Community Associations

Community Associations, also called Neighbourhood Associations, provide a great way to connect with your neighbours!

Neighbourhoods are an important source of day-to-day help and community connection.  Saying hello, helping with snow shoveling, or dropping off a meal to provide comfort or support demonstrates care for each other.  These acts of kindness increase neighbourhood pride and have many positive effects on neighbours and neighbourhoods.

Neighbourhood Associations are a group of residents who meet regularly to plan and promote community-based activities that enhance the quality of life for those living within a specific boundary. The association can plan special events to build relationships and a fun place to live, they can provide community programs to feel connected, they can facilitate participation in the planning and development of their community, and they can create safer neighbourhoods.  The association may include homeowners, renters, business owners, school faculty or staff, churches and members of other non-profit organizations living or conducting business within a certain neighbourhood area.  Neighbourhood Associations are volunteer based, grass-roots groups and may incorporate as a registered society under the province.

Neighbourhood Associations provide a sense of place and belonging within a community.

What can Neighbourhood Associations do?

A Neighbourhood Association provides the framework to communicate, educate, advocate and support neighbourhood development and initiatives. They are volunteer run groups that have a general mission to improve the neighbourhood and the connections of residents in that area.

They may:

  • Provide leisure or recreational activities
  • Host special events or gatherings
  • Provide educational opportunities
  • Encourage environmental awareness and responsibility
  • Advocate with a collective voice

Additionally, Neighbourhood Associations can assist with:

  • Identifying challenges and concerns
  • Supporting change and improvement efforts
  • Recruiting volunteers for community initiatives
  • Acquire resources to make the neighbourhood a better place to live

If you are interested in learning more, getting involved in your neighbourhood, or starting a Neighbourhood Association we will be hosting community events in the Spring of 2023.  To register for more information on these events please email Shantel Ottenbreit at with your name and email address.

How to Form a Neighbourhood Association

Start with a core group
  • Start your Neighbourhood Association by finding a core group of people who share a common interest in forming an association and making their neighbourhood an even better place to live. 
  • Ask some neighbours you already know and ask those neighbours to speak with others in your area. 
  • Once you have approximately 5 or more people interested, schedule a meeting to begin discussing next steps for your group.

*Tip: Set up the meeting quickly before people lose interest

Vision, Mission and Values

At the initial meeting, the following items should be discussed:

  • Neighbourhood Association boundaries (if any)
  • Determine a name for the association
  • Establish the purpose of the association
  • Identify a few preliminary goals for the association and establish priorities
  • Determine a date and location for a community wide meeting or event
  • Identify how (and who) you will notify residents in your neighbourhood
  • Create an association email address, website, or Face Book group to communicate with residents

 The core group should agree on ground rules for the meetings:

  • Act for the benefit of the whole neighbourhood
  • Keep an open mind to what the community might want
  • Ensure everyone is heard
  • Discuss opportunities and concerns
  • Accept group decisions after a vote has been taken
  • Plan to attend all meetings
Host a community wide event or meeting

Connect and Communicate

Host a community wide meeting, the purpose of which may be to present the idea of forming a neighbourhood association to the broader community and to gain interest and support from other residents. This is an opportunity to find out what residents like about their neighbourhood and ideas they may have that would enhance the overall quality of life. 

Activity: Meeting (the format for the meeting can vary but could include)

  • Open house style get-together
  • Round table discussions
  • Flip charts throughout the room with different ideas or topics on that people can discuss or write comments on
  • Town-hall type facilitated sessions

Ideas generated from this meeting may act as a starting point for the association when determining the group’s goals and action plans going forward. This is also a good time to engage the businesses and schools or churches in the neighbourhood as they have a vested interest in the community as well. A key outcome of this first event is to collect names and contact information of people who are interested in supporting a neighbourhood association.

Ignite and Invite

Host an opportunity for people in your neighbourhood to come together for a shared purpose. 

Activity: Socialize

  • Host a conversation café, block party, neighbourhood celebration, or get to know your neighbour potluck. The most important thing to remember is to make it fun for people to get together.

Share Strengths and Successes

Find out more about the people in your area, their strengths, and passions. Celebrate differences, recognize that everyone has something to contribute, and focus on the strengths within your neighbourhood. Ask, “what are you passionate about?”

Activity: Explore your Neighbourhood

  • Identify people, groups, organizations, and institutions from as many of the areas as you can. Call it a scavenger hunt and learn about what is in your neighbourhood. The focus should be on what assets already exist in your community, not what is missing. Ask yourself what can be built upon, not where there are gaps.
Establish committees/working groups

With all the great ideas that will be generated from your neighbourhood planning activities, there may be a need for groups that can get to work on making those ideas a reality. Some neighbourhood associations work well when divided into committees. Committees also allow for more community members to contribute without being on the board. The committees will often match up with the various priority areas identified by the board during planning. The core group or board should be responsible for determining what those committees are, assigning a budget to each (if appropriate), and outlining reporting requirements. 

Examples of committees and possible responsibilities:

  • Programs/Events: This committee could develop, deliver, and evaluate initiatives designed to bring the neighbourhood together.
  • Parks/Green Spaces: This committee could organize neighbourhood clean-ups. They might work to support a community garden or enhanced landscaping.
  • Fund Development: This committee could seek out grants that support the realization of the vision of the association and be responsible for fundraising.
  • Board Recruitment: This committee could work to ensure representation from all areas of the neighbourhood, seek out people with required skills, as well as representation from all demographics (age, gender, culture, etc.).
  • Communications/Marketing: This committee would be responsible for creating and distributing newsletters, event advertising and maintaining an online presence like a Facebook page or website.

Recruiting Volunteers

Remember that not everyone will want to join the board, yet many people want to become actively involved in their neighbourhood. Create roles and opportunities for people to become involved in many different ways. People are busy so they like to know what is needed, the time it will take, and when the task begins and ends before they commit to it. Do not forget to include the youth and seniors in your neighbourhood as they can help out and contribute in many different ways. 

One of the unique and challenging things about neighbourhood associations is that they are constantly changing. Every year new members may join, and others may move on. High turnover is common in a volunteer-run organization. As members get to know each other, programs and initiatives will begin to grow. Take time each year to recognize the volunteers and reflect on the group’s accomplishments before beginning again.

*Tip: Neighbourhood Associations are all about connecting people and keeping them engaged, so make it fun. Why attend a meeting when you can attend a party!

Make your Neighbourhood Association thrive
Ask for help

One of the great strengths of a healthy association is that it reaches out to its membership. Encourage residents to get involved in different projects. Ask individuals for help; volunteers are less open to generic “Volunteer Needed” advertisements, but do respond when asked personally, or when the position is advertised very clearly so they know what to expect. By recruiting more volunteers you don’t need to bear all the work responsibility and your association becomes a way to accomplish tasks.

*Tip: You can advertise via social media (Facebook and Twitter), newsletters, social events, registration nights, programs, email lists, membership lists, and schools. 

Being courteous can defuse tense situations, build credibility, and create trust

Courtesy is always a good relationship builder, especially in situations where you feel frustrated or disappointed. Courtesy is an effective way of de-escalating emotional situations. If you are dealing with a heated group of residents, for example, listen, be pleasant, and take notes. Even if the solution is beyond your control, show that you are willing to listen, and it will build up their trust in you. 

Be enthusiastic

Building a strong sense of community can be fun and exciting, but it can also be hard to measure your successes. Effective leaders see the bigger picture and remain enthusiastic and forward thinking. At times, some community members may be displeased with what they are experiencing and express themselves negatively. Do not let them get you down, keep your enthusiasm, and share with someone you trust who can lend a helping hand. 


The basis of all good relationships is good communication. Seek creative ways to keep the lines of communication open between your leadership and membership. Use traditional newsletters, telephone contact lists, and door-to-door campaigns. Or share information via email, newsletters, or social media. The Medicine Hat Public Library offers internet access for those who do not have access at home. 

Create visual impact

Whether you are looking at a small project or a major event, remember the importance of making a change people can see. If you see an opportunity for your association to do something positive and visible, go for it! From neighbourhood clean-ups, community bulletin boards, to boulevard beautification in high traffic areas, you can make yourself known in the community. 

Recruit, train, mentor and delegate!

Sometimes it just seems easier to do things yourself, but by delegating tasks and sharing the workload, you will make your members feel they are part of the bigger picture. When you are delegating, do not forgot to include young people. Finding meaningful roles for youth and children in your community will ingrain a sense of community responsibility from a young age. Most volunteers leave positions because they are bored or lack meaningful work. Make sure you ask them what they are interested in, and then delegate! 

Plan short-term projects

Avoid burn-out (your own and others) by planning short-term successes. Having unrealistic goals is a common problem that leads to volunteer burn out. It stems from enthusiasm and the desire to do a good job but may lead to frustration and apathy. Your association can help itself by planning short-term projects. If your association is rebuilding or volunteer resources are limited, start with a small goal. If you have not been able to run programs, start with a one-off event and increase from there. Achieving this goal will give your group a sense of accomplishment and help keep volunteers interested. 

Promote accomplishments

Every neighbourhood has long-term issues, and it is easy to focus on all the things that still need doing. A strong neighbourhood association builds on all the great things - large and small - they have done. Don’t be shy about sharing or promoting the good work you are doing and all your accomplishments! 

Reflect diversity

Your association’s leadership should reflect the diversity of your community in terms of race, heritage, gender, and age. Ask people of different ages and backgrounds to get involved. Even though not everyone you ask will say yes, it is still important to ask and include these groups. Some residents will not have the time or inclination right then, but knowing they were asked will mean a lot and it leaves the door open for future involvement.

Tap residents' skills

Employees at work are referred to as “human resources.” Each person has talents and skills (resources) that can benefit an organization if properly applied. The same holds true for your association. Make sure you know your residents’ skills, and recruit volunteers with experience in event promotion, bookkeeping, computers, coaching, teaching, governance, and leadership.

Make meetings fun

Neighbours come out to meetings and events because they are meaningful and because they enjoy themselves, meet people, and have fun. Attendee satisfaction is a priority and ensuring you have laughs at the meeting is a great way to make people feel welcome and break the ice. 

Thank and reward volunteers

An “attitude of gratitude” not only maintains the interest and encourages participation of your current members it encourages them to invite friends, neighbours, and colleagues to get involved. Take every opportunity to thank the people who volunteer their time and talents.

Maintain member interest

Keeping your neighbours interested and involved in the neighbourhood association is an ongoing challenge, one you share with many other neighbourhood and non-profit organizations. Here are helpful tips from other organizations.

  • Be realistic in your expectations. Your neighbours have jobs, families, and other priorities that may impact their participation.
  • Focus on a few projects. Juggling too many projects may frustrate or weaken your volunteer resources.
  • Set attainable goals. Include a timeline and identify individual and/or committee responsibilities.
  • Celebrate your successes. Ensure you recognize successes by advertising them.
  • Publicly recognize members. Remember to recognize volunteers for their efforts.
  • Incorporate fun into your meetings or projects. Humour helps too! Think outside the box to ensure meetings are not boring.
  • Ask specific neighbours to get involved. You never know who is willing to help until you ask.
  • Find out what is important to specific members. Try to get them involved in committees or projects involving their interests and skills.
  • Delegate important tasks and assignments. Let your committees do their work and respect their decisions.
  • Publicize meetings well in advance. It helps to list some of the topics you will be discussing in an agenda or on the website.
  • Start and finish meetings on time. Respect the time and commitment of members attending the meeting.
  • Keep meetings to the point. Summarize results of decisions at the end of the meeting so members leave with a sense of accomplishment.
  • Keep the community informed. Use the website or social media to advertise and share news.
  • Organize social functions. Bring neighbours together by holding events, delegate organization to a special committee.
  • Be responsive. If members raise questions or concerns, respond as quickly as possible.
  • Involve youth. Getting kids involved in neighbourhood programs and events is good for them. It is also a great way to get parents more involved.
  • Provide useful information.
  • Say thank you. Always thank volunteers for their participation and leadership.
Learn, celebrate and tell your story

As the neighbourhood association hosts events or works on projects take the time to reflect and appreciate all that has been accomplished.  Share it with others and inspire more people in your neighbourhood to become involved in making a better place to live, work, and play!

Determine how to keep the momentum going.  Share your stories through words and pictures.  Your story should inspire and energize others to get involved.  Stories capture attention, build credibility, establish rapport, and bring people closer together.  Decide how to best share these stories – through a newsletter, Facebook page, or maybe a community celebration.

Apply for society status (optional)

Community members who have expressed interest in being a part of the neighbourhood association may want to begin the paperwork to apply as a society.  Five individuals are required to sign the documents and do not need to have identified positions on the board executive at this point.  This is usually completed at the first AGM once bylaws have been agreed upon.

What is a society?

A society is an incorporated group of five or more people who share a common recreational, cultural, scientific, or charitable interest. The Societies Act regulates societies incorporated in Alberta.

Why become a society?

Although a group does not need to incorporate, there are several advantages to formally incorporating as a society.  One key advantage is that incorporation releases members from being held personally responsible for the debts or actions of the association.  Other advantages include:

  • Access to grants, funding, and fundraising opportunities
  • Provincial recognition as a formal society
  • Group insurance and liability coverage
  • Not-for-profit banking status
  • The ability to enter into legal contracts
  • The ability to purchase or own property
  • Members of societies may not be held responsible for the debts of the society.
  • The public's perception of a society is that an incorporated group has a more formal, permanent status than an unincorporated group.

Note: Societies may not incorporate primarily to carry on a trade or business.

Incorporating as a society

How do I incorporate a society?
 Choose a name
  • Your society’s name must not be the same, or similar to, any other society or corporation's name.
  • A society name is made up of three parts, or elements, all of which must be present in the name but not in any particular order. Those elements are distinctive element, descriptive element, legal element.
    • Here is an example of a society name that contains all three elements: John Smith White Water Rafting Memorial Foundation.   
    • The 'distinctive element' of a name is a unique word or location that makes the society’s name different from others. In our example, the distinctive element is 'John Smith'.
    • The 'descriptive element' of a name describes what the society is or does. In our example, the descriptive element is 'White Water Rafting Memorial'.
    • The 'legal element' of a society name must be one of the following words:
      • Society
      • Association
      • Club
      • Fellowship
      • Guild
      • Foundation
      • Institute
      • League
      • Committee
      • Council
      • Board
      • Centre
      • Bureau
  • In our example, the legal element is 'Foundation'.
 Get a NUANS Report
  • Corporate Registry will examine this report to determine whether your group can use the name you have chosen.
  • If you choose to have a name that is similar to another name, you will need to obtain written permission from the other group to use the similar name.
 Complete the forms
  • Complete the Application to Form a Society (online pdf available).
    • You must include the society's objects (objectives, purpose)
      • The objects must be non-profit in nature; the society cannot be formed for the purpose of carrying on a trade or business.
  • Make sure that at least five people sign the application and that their signatures are witnessed.
  • Complete the society bylaws form.
    • The bylaws set out the way the society is organized and the rules surrounding its activities (e.g., rights and responsibilities of members, meetings, appointment of directors.)
    • You can use the standard bylaw template provided or you can create your own bylaws.
      • If you create your own bylaws, you must make sure they deal with all the issues referred to in the standard bylaws.
      • Complete a Notice of Address form.
      • Complete the Request for Services form
 Send the forms and fee ($50) to Corporate Registry
  • Send two copies of your application, bylaws, and address forms, along with a copy of the NUANS report.
  • Cheques must be payable to “Government of Alberta” or if paying in person credit cards may be accepted.
  • Your information will be examined to ensure it meets the requirements of the Societies Act.
    • If the requirements are met, a certificate of incorporation will be sent to you.

Corporate Registry Office Mailing Address:

Corporate Registry
Service Alberta
Box 1007 Station Main
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4W6


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