Is your business just a storefront IN the community or is it actually a part OF the community? Some businesses are merely there while others are actually involved. The more successful retail stores fall in the latter category. Whether you call it community outreach, corporate social responsibility or simply community involvement, being a part OF the community is an important means of establishing trust.
In fact, Forbes indicates that “roughly 82% of U.S. consumers actually consider corporate social responsibility when deciding what services and products to buy and from where.” Consumers trust socially responsible businesses, and consumers buy more from businesses they trust. Let’s look at some quick tips on how you can increase your store’s community involvement.
Why You Should Get Involved
The short answer to why you should get involved in your community is that it’s the right thing to do. Forbes recommends taking a “community in the front, business in the rear” approach. You’ll benefit by seeing the difference when you personally take part in community work. A bonus benefit is that community events are a great opportunity to bring employees together in a non-work environment where they can get to know each other better. When that happens, it often leads to stronger bonds among employees which leads to more effortless collaboration in the workplace.
Consumers trust socially responsible businesses, and consumers buy more from businesses they trust.
Wait, there’s more. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, “Responsible business habits are expected now more than ever, and research shows it’s not just the right thing to do—it’s good for business.” How is it good for business? Take a look at some of what community involvement can bring you:
- New referral sources
- New potential customers
- New potential vendors and suppliers
- New potential business partners
- New skills and experiences
- New markets
- New content for websites, blogs, and social media
How to Get Involved
As a business owner, there are many ways you can get involved in your community. You can give time or money, partner with other businesses and organizations, attend local events and host events. Some retailers lean more toward some than others and some do all four, but the important point is that you do something. Why not begin with something easy like giving.
1. Give to Local Causes
Give to local causes in the form of time, money, or space. Barto Pool and Spa of Phoenixville, PA gives to their community by being “a drop-off site for two local [dog] rescues.” They also encourage pups to bring their humans on shopping excursions to the store. The pups may even make it to the Gallery of Store Dogs on the business’s website. If pets aren’t your passion, consider being a drop-off point for the local food pantry, summer fan drive, winter coat drive or Toys for Tots. There are many ways you can give locally; here are a few more examples:
- Donate to charity auctions
- Sponsor local school events
- Volunteer at area hospitals
- Donate to or volunteer at homeless shelters
- Provide community education opportunities
- Build a playground
- Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity on a local project
- Serve meals at the local senior center, veterans home, or soup kitchen
2. Attend Local Events
Attend local events, especially those you support or promote. Sara Charles of Maximum Comfort Pool & Spa in Vail, CO says “We don’t just throw money at…organizations, we support them in attendance…it means something when you see your spa technician at a soccer game, or you see our warehouse manager at lacrosse game.” If you are participating in some way, through sponsorship or donation, make it a point to be in attendance.
3. Participate in Entertainment and Educational Fairs
Events like street fairs and festivals, job fairs, and school career days tend to draw a lot of people, so they are a great opportunity to support the community while also getting your name out there.
Street Fairs and Festivals
These events offer a host of participation options for both you and your employees. You can sign up to help with concessions, manage parking areas, sponsor musicians, bands or other entertainment, or even offer to emcee stage events. Your staff may have the most fun entering a float in a local parade together–and think of the team-building benefits it would offer as well.
Even if you’re only looking to pad your applicant file, manning a booth at local job fairs is a great way to meet members of the community and show your desire to hire locally whenever possible. You can also help in the planning and execution of these events.
School Career Fairs
Whether it be at local high schools, community colleges, or universities, career days are events you can’t afford to miss. These events provide you with an opportunity to educate young adults on real world jobs. Being available to answer their questions about management, sales, marketing and other aspects of business makes a lasting impression on the students and shows you care about the community.
4. Partner with Other Businesses
Partner with other local businesses to promote shopping locally and to improve the community. For instance, Wichita KS retailer Ultra Modern Pool and Patio teams up with Wichita’s Legacy Bank “through its Local Legacy Program. The bank promotes Ultra Modern in its advertising, and Ultra Modern gives a discount to customers who use the banks Local Legacy discount card.” This arrangement not only benefits both businesses but local consumers as well.
5. Join the Club and Speak Up
Speaking of getting together with other local business owners, most communities offer clubs and organizations that allow you to do just that. Many Chamber of Commerce offices often maintain a speakers’ bureau (a list of local business people, government officials and community members) whose members make themselves available to address classes at local universities, community colleges, and technical institutes as well as business events and organizational meetings.
Other organizations to check out for similar opportunities include the Rotary Club, American Legion, Elks, Kiwanis, Jaycees, and Optimist Club.
6. Adopt a Project
Community projects can be as simple as picking up litter along a local street or highway, cleaning up a trail or stream, or participating in community betterment programs. You can also choose a local cause as project.
- Host an event for your community’s Big Brother/Big Sister program
- Raise funds for the area Adult Literacy Program
- Take donations for the local food pantry
- Conduct a clothing drive for the local Clothes Closet or Goodwill
- Hold a fundraiser through the local Parks and Recreation department teaching a class or coaching a team.
7. Sponsor Local Teams
Many businesses choose to sponsor youth sports teams as a community involvement effort. From t-ball to junior gymnastics, your local Department of Parks and Recreation is great resource for team sponsorship opportunities. You may even decide you want to coach a softball, baseball, football, soccer, or traveling sports team. Whether you choose to participate through sponsorship, coaching or both, a good rule of thumb is if your name is in the advertising or on the uniforms, take the time to show up occasionally.
Another popular way to be involved in your community is to invest in its future. With the rising costs of college tuition and steep student loan debt, you might consider creating a scholarship program for graduation high school students. Make the scholarship relevant to your field by offering it to students who plan on pursuing degrees in related areas, like accounting, sales, marketing, advertising, public relations, and management.
Graduates appreciate your desire to offset their education costs, as do their parents. Remember to make sure you are there on graduation day to present the scholarship to the lucky student.
9. Host an Event
Don Riling, owner of Olympic Hot Tub, hosted a Celebrating American Heroes event “with proceeds benefiting a charitable organization tied to either military, emergency responders or public school teachers.” You can host different types of events for different reasons, too.
Is there a local family or individual in need who may have lost their home to fire, been injured in an accident or has experienced an unexpected illness or death? Consider a shop-a-thon event where you donate a part of the day’s sales to that family or individual.
Local clubs and organizations often look for new and interesting meeting places. Why not offer your store for their use. Being there to greet them as they arrive gives you face recognition in the community and the opportunity to network.
Make your parking lot available for car washes to help organizations like the school band, cheerleaders, honor society and scouts raise money for camps, trips and uniforms.
In-Store Educational Events
Offer a free spa maintenance/spa education information session for current and potential customers. Consider opening up your test spa to attendees and offering drinks and snacks to make it educational and entertaining.
Community involvement can be a game changer from the consumer perspective as well as your own. In the end, your community gains support and your business builds trust and loyalty—it’s a win-win situation!