Starting an Organization
The key to a successful Crime Stoppers organization is good planning. Organization planning includes all operational phases beginning with generalized planning and continues through implementation. A successful Crime Stoppers organization must have the interest and cooperation of the community, media, and law enforcement agencies.
It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel! Begin by connecting with certified Crime Stoppers organizations in neighboring communities. Those organizations have been through the startup process and are great resources. Arrange a meeting with an established organization. Bring questions. Ask questions. Solicit advice and opinions. Discuss. Take notes. Then plan the direction of the work.
Assemble an Interim Board of Directors
An Interim Board of Directors can be used to garner support for the organization. Talk to friends and acquaintances that might have an interest in serving the community. Some may want to stay involved for a longer period of time. From this initial group, a permanent Board of Directors can be established. The size of the Board can vary. It is helpful to begin with a civilian group of fifteen to twenty five individuals who have a broad range of community interests. Law Enforcement Officers may serve in an advisory role, as nonvoting Board members. This helps maintain the role of Crime Stoppers as a community organization. Board members are important. Members will be exposed to sensitive, confidential information and access to funds. Conduct a background check when an individual is asked to serve. The services of an attorney, an accountant, and a marketing person are invaluable assets. Do not invite elected officials or candidates for public office to serve on the Board.
Meet with the Chief of Police and the Sheriff
The roles of law enforcement are to investigate tips, provide case status feedback to the coordinator, and, when necessary, request more information. It is very helpful to have a written understanding of responsibilities and expectations. This document, as a minimum, should be reviewed annually. The law enforcement agency should internally and externally promote Crime Stoppers. This support increases organizational awareness and encourages investigators to utilize Crime Stoppers. It also provides a means for tipsters to anonymously provide crime solving information to law enforcement. This save time and money for law enforcement. Working together, a cooperation agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding, can be created to outline the responsibilities and expectation of each organization.
Register as a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization
- Check with the Office of the Texas Secretary of State to register a name.
- While checking on the name, look at the forms to create a Certificate of Formation.
- Apply to the Texas Comptroller for a Sales Tax Exemption.
- Apply to the IRS for an Employer Identification Number.
- File for a Federal Tax Exemption.
Create and Approve Bylaws and Procedures
Bylaws are the basic document by which Crime Stoppers organizations are managed. Since Bylaws define the operation of the organization, they should be established before operations are begun. Bylaws may include these sections: Purpose, Directors, Meetings, Officers, Committees, Nominations and Elections, Contributions and Depositories, Fiscal Year, Parliamentary Authority, and Amendments.
Solicit Donations, Organize a Fundraiser
The Interim Board of Directors should create an initial working budget. Consideration needs to be given to operational expenses and rewards. The Interim Board should be encouraged, regardless of amount, to donate. There will be expenses incurred in the establishment and creation of the organization. As with all businesses there will be fixed and variable costs. At the birth of the organization, an understanding should be developed that the organization will have multiple fundraisers during the course of the year. Eventually, if the organization seeks Certification, once approved, public funds become available. But, do not build an organization that is dependent on Court funds and fees. There are multiple reasons for that. Doing so decreases community awareness and support. Long story short: Ask lots of people and organizations to contribute to and support the Crime Stoppers organization.
Directors and Officers Insurance/Liability Insurance
The Board of Directors will determine the insurance needs of the organizations. It is best to solicit opinions and proposals from local insurance agents. Every non-profit should have Officers and Directors Liability insurance. Consideration should be given to a fidelity bond and property and liability insurance. The Texas Department of Insurance website is a good source of information: http://www.tdi.texas.gov/
Register for Crime Stoppers Training
The Texas Crime Stoppers hosts a series of training opportunities which provide training. Training is required for an organization which chooses to pursue Certification. Twice a year there are Texas Crime Stoppers conferences. Usually in February there is a student conference. In October there is an adult conference. Between those two conferences local training is hosted around the state. These are two day, 16 hour, basic Crime Stoppers courses which include information on operations, tip taking, marketing, fund raising, strategies and best practices. By invitation, members of the Texas Crime Stoppers Council and staff, will attend kick off meetings, board meetings, Board retreats and organizational events.
Apply for Certification by the Texas Crime Stoppers Council
The two types of Certification are Initial and Continued. Both types require the submission of an application with supporting documents. Applications, and supporting documents, are submitted to the Director of Texas Crime Stoppers. The Director works with the organization to assure that the requirements of Certification are complete. Once complete, the application is presented to the Texas Crime Stoppers Council by the Director. The Council votes to either approve or deny the application. Once approved, the Director sends a Certificate of Certification to the organization. At that point, the organization is able eligible to receive funds from the courts. The Certification is good for a period of two years.
Open an Operations Checking Account
The primary account for the organization is its operations or general funds account. These are funds raised by the organization from community donations. When donations are received which specify that the money is to be used to pay rewards, those funds are deposited in the operations account, with an accounting notation that the funds are to be used for rewards. If an organization is Certified it must have a second account designated as the “Rewards Account”. These are the funds received from the courts to be used to pay rewards. This account is mandated by statute (Section 414.010 Texas Government Code).
Certified organizations, annually, by January 31st, must complete a PFRR (Probation Fee and Repayment Report). The PFRR is the report to the Governor which details how the funds were utilized. The funds are subject to audit. The funds must be used to pay Rewards, but, an organization may take 20% to transfer to the operating or general account to cover the administrative costs of the organization.
Many Crime Stoppers programs have campus operations or receive funds with specific spending instructions. It is possible for an organization to have multiple checking accounts. Consult a banker or accountant to determine organization need.