Every business is part of a community—a community of employees, a community of clients and a community within your town, county and state. The question is, how does your business contribute to its greater community? Or is community involvement even necessary? I would argue that not only is community involvement important, it’s critical to your organization’s success.
Community involvement not only strengthens the giving-back culture we have here at CMA, it also sets our organization apart. We lead by example. Our company has a solid foundation in this community and we help others succeed through a variety of efforts.
If you would like to begin your own community involvement, first outline what you hope to achieve. What causes are important to you and what image does your organization want to portray? Would you like to be known for volunteerism, leadership or strategy? Set a goal and construct a tactical plan for achieving it. Plan the results you would like to achieve, and you will likely achieve more than expected.
Here are a few tips:
Partner for a good cause. Be aware of local events, charities and fundraisers. Support causes within the community that employees and customers are passionate about and make a difference.
• Last year we partnered with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen’s “Adopt a Family” holiday program. A mother and her five children provided their wish lists anonymously and CMA employees who wanted to participate bought items or gift cards for the family. Then we presented the bounty back to the soup kitchen so that the local family could enjoy holidays that might not otherwise have been as festive.
• We have collected school supplies for children in foster care through One Simple Wish’s backpack drive. We have also collected shoes for Soles4Souls, which donates shoes to people living in poverty.
• On a larger scale, we are currently partnering with our client Susan G. Komen of Central and South Jersey, which works to raise money and fight breast cancer. The organization’s largest annual fundraiser, Race for the Cure, was more than $300,000 short of its goal last year. So this year we became a Silver Sponsor of the race and our employees have put together a team to fundraise and walk in the upcoming event.
Get creative. Becoming involved need not be a chore, so seek out fun opportunities. For example:
• Animal shelters are always looking for volunteers to socialize with the dogs and cats, so send a small team of employees once a month to hang out with the animals waiting for adoption. Not only is petting animals shown to reduce stress and lower blood pressure, it’s a way for employees to bond while providing a valuable service to a local organization.
• Put a basket in the lobby and encourage employees and customers to donate non-perishable food items for a holiday food drive.
• Piggyback on another organization’s initiative. We recently collected clothing donations at our office and then donated them to the Rescue Mission of Trenton, helping the Mission break the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of clothes for recycle/donation. The clothing went to the organization’s homeless clients or was sold at the thrift shop with profits going back to the Mission, which provides a safe, clean, warm refuge for the homeless, the hungry, the transient and the addicted.
Offer internships to local college students. College students always need work experience and businesses can always use extra hands, especially students who are eager to take on new challenges. At CMA, we provide internships to a half dozen college students each fall semester, winter semester and summer break. We regularly have students working in marketing, public relations and social media, human resources, studio design, accounting and association management. We love providing students challenging work as they ponder which direction their careers may take. You never know, a standout student intern may someday become a full-time employee with your organization.
Showcase your employees’ community involvement. Employees are often passionate about giving back in their personal lives and we encourage that passion. Here at CMA, we have employees who participate in a variety of causes and when appropriate, we share photos and news of their activities. It is important to show that sometimes the smallest acts can make a big impact. We encourage team members to not only be great employees, but great neighbors as well.
Whenever we are out in the community, we snap photos to share on social media. Not only do we want to engage with our customers and fans on social media, we want to spread the word about the great nonprofit organizations out there that are making a difference in our communities.
Jeffrey Barnhart is founder and CEO of Creative Marketing Alliance, a full-service strategic marketing and integrated communications firm that delivers award-winning campaigns, recommendations and return-on-investment (ROI). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.