By George Foster, CEO, Foster Marketing
A Guide to Kick Start Your Community Relations Efforts
With cutting costs and bolstering the bottom line topping the agenda for most companies, the idea of launching a community relations campaign may not be greeted with a flood of enthusiasm at the corporate level. Just the mention of community relations could trigger visions of dollars flying out the door to top executives and financial types.
Mentioned in many mission statements, there is often something about making a difference or serving the community. But how do you make this goal a reality when money is tight?
Investments of the non-monetary variety can help create and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship between a company and its community. Investing time in the communities where you do business builds trust and establishes a reputation of reliability. Plus, it’s just human nature to want to work with those who are doing good things for others.
So, if you could put a price tag on the value of trust, how much would you pay for it? If you are a company that depends on relationship building to make a sale (who doesn’t — particularly in the energy sector), of course you’d pay top dollar.
How you choose to support the community, whether individually or corporately, tells your community and future customers something about the culture and values of your company. Considering this list of questions will help you pinpoint a cause and give you a starting point.
1. What is important to your employees?
Ask employees what matters to them. Choosing a cause that employees want to be a part of can help build a sense of camaraderie and jump start teamwork in the office. If the cause strikes a chord with employees, they will take a vested interest and the initiative to become actively involved.
2. What is important in your community?
Take the time to scope out your local community calendar to get familiar with what is happening around you. Take note of what’s being done and what’s not. Jumping on an already busy bandwagon often leaves other truly needy groups in the dust. Be cognizant that some charities or causes might need your help more than others.
3. How much time can you give?
Create a list of potential local charities and causes and make some calls. Determining how much time you are able to give and the demands of the schedule can help narrow the list.
4. Is this in the budget?
Even if a limited budget doesn’t allow for big donations, use your time and talents to help in the community. Remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Consider organizing a drive to collect school supplies, winter coats, items for soldiers or host a blood drive. Don’t rule out the possibility of partnering with other local businesses or a community group. Call your favorite local restaurant or a cooking group. They could share your desire to help and offer to cater an event. If you have a hefty budget set aside for sponsoring community events, hosting a celebrity golf tournament for a charity might be more up your alley.
No stress, just long-term gains
Don’t stress yourself out! Keep in mind why you are getting involved and just have fun! Community service is all about giving back to increase the quality of life for those around you. Investing in your community is like investing in a long-term relationship; the longer you are involved, the more history you create and trust is built.
Beyond feeling good about having an impact in your community, long-term gains in teamwork and employee morale can be realized. Working together to reach goals in a stress-free environment can do wonders for a company’s sense of teamwork.
Volunteering is contagious and volunteers tend to travel in packs. Once a core group of involved employees is in place, you can focus on making the effort enjoyable. Add an element of fun by incorporating a friendly competition. For example, who can collect the most donations or rack up the most volunteer hours? Salute the winner with recognition or a gift card to a local restaurant.
Opportunities to get involved are pretty much limitless and include supporting community cultural efforts; helping the needy; sharing your time with children; providing educational supplies; and much, much more. Now, how you will choose to impact your community?
Through the years Foster Marketing has worked with several companies and organizations to make their community relations efforts a success by providing research, planning, creative resources, event coordination and public relations support to help them succeed.
Foster Marketing employees are networked in all types of organizations, from endowing scholarships to helping kids to supporting athletic programs. The key is to get going. As someone once said, “if you’re going to hunt with the big dogs, you have to get off the porch.”