Community Participation Is a Form of Networking
Volunteering in the community is a great way to network and build relationships and brand awareness. This is not just important to customers but with potential lenders and investors as well. Whether a business lends time in the form of volunteering employees or money in the form of sponsorship, it boosts its visibility and demonstrates itself to be a stable entity. Having volunteers out in the field gives a human face to a business. Customers prefer to purchase from a company they know, and community involvement breeds a sense of familiarity.
Strong Communities Mean Strong Customer Bases
When a community is strong, a business has a strong base of clients and customers to draw upon. In some cases, this may involve investing in the community over the long term such as getting involved in education or community health. Depending on its focus, a company might also get involved in activities that help make the community more attractive to visitors such as beautifying local parks. The benefits of volunteerism to the community are benefits to a business as well when the result is an affluent, well-educated and secure customer base.
Customers Give Back in Tough Times
Most people have heard stories of the customers of a beloved local business helping out when times get tough whether it is simply making an effort to patronize a cafe that is struggling in a tough economy or bailing out a local’s flooded basement. A bookstore in London, The Big Green Bookshop, had money stolen from its till, and within 24 hours, a Twitter campaign had raised several times the amount stolen from customers who felt the shop was an important addition to their local community. Community involvement helps a company weave itself into the fabric of its customers’ lives so that it becomes about more than just the products or services that it sells.
Customers Look for Accountability
Surveys show that community involvement is important to some customers. It may be the deciding factor when a customer is deciding between two businesses. This attitude is particularly prevalent among millennials, and this is the generation that is coming up that will be having families of their own and passing those values along. An expectation of social responsibility is part of the fabric of the future, and companies need to be prepared to keep up.
It’s not only customers who feel more positively toward a company that gets involved with the community. Employees do as well. Multiple studies and surveys have found that both employee morale and retention increased when a company was more engaged with the community. Many employees reported being happier at their jobs when they felt like they could make a positive difference. Employee retention is a significant issue for companies because hiring and training new employees can be costly. Employees also reported developing new skills through volunteer work including better leadership and communication. It appears that community involvement not only builds strong communities but strong businesses as well.
Promoting Similar Values
In promoting the importance of volunteering, companies can emphasize the same qualities that it values in employees such as hard work and reliability. Furthermore, a company can choose volunteer opportunities that promote values that are important to its mission. For example, a company focused on health and wellness might sponsor a local fun run while a business involved in waste disposal might have a day in which employees participate in cleaning up a recreation area where litter is a problem. Community involvement gives companies the opportunity to shape the community that they want to operate in.
Community involvement for a business can be a situation in which everyone wins. Companies should ensure that their community involvement represents an opportunity and not a burden to its employees. The company itself, employees and the community all benefit in multiple ways. The key is for a company to choose approaches to community involvement that fit its mission statement, its culture, and its employee needs. For example, in a company that emphasizes work/life balance, employees may welcome the opportunity to participate in volunteer activities with family members. By listening to employee and community feedback, a business can find the right balance that enhances everyone’s lives.