Steps for Starting a CMI

Step #1
Do your homework. If you are passionate about starting a Community Marriage Initiative, you will need to do your homework so you can talk intelligently about the issue. Having passion is important, but you have to be able to back up your passion with facts.

What are the divorce stats for your community? How many children are born out of wedlock each year? Is fatherlessness an issue for your community? How does your community rate compared to similar communities across the country? What are the state statistics for these issues? What is happening nationally? There is a wealth of information and research about marriage and divorce available on the internet. You will need it in order to educate others about the issue and why they should come along side your efforts.

Meet with your government officials. Spend time getting to know your city, county and state officials. Help them to understand how issues such as divorce, fathering and out of wedlock pregnancies are affecting the community and adding additional financial strain to taxpayers. Let them know about your plan and how they can get involved.

Step #2
Find like-minded friends who are also passionate about building strong marriages. These will be folks who are willing to get out there and champion the cause with you. Share the information you have found with your friends so they can pass it on to others in their sphere of influence. This could be the beginning of a coalition of people who are willing to help you get this off the ground.

Begin compiling a database of individuals who will rally around the cause. You can begin collecting this information from directories, community organizations, friends who give you names of people, etc. Start communicating with them on a regular basis through a simple newsletter or email.

Step #3
Determine what is already happening in your community to strengthen marriage. There is no point in reinventing the wheel. You may have some great things happening in your community that are best kept secrets. Do your homework to find out if there are premarital education classes, marriage retreats, marriage enrichment classes, etc. being offered by churches, synagogues, agencies, counseling centers, etc.? How often and for how much?

Step #4
Develop a strategic plan for moving forward. You will need to think about goals and objectives and develop corresponding plans of action.

Step #5
Get to know your local media personalities and work with them to raise awareness about issues surrounding marriage/divorce and what you are doing. After you have a plan in place, consider holding a kickoff press conference.

Step #6
Develop a strategy for funding your initiative. This could be a seed grant from one foundation or corporate entity or it could be funding from several sources. To get an initiative going a beginning budget of $250,000 would be reasonable. If you have not investigated the requirements for obtaining your 501c3 status, you need to do so.

Step #7
Get Educated. There are many excellent marriage education curriculums you and your friends can be trained to teach. Get involved with organizations like Smart Marriages ( or Association for Marriage and Family Ministries ( These groups highlight and provide training for the best demonstrated practices across the country. They also help you get connected to other similar community initiatives across the country.

Step #8
Evaluation and Outcome Measures: To determine progress it will be important for you to have baseline data you can refer to. There are a number of surveys available to help you obtain data from your community (; Hamilton County Marriage Report, Barna Research). In many instances communities can partner with local institutions of higher learning to complete this task.

*From First Things First