4 Initiatives to Connect Your Business and Local Community

While many businesses aspire to one day reach regional, national, or even international audiences, your local community is the hearth and home of your customer base. That’s why it’s so important to nurture the relationship between your business and your surrounding community.

By getting involved in your community, you’ll find that not only is it possible to attract more customers and boost sales, but also better engage employees and improve your public image. Over 77% of consumers are motivated to purchase from companies committed to making the world a better place, and 70% of employees say that they wouldn’t work at a company that lacks a sense of “purpose.”

To help you capture these benefits, here’s how your business can take actionable steps to launch socially-conscious and philanthropic programs. From corporate volunteer programs to in-kind giving, consider these ideas to both spread local awareness of your brand and inspire the loyalty of your entire community:

Ready to strengthen your connection to the local community and launch more effective corporate philanthropy programs? Let’s dive in.

Create charitable in-kind donation programs

In-kind donation programs are non-monetary contributions from businesses to charitable organizations, typically involving your company’s goods, services, location, and/or equipment. For instance, a wine distributor could provide tastings or extra inventory to a local nonprofit’s upcoming gala, or you could offer space to host a fundraiser or donation drive.

As explained in DonationMatch’s guide to in-kind donations, this style of corporate social responsibility (CSR) can benefit your business by giving you the ability to: 

  • Perform community outreach in a cost-effective manner, as you could leverage extra inventory or services instead of cash
  • Drive more visitors to your location when hosting events
  • Build win-win relationships

One great example of successful in-kind donation initiatives are the giveback programs of Six Flags North America, which provide venues and park passes for nonprofits to use in their programs and fundraising. 

By donating in-kind gifts as auction and raffle prizes or for event usage, you can surprise and delight event attendees while affordably increasing your company’s marketing visibility.

Organize employee service days

Company service days are designated days where employees are encouraged to volunteer with a local charity, which can also double as a teambuilding activity. Essentially, your employees act as philanthropic ambassadors for your company, showing your community that you truly care and giving nonprofits the help they need to further their missions

Additionally, days of service can boost employee morale by showing them that your business supports the causes they care about. It also gives employees across different departments the chance to bond in an environment other than the office. 

For best results, we suggest following these tips to create a truly engaging and effective employee volunteer program: 

  • Allow employees a say in what projects or charities are chosen. Send out surveys to keep up with their interests and what opportunities they might be excited about. 
  • Use a dedicated system or platform to track volunteer program activity.
  • Use volunteer grants to incentivize employee volunteering and add an extra level of community support. According to Crowd101’s corporate giving statistics, 40% of Fortune 500 companies invest in grants to support employee volunteerism.

To create a sense of team spirit and further promote your company’s efforts, you could even distribute branded volunteer program memorabilia. For instance, consider giving your employee volunteers shirts, stickers, or caps for them and other community members to remember your business’s philanthropy. 

If your business is unable to have multiple team members offsite at the same time, enable them to choose a paid day to volunteer for their favorite cause. This gives your employees another opportunity to represent your company and pitch in to the community in a socially impactful way.  

Sponsor local events

Sponsoring nonprofit events is an incredibly public avenue to show your support in the community. On top of that, there’s quite a bit of flexibility as to what kind of support you can offer charities. In particular, consider these different types of sponsorships for your business to chip in to local events:

  • Financial sponsorships: Donating money to fund a specific feature or the general expenses of running an event.
  • Media sponsorships: This involves leveraging your own media connections and assets to secure marketing, such as radio, television, or online ads, for an event. 
  • Tech sponsorship: Most commonly used for virtual or hybrid events, this is the donation of a company’s software or tools—such as access to an event platform, offsetting fees, or rental of equipment—to enhance an event experience.

Choose whatever opportunity best suits your business’s unique resources and goals, and be sure that you have the tools to effectively execute your program. For example, corporate giving software can help you identify the best donation opportunities and nonprofit partners based on your desired cause partners and program parameters.

Furthermore, to maximize the success of co-sponsored events, you might use the following marketing tactics: 

  • Spotlight the sponsorship and event on your website, your locations, and other marketing channels
  • Reach out to community influencers to signal-boost the event
  • Talk about the event and sponsorship with employees and customers
  • Use co-sponsored merchandise to promote your event before, during, and after the event

This should ensure that as many eyes as possible are on the event and people clearly see the steps you’ve taken to pitch in, make a difference, and support your community’s important causes.

Set up school internship programs

You don’t necessarily have to be working with a nonprofit organization to inspire and engage with your local community. Instead, businesses can also collaborate with local high schools, colleges, or other educational programs to establish internship opportunities. 

Internships introduce local students to the workforce and give them practical experience. This provides an important community service for local youth, as well as promoting your business and potentially setting up future generations of staff.

Additionally, to maximize the impact of your internship program, consider creating an educational grant. Depending on your business’s bandwidth and goals, that might mean starting a foundation to fund education in your local community, or it might mean organizing a scholarship fund specifically for interns and/or family members of employees. Creating customer personas can help shape your program goals and strategy. Setting up a grant program shows that you’re going the extra mile to invest in the future of your community.

. . .

As a business leader, corporate philanthropy goes beyond simply being a moral and ethical responsibility—it’s a powerful strategy for you to strengthen community ties and positively promote your brand. 

As you move forward and begin to refine your CSR initiatives, be sure to use these expert strategies and seek out the right tools and software solutions to streamline your programs.