How many times has this happened? You’re sitting in a meeting talking about ways to improve the business and someone says, “Hey, we should do something in our community – you know, to help folks out.” Heads bob up and down in agreement.
Then … nothing.
No one really knows what step to take next. The default becomes choosing to support something everyone else does simply because it’s popular. But that’s not very strategic, and it certainly isn’t going to help you stand out from the crowd.
I am going to provide two successful examples from companies – one small and one large – that perhaps will offer you some inspiration.
A local plumbing and heating company was looking for ways to really connect with its community. Donations, charity work and other options were considered, but then they thought about their real audience – the families in the neighborhoods closest to their base of operation. Thus, instead of joining a larger cause, they created something of their own.
Each month, this company awards a community grant of $1,000 to a local nonprofit or school. Those interested in being considered for the grant fill out an online form, and recipients are selected at random. It’s a great way to support the community while at the same time gather valuable data that can be used for future marketing.
At the other end of the spectrum is a major food provider. This company had previously taken some very large and public steps to address the issue of food insecurity in the United States. But its representatives wanted to make a lasting impact on hunger in one particularly hard-hit part of the country.
Partnering with a well-known area food bank and a national nonprofit with a significant member base in the affected area, the company spearheaded the creation of a pair of community health fairs that centered on nutrition. These fairs involved nearly 175 volunteers giving point-of-service health screenings, providing nutritional advice and demonstrating easy ways to stay fit. Nearly 800 people attended – a noteworthy number for a first-year event.
So what makes these two community outreach programs successful? There are three things these programs – and others like them – have in common.
- The target audience is clearly defined and understood.
- The community outreach is relevant to the company’s product or service.
- The company has committed the time and financial resources necessary to see the program through to its conclusion.
This last point is particularly important because if an effort appears to be halfway executed, people become skeptical about an organization’s actual motives.
Engaging with your community can be highly rewarding for all involved. But in order for it to truly work, serious thought needs to be put into program development or the outcomes won’t ever meet expectations.
Have you or your company become involved in a community project? Tell us about it in the comments below, or tweet your responses to us using the hashtag #mcgblog.