How to be a community organizer

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Working as a Community Organizer

Community organizers build a group of people or institutions to work toward a common goal through collective action. They unite people to work together to solve social problems and make the world a better place. They also encourage members to participate in fundraising, recruitments, and management to consolidate the position of the company they work for. Community organizers earn an average salary of $40,000 annually or $19 per hour.

Community organizers, also known as community mobilization specialists, are responsible for developing and coordinating programs designed to promote the organization and its services to the community and the target population. They promote activities and services through various forms of media and may be in charge of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training volunteer workers.

In terms of academic qualifications, community organizers typically hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social justice, social work, sociology, and other related fields. However, formal training is not a basic requirement to be a community organizer. Prospective candidates are strongly advised to volunteer with social organizations in order to get the lay of the land before venturing into the field of community organizing.

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to being a community organizer. For example, did you know that they make an average of $19.29 an hour? That’s $40,116 a year!

What Does a Community Organizer Do

There are certain skills that many community organizers have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed communication skills, compassion and interpersonal skills.

When it comes to the most important skills required to be a community organizer, we found that a lot of resumes listed 11.2% of community organizers included community outreach, while 10.6% of resumes included community members, and 6.3% of resumes included community leaders. Hard skills like these are helpful to have when it comes to performing essential job responsibilities.

How To Become a Community Organizer

If you’re interested in becoming a community organizer, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We’ve determined that 52.5% of community organizers have a bachelor’s degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 24.8% of community organizers have master’s degrees. Even though most community organizers have a college degree, it’s possible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Choosing the right major is always an important step when researching how to become a community organizer. When we researched the most common majors for a community organizer, we found that they most commonly earn bachelor’s degree degrees or master’s degree degrees. Other degrees that we often see on community organizer resumes include associate degree degrees or high school diploma degrees.

You may find that experience in other jobs will help you become a community organizer. In fact, many community organizer jobs require experience in a role such as internship. Meanwhile, many community organizers also have previous career experience in roles such as volunteer or sales associate.

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There are no strict degree requirements for becoming a community organizer, but most employers require at least a high school diploma or GED certificate. Qualifications such as a bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field are common in social work and public health. In addition to relevant experience, community organizers should have exceptional communication and interpersonal skills, time management abilities, and project planning expertise. The ability to create engaging presentations and relate to your clients and community is also helpful.

Table of Contents

  • What Does a Community Organizer Do?
  • How to Be a Good Community Organizer
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How to be a community organizer

A community organizer is someone who works to empower a community of individuals, such as the residents of a specific area, low-income citizens of a city, people who suffer from a particular illness, or individuals who work in a specific field. Many community organizers focus on low to moderate income individuals, and they have an interest in social justice issues. The goal of most community organizers is to get a community to work together to achieve a common desire, whether that desire is something like municipal garbage collection, the right to vote, or unionization.

Most community organizers belong to organizations or churches. For example, many Quaker churches have outreach programs which include community organizers. A community organizer works in the office to gather information about the community and to collect data which could be useful, and he or she also works in the streets, talking directly with members of the community, organizing meetings, and promoting community empowerment. Ideally, a community organizer wants to turn responsibility over to members of the community: he or she is just there to get the ball rolling.

Community organizers also network with a wide range of organizations. For example, a community organizer working with low-income HIV/AIDS patients might work with the Department of Public Health and social services agencies to get more care and services to people who need them. Community organizers are often skilled diplomats, as they must represent the views of the community they are supporting to government agencies and other local groups.

Many cities have a long history of community organizing, and community organizing is often a vital part of civil rights movements. Community organizing is hard work. Not all members of a community are open to being organized and encouraged to speak for themselves as a collective, and therefore a great deal of field work, often door-to-door, is involved. Community organizers must get a community mobilized and fired up about a cause and keep the community focused.

No formal training is required to be a community organizer. Most community organizers come from a background of study in social justice issues, social services, and sociology, and an interest in promoting safe, healthy, happy communities definitely helps. Many organizations which do community organizing offer training which includes workbooks and mentoring for people who want to become community organizers, and many community organizers start out as volunteers in such organizations, getting the lay of the land before they start their own careers.

Community organizing is also not terribly profitable. Community organizers rely on income from grant money and donations to support their work, and their pay is often minimal. The reward for a community organizer is watching a community develop the tools it needs to take charge.

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

How to be a community organizerMary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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We want to hear from you! Leave us a note in the comments and tell us what’s on your mind, what you’re doing to keep your spirits up, and how you and your community are coping during these uncertain times.

Minneapolis and St. Paul lead the nation in parks. But tens of thousands of Twin Cities residents still don’t have a park within a 10-minute walk of home. In the city’s Midway neighborhood, kids growing up in St. Paul’s Skyline Tower resorted to playing soccer in the narrow hallways between apartments. Almost ten years ago, Midway residents hatched an ambitious plan to transform a sea of vacant lots across the street from the tower into a brand new city park.

Our Twin Cities team has been working alongside Midway residents and students to bring that plan to life, and we’re looking forward to celebrating the grand opening of Midway Peace Park later this year. Meanwhile, the network of neighbors who organized to create this park is sticking together and helping each other navigate broader challenges.

We sat down with community organizer Aamina Mohamed, our Americorps Public Ally in the Twin Cities, to learn about how rallying people for parks can strengthen communities, even before the park opens to the public.

How to be a community organizerAamina Mohamed is an Americorps community organizer in our Twin Cities office. Photo credit: Joshua Kissi

Big picture, what does a community organizer do?

Organizing is all about getting people headed in a direction toward some sort of change—whether it’s building momentum behind a political campaign to change who represents you, or catalyzing your own community to advocate directly for what you need. That can mean organizing meetings, showing up at community events, or going door-to-door. As a digital organizer, I’ve even helped create a hashtag that went viral. At The Trust for Public Land, we’re organizing for equity, climate justice, and health, through parks and public lands.

What are you working on?

These days I’m helping organize a stewardship group for Midway Peace Park, a new park in St. Paul that will open this summer. It’s next door to Skyline Tower, one of the largest affordable housing buildings in Minnesota. Almost ten years ago, Skyline residents started talking about parks in their neighborhood, because basically, there weren’t any. Meanwhile, these three big vacant parcels of land—about five acres in all—sat just across the street, fenced off and unused. Residents started asking, “Could we turn that space into a park?”

How to be a community organizerSkyline Tower was once surrounded by fenced-off vacant lots. We helped the City of St. Paul acquire five acres of open space, and have worked with the community to transform the land into a new city park. Photo credit: The Trust for Public Land

What has The Trust for Public Land’s role been?

The community identified the need, and The Trust for Public Land got involved to bring our resources and expertise to help meet the need. We raised money to buy vacant land and transfer it to the city, and have led a five-year participatory design process, to make sure the park reflects the priorities of the people who first dreamed it up. Now, after a decade of organizing, neighbors are so excited: there will be a walking path, a stream, an amphitheater, and the biggest slide I’ve ever seen! But the thing I’ve heard from the most people is what a big deal it will be to have a safe, shared place where people can meet their neighbors.

Why did you come to organize for parks and nature?

I grew up in a low-income refugee community in Washington State, right on a highway, with nowhere near enough access to parks and nature. I know what it’s like to not have that source of relaxation, that place to imagine or play or just take a break from the stress of your daily life. Now, I want to help people who come from communities like mine overcome those barriers and have their own connection with nature.

Why are parks and public land important to you?

I’m passionate about land justice—in America, decisions about how we use land and who has access to it are at the foundation of society. As someone who’s been displaced multiple times throughout my life, I’ve always been looking for a genuine connection to the land—and as I’ve grown up and expanded my horizons, that’s only become more important.

How to be a community organizerWe’re creating connections to nature for all people in the Twin Cities. Frogtown Park and Farm in St. Paul. Photo credit: Hunt + Capture Photography

What skills do you bring as an organizer?

Sometimes I feel like I’m a detective. All day I’m out talking to people, asking questions, listening, gathering perspectives, and improving my understanding of the community I’m representing, and how I can best support them—or if I can’t, I’ll try to connect them with someone who can. A good organizer is a collaborator who helps put the pieces together, and keeps their community’s needs at the center.

What do you like about being an organizer?

The humanity of it all. It’s a very emotionally engaged job: every day I’m asking for people’s trust and for them to share their experiences with me. That ability to be vulnerable makes it so rewarding. If I’m doing it right, I can offer resources, or connections to resources, that will help people thrive.

Community Organizer Salary

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How much does a Community Organizer make in the United States? The average Community Organizer salary in the United States is $37,371 as of March 29, 2021, but the range typically falls between $31,808 and $43,143. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession. With more online, real-time compensation data than any other website, Salary.com helps you determine your exact pay target.

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Percentile Salary Location Last Updated
10th Percentile Community Organizer Salary $26,744 US March 29, 2021
25th Percentile Community Organizer Salary $31,808 US March 29, 2021
50th Percentile Community Organizer Salary $37,371 US March 29, 2021
75th Percentile Community Organizer Salary $43,143 US March 29, 2021
90th Percentile Community Organizer Salary $48,398 US March 29, 2021

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Community organizing, method of engaging and empowering people with the purpose of increasing the influence of groups historically underrepresented in policies and decision making that affect their lives.

Community organizing is both a tactic to address specific problems and issues and a longer-term engagement and empowerment strategy. Longer-term objectives of community organizing are to develop the internal capabilities and to increase the decision-making power and influence of underrepresented groups.

Community organizing is often a place-based activity, used in low-income and minority neighbourhoods. It is also used among common interest-based “communities” of people, such as new immigrant groups, who have limited participation and influence in decision making that affects their lives.

In community organizing, members of communities are organized to act collectively on their shared interests. Saul Alinsky is commonly recognized as the founder of community organizing. Alinsky emerged as a community organizer in the second half of the 1930s. His thinking about organizing was strongly influenced by the militant labour movement in the United States emerging at the time. Alinsky’s approach emphasized democratic decision making, the development of indigenous leadership, the support of traditional community leaders, addressing people’s self-interest, use of conflict strategies, and fighting for specific and concrete results. In the late 1960s and the 1970s many liberals and liberal-leaning foundations embraced his method of community organizing as an alternative to the radical activism and rebellion occurring at the time in U.S. cities.

The focus of Alinsky-type organizing is on strengthening the internal ties among people sharing similar values and interests. Working mainly through established organizational networks, such as churches, these efforts mobilize residents for actions that confront powerful people and institutions in an effort to get them to act differently. In conflict organizing, strong internal community ties are thought to be sufficient to empower people and effect change. In practice, some conflict organizers explicitly reject developing associations with those in power, for fear of having group members coopted when they share responsibilities with people in advantaged positions.

An alternative approach to conflict-based community organizing is the consensus approach. Consensus organizing emerged in the last decade of the 20th century. In contrast to conflict organizing, consensus organizing pays attention to the development of strong and weak ties—namely, both the nurturing of internal cooperation among communities of interest and the creation of working relationships with those who have power and influence. The goal is to create new organizations and leaders that are more broadly rooted, with an emphasis on establishing new positive linkages to government and other decision-influencing institutions.

Job Summary:

ACORN organizers build power for working class people!

They go door-to-door, block-to-block, city-to-city, listening to community residents’ concerns, and connecting what they want to see changed to effective mass-based action. Organizing protests, developing campaigns, listening, and working closely with our membership.

Of course, COVID-19 has changed this a bit. We do more phone calls now to our extensive lists, have developed digital strategies to build those lists, and are doing more street canvassing and petitioning in the neighbourhoods we are organizing in.

No experience required, BUT applicants must be interested in fighting for economic and social justice in Canada and be able to explain that in a quick cover letter. Do not apply without a cover letter.

What is ACORN?

We are a tenants’ union. We are a disability action union. We are a worker’s union. We are a consumer’s union. We are whatever our members are. Our members pay dues so that the organization can be sustainable and not dependent on outside funding from labour, government, or foundations. Each dues member has a vote, and only members speak for the organization. Our members get elected board of directors and have the authority to set the policy and determine the tactics of the union.

ACORN is a multi-issue, mass based union of low-to-moderate income people. The purpose of the union is to give low-to-moderate income people power so that they have the ability to have their voices effectively heard at the highest levels in the country. With chapters across the region, province, and across the country, ACORN is able to be both a local-based union winning local campaigns, as well as a large organization combining forces to fight national corporations and governments that are at the root of most of our problems.

Job description:

The job of an ACORN organizer is to build formal groups of working class people so they can disrupt and change the systems that negatively impact their community.

The on the job training provided allows someone to learn all elements of running an organization, as well as fundamentals on how to be a community organizer. This includes effective outreach, strategic research, campaign planning, communications, organizing events and actions, getting press to cover our actions and campaigns, and both internal and external fundraising.

The successful applicant will be joining an exciting staff team at the BC ACORN office, and working with organizers across Canada, as well as the USA, France, and the UK.

The current priorities laid out by ACORN’s leadership are:

Housing Campaigns:

– Surrey Stand Up for Housing (stop displacement and healthy homes).

– Provincial Vacancy Control and COVID Rent Freeze campaigns

Raise the Rates

– Permanent extension of the $300 per month COVID emergency benefit

Internet for All

– Force Shaw Cable to provide $10 High Speed Internet for low income people

– This year our campaign forced Telus to provide $10 internet to all people on disability and social assistance in Alberta and BC.

ACORN has been central to winning groundbreaking tenant relocation policies in Burnaby and New Westminster that effectively stop the mass renovictions and demovictions. The organizers job will be to help our leadership expand on these successes.

Responsibilities and Duties

  • Work with ACORN leaders to expand both our local fights against tenant displacement, renovictions, and demovictions, as well as the larger provincial fights for Real Rent Control and COVID Rent Freeze.
  • Work with our staff trainers in BC and Ontario on a day to day basis.
  • 42.5 hours per week – working in afternoons and evenings Monday through Friday.
  • Fundraising and asking for money is a fundamental part of an organizer’s job. We are structured like a union: ACORN members pay membership dues.
  • Willing and able to travel to training, and staff meetings (some outside of Canada). **COVID has drastically changed our travel***
  • Dealing with multiple tasks in the same day – flexibility and resilience are keys to success.
  • Representing the organization in the neighbourhoods, as well as with our leadership at external meetings or events (allies or targets).

Qualifications and Skills

  • Have strong social and people skills.
  • Be willing to work in a team setting that you are sometimes leading, and sometimes following.
  • Ability to listen in order identify issues that are affecting our constituency.
  • No paid experience required; professional organizer training provided
  • Base compensation is $34,523 annually + transportation allowance (approx $75 per mo) + phone allowance ($20 per mo)
  • Health benefits and RRSP retirement program included after 6 months.

Job Summary:

ACORN organizers build power for working class people!

They go door-to-door, block-to-block, city-to-city, listening to community residents’ concerns, and connecting what they want to see changed to effective mass-based…

  • Full Time
  • Alberta
  • Posted 3 weeks ago
  • ACORN Canada

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To apply for this job email your details to [email protected]

Overview

Job Summary:

ACORN Canada, the nationwide community union of low-to-moderate income people, is getting organized in Calgary and is hiring its first paid full time organizer.

ACORN organizers build power for working class people!

They do direct outreach, listen to community residents’ concerns, and connect what they want to see changed to effective mass-based action. Organizing protests, developing campaigns, coordinating communications and research, and most important building a powerful group in Alberta!

No experience required, BUT applicants must be interested in fighting for economic and social justice in Canada and be able to explain that in a quick cover letter. Do not apply without a cover letter.

What is ACORN?

ACORN is a multi-issue, mass based union of low-to-moderate income people. ACORN’s purpose is to give low-to-moderate income people the power needed to have their voices effectively heard at the highest levels in the country. ACORN is able to be both a local-based union winning local campaigns, as well as a large scale organization combining forces to fight national corporations and governments that are at the root of most of our problems.

We are a tenants’ union. We are a disability action union. We are a worker’s union. We are a consumer’s union. We are whatever our members are. Our members pay dues so that the organization can be sustainable and not dependent on outside funding from government, corporations, or foundations. Each dues member has a vote, and only members speak for the organization. Our members get elected to our board of directors and set our policy and help determine the tactics.

Job description:

The job of an ACORN organizer is to build formal groups of low-to-moderate income people so they can disrupt and change the systems that negatively impact their community.

The on the job training provided allows someone to learn all elements of running an organization, as well as fundamentals on how to be a community organizer. This includes effective outreach, strategic research, campaign planning, communications, organizing events and actions, getting press to cover our actions and campaigns, and both internal and external fundraising.

The successful applicant will be joining an exciting staff team at the ACORN Canada, and working with organizers across Canada and beyond.

The current priorities laid out by ACORN’s leadership are:

  • ACORN Canada’s Rein in the REITs Campaign
  • Expanding our groundbreaking Anti-Tenant Displacement campaigns into Alberta.
  • Winning Major Tenant Law Reform in Alberta
  • Ending predatory lending by pushing for federal and provincial regulations
  • Lowering Interest Rate Caps

Responsibilities and Duties

  • Work with ACORN leaders to expand both our and national campaigns. Calgary ACORN is new, but has an existing members and leader base.
  • Work with our national field director on a day to day basis to learn the basics of ACORN’s organizing methods and techniques.
  • 42.5 hours per week – working in afternoons and evenings Monday through Friday.
  • Fundraising and asking for money is a fundamental part of an organizer’s job. We are structured like a union: ACORN members pay membership dues. While this is not the entire job, it’s fundamental that organizers sign up members and can ask for money.
  • Willing and able to travel to training, and staff meetings (some outside of Canada). **COVID has drastically changed our travel***
  • Dealing with multiple tasks in the same day – flexibility and resilience are keys to success.
  • Representing the organization in the neighbourhoods, as well as with our leadership at external meetings or events (allies or targets).

Qualifications and Skills

  • No paid experience required; professional organizer training provided
  • Have strong social and people skills.
  • Be self driven and the ability to work both independently but also follow direction.
  • Ability to listen in order identify issues that are affecting our people.

Base compensation is $34,764.67 annually + transportation allowance (approx $75 per mo) + phone allowance ($20 per mo)
Health benefits, five paid sick days, and RRSP retirement program included after 6 months.

To Apply: Email resume and cover letter to: [email protected]

To apply for this job email your details to [email protected]

About ACORN Canada

ACORN Canada is a multi-issue, membership-based community union of low- and moderate-income people. We believe that social and economic justice can best be achieved by building community power for change. Each member has a vote, and only members speak for the organization and have the authority to set the policy and determine the tactics of each group.