nonprofit group weighs pros-cons
of operating without a paid director
Main Street Program
reinvents itself with new leaders
MADISON, Ind. (March 2005) Madisons
Main Street has long been a source of pride for the community and an
attraction for visitors from across the country. The Madison Main Street
Program, a team of residents, merchants, property owners and other interested
citizens, joins more than 1,200 communities across the country in the
common goal of revitalizing and promoting Americas historic
downtowns in order to maintain them as economically vibrant parts of
Like most non-profit organizations, the Madison Main Street
Program has experienced a range of ups and downs over the years. Emerging
from a time when there was little activity, a new Board of Directors
is enthusiastic about the programs continued success.
While the board is dedicated to the success of one of the oldest Main
Streets in the nation, these volunteers are currently running the program
with no full time director. The lack of a director or manager in place
to handle daily operations means that the program is missing a key element,
some say. The guidelines set by the National Main Street Association
require that a Main Street Program have a full-time director to qualify
as a certified Main Street Program.
A full-time staff person brings Main Street to the next level;
it enhances and strengthens the program, said Mark McConoghy,
Indiana State Main Street director.
Officials say that no matter how active a board or its volunteers, a
full-time director or manager is vital to the success of a Main Street
Program. It is like the fifth point on the four-point approach,
said Roger Stapleton, Main Street State coordinator with the state of
Kentucky. You need somebody day in and day out (working on Main
Street projects), or the board will get burnt out very quickly.
Having a paid executive director is definitely a program goal,
said board president Nancy Gruner. We could do a lot more with
a paid staff, however securing long-term funding for that person has
to come first.
Other officials say a director is so vital that Madison
needs to find a way to make it possible. Putting a full-time director
in place needs to be a priority because there is only so much a volunteer
is capable of, said Stapleton. A lot of things can slip
through the cracks when someone is not (attending to the program) daily.
A Main Street Program serves as a management program for the downtown
commercial district. A director and an office allows the program
to have a presence. Someone is there to answer questions. They serve
as a point of entry for new business and give the downtown a voice,
said Kim Franklin-Nyberg of Historic Madison Inc. She worked as the
Madison Main Street Program director from 1993 until 2000.
Local Main Street Programs run under the guidelines of the National
Main Street Program, a division of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The state and national programs serve as a framework from which local
programs can base their operations. We are independent from them,
but they give us a format to work through, and we do our best to follow
that, said Gruner.
The Main Street organization is unique in that the Board of Directors
are also volunteers, committee members and workers.
The program can operate without a director because of that,
said Nyberg. But a director adds to that the right tools and enthusiasm
and works with the board and the volunteers to make the program the
best it can be.
The Main Street Program is organized to receive one-third of its funding
from the city, one-third from fund raising and one-third from membership.
In order to operate at its best and be in a position to hire paid staff,
says Gruner, the community must get behind the program. Sponsorship
currently covers the costs of programs, such as Music in the Park and
others that the community enjoys. These events highlight Madisons
downtown as a fun and vibrant place to be, she said.
With or without a director, our ultimate goal is downtown revitalization
and maintaining a strong healthy downtown, said McConoghy. With
a new board in place, the members are still learning what each has to
We are in the process of working on goals, said Gruner.
There is a wealth of talent and a lot that we can do. People are
taking responsibility and taking on projects..
With no definite timeline for when a full-time director might be brought
on, Gruner says that a part-time administrative person or even an intern
are temporary options they are considering. The 2005 Madison Main Street
Program membership drive will begin in May.
There is potential for great membership in Madison, said
Nyberg. The Main Street Program does not just benefit its members.
When the downtown is thriving, the entire community benefits. As the
new Board of Directors puts programs in place and sets new goals, people
will see what they do and say yes, I like this, then they
will begin to jump on board and support the program.
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