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Here’s How to Start an Outreach Program 

Community outreach projects build company and customer loyalty. Doing good work makes participants feel good about themselves, and a company’s willingness to help the community promotes company pride. Team members who are proud of their company, feel good about their jobs, and customers, especially millennials, gravitate towards community-minded businesses. Buying goods or services from organizations involved in community causes makes them supporters of the causes, too.

Millennials, people born between 1981 and 1996, which makes them 26 to 40 years old, lean towards working for and dealing with civic-minded companies. According to huffpost.com, “By 2025, Millennials will represent a massive 75% of the American workforce.” A Forbes Magazine article says Millennials are an idealistic, altruistic generation who cherish work-life balance. The oldest members of Generation Z, or Zoomers, 20- 24 years old are becoming consumers and workers and have carried forward this sense of social responsibility.

Starting a Community Outreach Program

Programs can start small and don’t need to be complicated. Start by choosing a charity or cause and connecting with the organizations involved to determine what’s needed. Choose to participate in a standing program or create an independent event. Establish what staff and funds are needed and find ways to communicate to participants and the community.

Choosing Your Projects

Companies take several approaches to choosing a cause. Most start by establishing a committee, being sure to select committee members from a range of levels and departments to diversify their reach. When a diverse group buys in, more colleagues will participate, and managers will be motivated to support the projects. Gather input from team members about what community causes and charities they already support or would like to help. Getting company team members to engage around a cause or event is easier if some already support it. It can also be easier to get a diverse group to rally around causes related to the organization’s industry.

Once you have a list of potential causes and events, narrow the list by looking at logistics. How much time will volunteers need to donate, and what internal funds might be available to support the efforts? Consider how the outreach project can be publicized. Can the information be communicated easily, both internally and externally?

An easy way to get started is to look for programs and events already in place and consider how your company’s strengths and skills can contribute. Be sure to connect with organization directors or liaisons and ask questions about what the cause needs most and how you can help.

Some Potential Outreach Ideas Include:

Collections: One of the simplest programs to administer is a collection drive. Establish a collection place and time frame and find a couple of volunteers to manage the goods. Connect with a charity to ask for input and arrange delivery. Some collection possibilities:

  • coats and gloves for those who need them
  • children’s clothes for families in need
  • socks and toiletries for the homeless
  • food for your food bank or Holiday baskets
  • school supplies and backpacks for children in the fall.
  • Toys for children at the holidays

A collection project can remain internal or involve the public if practical. Citizens often watch for opportunities to donate to these drives and appreciate businesses that give them the chance.

Established Charity Events:  Every town and region has run, walk, and bike events, and organizers can tell you how to enter a team from your company. Find team members who love to run or bike anyway, and you’re ahead of the game. Others from your company may enjoy volunteering at registration or water stations. Team members can also volunteer in small groups to establish community projects like Habitat for Humanity. Make sure they wear company logoed shirts.

Day of Service: A charity needs people to paint a school or do yard work at the senior center.  Finding these opportunities may not be as easy but encouraging employees to keep their eyes open for them will usually yield results. Sending your staff to help for a half-day or day is a great way to build camaraderie and support a cause. Companies often give participants volunteer time off to participate.

Sponsor Sports Teams: Sponsoring a youth sports team can be fairly easy. It involves providing uniforms, attending games, and organizing an end-of-season awards event. One or two people can usually handle the details and watching a game or two can be fun for the staff and encourage the kids.

Linking Up with Another Business:  A recent charity trend has been creating fundraising events through the support of a local business on a specified day. Many companies will join forces with your company to help raise money for a cause. A restaurant, for example, might be willing to donate a percentage of proceeds on a specific day to a charity. Encouraging team members, friends, and families to eat at the restaurant that day is an easy and fun way to support a cause.

Create your Own Event: If there aren’t events for the cause you want to support, you can create your own. Whether it be a silent auction, park cleanup day, or charity ball, starting from scratch takes more planning and funds but can also be extremely rewarding and start a tradition for your company.

Promote Your Community Support Initiatives

Once you’ve chosen your causes and events, let team members and the community know about your plans. The more staff members and customers hear about an opportunity to get involved, the more likely they will be to participate. Communicating about the company’s participation to the press creates exposure for the charity/event/cause and reminds the community that your company cares. Efforts should include:

  • Website Community Outreach Section — A regular section called Community Outreach can let customers and prospects know about the good the company is doing. In addition to company-sponsored outreach, highlight individual team members and their community service.
  • Press Releases are especially important if you are sponsoring an event, but companies can let the media know about any volunteer activity. If a company team member does volunteer work, sending out the information can boost morale. Local media love it.
  • Employee and Client Newsletter, Social Media, Email Blasts — Use all communications channels to tell your staff and customers about the charity or event your company is supporting.
  • Logoed Gear Worn and Given as Mementos of the Event — Make sure your team members wear company shirts, jackets, or hats and consider donating some promotional items to give to all participants.
  • Event to Recognize Participants and Celebrate Accomplishments — Whether participants are recognized at some regular company meeting or on the day of the community event, it’s important.

Growing Community Outreach

As they progress and expand community outreach efforts, some companies choose a different cause or community group to support yearly, quarterly, or seasonally. You may, for example, hold a silent auction fundraiser in January for the local art museum, send a team to a fun run for Alzheimer’s research in the spring, join a breast cancer walk in the fall, and support a toy drive in December. No matter what outreach projects a company chooses, the efforts benefit everyone involved. Team members feel pride in themselves and their company, and the community feels gratitude towards those who have given.

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