Written by: Michele Bonvicini, Director of Community Relations, Union Savings Bank
As a community bank, our team at Union Savings Bank is a huge believer in giving back to our community, neighbors, and customers. For over 150 years, we’ve prioritized the donation of our time, resources and financial support to local causes and charities throughout Connecticut. Today, our community relations efforts support more than 300 non-profit organizations throughout the year.
Whether your business is large or small, you can benefit from giving back to your community. From a PR perspective, a community relations strategy can build a good public image that fosters long-term loyalty and goodwill from local residents. Charitable giving can also lead to a boost in employee morale; having your team spend time away from their desks to volunteer and support a local cause is a great opportunity for them to not only improve the community but also to bond with their local community members.
Launching your own community relations initiative doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Start out small.
When you first think of corporate charitable giving, your mind might jump to a huge charitable organization like the Xerox Foundation, United Way or Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, your own community relations strategy doesn’t have to include establishing a separate, non-profit organization. Nor does it have to start with writing a huge check to your local charity. Often times, the most meaningful donations your company can offer the community are time and resources. Organize a date for your employees to spend half a day volunteering at a local soup kitchen or food drive. Set up your business location as a destination for employees and neighboring companies to drop off books, supplies and other donations that will be delivered to a charitable organization at the end of the day. Once your team has gotten the hang of budgeting volunteer hours into their schedules, you can look into opportunities for offering financial support to local causes, such as sponsoring a youth sports teams or a 5K race for charity. Start by researching the organizations in your area that are open to volunteers or donations, or visit the Connecticut state government’s website to look up charities that are registered online.
Consider different ways to give back.
Giving back to your community doesn’t have to be limited to volunteer opportunities or financial support. There are so many ways your business can participate, so take some time to think outside the box. If your business offers a specialized service, then you might be able to donate your talents. For example, if you run a barbershop then consider offering unemployed job seekers a free haircut before an interview. If you own a catering company then consider offering lunch or snacks to volunteers who spend their weekends building equipment for a local park. Offering pro bono services to local causes can be a great, cost-effective way to not only give back to your community, but also show off your services and talents to potential customers.
Promote volunteer efforts internally, not externally.
Giving back is all about your community, not your business, so don’t put a big promotional push around the good deeds your company is performing. Instead, focus on raising internal awareness by spreading the word among your employees about company initiatives and causes that have been taken up by individual team members. An easy way to do this is by maintaining a community relations calendar that allows your team to plan out activities. Setting up a calendar is an efficient way to organize your company’s efforts around specific goals, such as volunteering a certain number of hours, and keeping your team engaged around busy personal schedules.
Keep on giving!
Our philosophy is that the season of giving runs 24/7, all year round. While the traditional holiday giving season is a great place to start, we hope you’ll continue to grow your community relations efforts by donating time and resources to local causes all year round.