth of your program.

Some projects have succeeded in this. The Bicycle Action Project in Indianapolis got its start when the founder, Charles Hammond, noticed some discarded bikes in front of a house. He approached the woman who lived inside, told her that he'd like to fix up the bikes for kids and before he knew it, found himself the subject of a newspaper article. Thrust into the position of a project director, he rose to the occasion and created BAP. Today the project (one of the oldest in the country) is an independent not-for-profit organization with its own board of directors.

If you want to go it alone, a number of books in our bibliography can provide you with the details of founding a not-for-profit organization.

Alliances with other Organizations

There is another way to make the leap into official status: approach a group whose mission incorporates the goals of a bicycle education project. An existing organization has a structure in place that you may tap into to expedite the start-up process. Their help may enable you to do things like advertise the program, cover the costs of liability, and give tax exemptions to people who make donations. An organization may be convinced to dedicate resources towards the formulation of the project's design and implementation. They may also devote staff time or recruit volunteers from its membership base. Even the use of a photocopy machine can be a substantial contribution.

The staff of an organization may also offer valuable skills that are lacking in your own operation. Word processing, desktop publishing, illustration, public relations, and photography are all talents that may be available through your parent or partner group.

Organizations offer a framework through which administration, program development, implementation, and financial support are offered. Bike education projects may be housed in community-based organizations, youth service organizations, churches, schools, bicycle clubs and advocacy groups. Some projects choose to remain small while others become incorporated as a not-for-profit or find sponsorship under the auspices of an existing organization.

If you decide to follow this course of action, you must shop around for the right organization. Do your homework before approaching a group; know the mission of the organization, its strengths and weaknesses, and how its programs are perceived in the community. You should be in the position of choosing the organization which best meets the needs of your program. It is also useful to find someone who can make an introduction to an appropriate person already within the organization. Once this has been achieved, schedule a meeting with several potential partners. Always arrive prepared: have a plan, make a concrete proposal, and be ready to negotiate an institutional arrangement.

Community alliances

The neighborhood that you're serving is often the best place to find resources. Ask individuals and groups in the community to help you strengthen the project by offering their expertise in the areas that you are weak in or unfamiliar with. People enjoy making a contribution to their community and are willing to help if there is a clear "wish list" of material donations or volunteer tasks that they can choose from. Be prepared for the time when people ask, "What can I do?" and don't be bashful about approaching people for assistance. Never forget that "it's for the kids" can be the most powerful phrase at your disposal.

A community can be divided into three sectors: business, government, and not-for-profit. All of them are potential supporters. Local businesses might be approached to donate cash or materials for the project. A bike shop might donate helmets, a bakery might offer refreshments, and a bank might award a neighborhood grant. Develop contacts with the various local media, as they will be important in making people aware of your project and its needs (see Public Relations).

City and state governments might be approached in order to access community funds. For example, salaries might be raised through programs that deal with crime prevention, after-school services, or employment training. Supplies to fix bikes might come from a local recycling budget.

Not-for-profit organizations may be asked to provide certain elements of the project. A local bike club may supply ride leaders and mechanics while a youth service organization may recruit kids and provide space for educational activities and bike storage.

The options to explore are unlimited. Personal contacts are often your best lead in setting up alliances with organizations that share your enthusiasm for the project. As you set up your community network, ask the children and parents you'll work with to get involved. Not only does this get more people to back you up, it gives them a sense of proprietorship. Pride usually follows in short order.

When working with other organizations it is important to define the role of each and to follow up on agreements made with them. Be responsible in implementing agreements. Every opportunity must be taken to thank the organizations and individuals who have donated their time or money to the project. Do so in writing if possible. Experience shows that an efficient "thank you" system will build up good will in the community which, in turn, will be recycled back into your project.

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