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A community trust is a 501c3 organization with a locally-based mission to revitalize and sustain resilient and vibrant rural communities. Community trusts respond to needs identified by the community, coordinate with available resources and partners, and pool funds together to help fund community-driven projects. These Trusts serve a variety of needs, often with a focus on supporting local community development, historic preservation, or small-scale housing.

How does a Community Trust work?

A community trust has a board of directors that govern the trust and has the responsibility of managing funds, both donations and grants. The board of directors will be involved in other aspects of specific projects as well, including: 

  • Supporting fundraising efforts to help acquire buildings or sites and contributing to  revitalization projects 
  • Seeking grant funding to support trust projects (possibly with the support of a grant writer and/or project manager)
  • Supporting the predevelopment and implementation phases of projects (in collaboration with project managers, technical assistance providers, funding sources, and contractors)
  • Seeking operators, occupants, or collaborators (some Community Trusts operate the spaces themselves and others manage the spaces occupied by others)
  • Planning for the ongoing maintenance, repairs, and operating costs once building rehabilitation is completed and meeting new challenges as they emerge
  • Crafting and executing the vision and mission of the Trust and its projects

A community trust board membership may ebb and flow over time, accounting for the strengths and interests of each member and the current needs of the organization/projects. While there may be membership changes, the trust itself is intended to be a long lasting organization that continues to steward its original project and take on future community projects.

How do I start a Community Trust?

Community Trusts start with community interest and investment. Typically, a small group of dedicated individuals band together around a goal. Sometimes the goal is sparked by an urgent pressing need, like the closing of a general store. Other times it starts with an identified need and thinking about how to meet that need through a physical space. Other communities have a space and are working out how to best utilize it. Projects are varied and could include: the revitalization of a general store, the creation of a community center, improvement of accessibility of an old town hall, or renovation of a large historic home into village-scale affordable housing. There are many possibilities.

When the group is ready to formalize and start raising funds to support their project, they begin the process of becoming an official 501(c)3 entity. Here are the steps involved: How to Form a 501c3

Who should be on the Community Trust Board?

A Community Trust board should include community members with a mixture of perspectives and skill sets: accounting, funding and finance, legal, architecture, engineering, historic preservation, community organizing and engagement, connecting with underserved populations, local history, project management, marketing and communications, and business planning.

Why a Community Trust model for community revitalization?

A Community Trust is a nimble tool for taking on community revitalization projects. The formation of a trust provides a collaborative, sustainable, and locally-driven approach to small community revitalization which allows residents the opportunity to shape their own future. Some benefits of this model include:

  • Local leadership and capacity building: by involving local leaders in the formation and operation of the trust, this model helps to build the capacity, outside of the municipality, to take on revitalization projects. This can help to build local skills and social capital, and builds local pride and ownership in projects that the trust takes on. Local leadership ensures that projects meet the unique needs of the community and helps to preserve the character and identity of the town. 
  • Flexibility and adaptability: Trusts are adaptable to changing circumstances and can evolve over time to meet shifting community needs. This ensures the longevity of the building and the capacity itself, but allows the group to respond to shifting economic conditions, business closures, demographic shifts, or other unexpected changes.
  • Partnership building: Community trusts often bring together local residents with businesses, non-profits, funders, or other partners to accomplish projects. These collaborations can leverage additional resources, expertise, and support to maximize the impact of revitalization initiatives.

What are some examples of Vermont Community Trusts projects?

Here are some examples of projects that Community Trusts have taken on in Vermont. They are all unique and experienced their own challenges (and wins!). All of them continue to support the vitality of Vermont’s smallest communities, bringing a sense of welcome and connection to those who live and visit there.

Rupert Village Trust, Sheldon General Store & Community Center: Community | Rupert Village Trust | Rupert

East Calais Community Trust, East Calais General Store: East Calais General Store History — East Calais Community Trust

Albany Community Trust: Albany General Store: Albany VT ( 

Elmore Community Trust: The Elmore Store

Fund for North Bennington: The Left Bank and other projects

Woodstock Community Trust: East End Park – Woodstock Community Trust While this group focused on the creation of a park space, their model and method follows that of Community Trusts that take on transformational building projects. The Village Trust Initiative is focused on the revitalization of Vermont’s village clusters and the built environment. We are sharing this example to outline how the Community Trust works rather than the type of project this organization implemented.

Barnard Community Trust: Barnard Community Trust & Barnard General Store | Community of Barnard, Vermont

Peacham Community Housing: Peacham Cafe The Peacham Café was founded by a group of community members who felt that Peacham needed a place to gather, share a meal, and buy staples and local vegetables.  A local non-profit, Peacham Community Housing, owned a suitable building, and the group incorporated as a for-profit subsidiary of PCH, to enable it to manage a cafe facility.  The LLC worked for 2 years to complete a workable plan, overcoming obstacles such as wastewater disposal, historic preservation of the building, permitting, and many others.” Once a workable plan was in place, the group raised funds to renovate and fit out the space.  

Friends of Vernon Center: About FVC | Governor Hunt House

Putney Historical Society: Putney General Store

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