13 Community Outreach Ideas for Small Businesses
The reality for many small businesses all around the U.S. has drastically changed over the last few months. The coronavirus has shrunk budgets and literally made people go back to their roots. The roots of small businesses are in the community. So, if you service people within a 50-mile radius (give or take), this article is for you. Here you will learn how to:
- Find an efficient, low-cost way to attract and retain customers
- Spread awareness about your business
- Reconnect or form lasting relationships with your community
- Create a lasting positive impact on locals
A solution called community outreach.
Business Outreach Is a Win-Win For All Sides
Giving back to your community can not only bring you closer to the people, but it can also directly boost your sales. Locals are always willing to buy from businesses they know firsthand. What is more, community involvement teaches your employees to care for more than just the money they’re paid, but to also connect with locals and the community they themselves are a part of. There’s an unexpected benefit for you as well. Many small business owners tend to forget that they, too, are part of a community, and lending time and money to those who support your business is a powerful way to build lasting relationships with people. Many marketing campaigns cannot achieve that.
So, here are some community outreach ideas for small businesses that you can start applying today. Most of these require funding on your part, but if you do it right, the ROI will more than repay your initial investment.
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#1 Donate What You Don’t Need
Let’s start with something that doesn’t require you to invest money. Do you have used equipment or supplies you won’t need? Good, you can donate those or organize a sale and donate the proceeds from it.
Look at your inventory, do you need to upgrade something, perhaps your computers? You can donate the old ones to a local school, the library, or just a family in need. It doesn’t even have to be computers, it can be construction tools (if you’re a remodeler or a builder), lawn mowers (if you run a landscaping business), paint that will expire soon (if you’re a painter). Heck, you can even offer to repaint the local school’s fence for free with that extra paint you have.
#2 Work With Local Schools
Approach your local school and see how you can help them. Focus on things that their funding typically doesn’t cover. That’s where the value of your outreach is, and it’s highly unlikely they’ll decline your help. The best thing about schools is that they are a huge part of the community. Students connect you to families, and they connect you to entire neighborhoods. Locally speaking, helping local schools can be an even more effective strategy than social media.
What’s even better is that students can act as the perfect mouthpiece for your brand. They talk and share with their peers and families more openly, more often, and more passionately than other groups of people, so your business outreach is essentially limitless if you maintain a long-term relationship with their school. That way, you become an inseparable part of their school, and you can easily attract their attention with different brand promotion events.
#3 Sponsor a Local Sports Team
This is one of the most win-win community outreach ideas for businesses that wish to promote their company and encourage sports activities within the community. Staying active has so many health benefits, and being the company to fund local teams and sports events, can only help you. And it’s up to you to decide how much you want to donate. You can provide the uniforms (and put your company logo on it), new equipment, snacks during the games, and you name it.
#4 Sponsor the Local Theater or Orchestra
If your community doesn’t focus on sports, it probably centers around arts. Do you have a local theater group or a youth orchestra? These groups are often under-funded, and any contribution is most welcome. You can sponsor a play and put your logo on the tickets and at the theater entrance, for example. The good you do for your community can always find its way back to you and your business.
#5 Start an Internship Program
Internships for young people are a fantastic opportunity for both sides. They gain practical experience in working at a small business, and you get more hands to help you with your everyday work. Partner with a local community college or find another educational organization that can connect you with interested youngsters who want to get more experience before they join the workforce. It may seem like small-scale outreach, but it can potentially have a snowball effect, and it shows your company morale and willingness to help those who lack in experience but not in determination.
#6 Take Time to Volunteer
When it comes to community outreach, it’s not all about the money. Often, people are more touched by businesses giving their time and attention to a community project rather than providing funding alone. You can make it an annual event. Make a volunteer week, continue to pay your team their usual wages, but instead of doing business as usual, work on a community project. It could be cleaning up the local park, helping with a local community event, hosting a day of fun children activities, celebrating a town holiday, your options are so many.
This is both good for your company image, and it can serve as a team building exercise for your employees. Everyone takes something positive out of it in the end.
#7 Let Customers Pick Your Next Donation/Initiative
Here is a fun and engaging way to pick your next community outreach project. By asking your customers to help you choose, you are both raising awareness about your company, and the important causes within your community. Encourage clients to vote for individuals, charities, or projects that need support, and you can even make a poll on social media where the ‘word’ travels much faster, and more people will be able to join in the decision making process.
#8 Understand the Needs of Your Community
Instead of waiting for people to point you toward an important community project, you can be proactive and look for one yourself. Perhaps the local library needs a new computer, or the nursing home in the neighborhood could use a couple of new benches in the yard? There is so much you can do, and never forget that every bit of help on your part can have a grand impact on local living. You can provide free meals for less fortunate students or pay for new playground equipment. The spirit of giving back can give you so many other ideas.
#9 Work With NGOs
Much like schools and local arts groups, NGOs are also often short on funding, which makes them quite open to partnerships with neighboring businesses. You can offer free services or products in exchange for exposure and positive publicity. NGOs traditionally have high contact rates with the community as they are always looking for ways to generate interest in their cause. So, if you print your logo on their shirts and caps or even volunteer at their events, this will be more than enough to boost your local visibility and recognition among the general public.
#10 Create Care Boxes to Give Out for the Holidays
No one is insured against facing hard times, and it’s the holidays that are often the hardest to go through during a testing period. Make care boxes with essential foods and supplies, and be the beam of hope that people in difficult situations need. They may not become your customers, but kind deeds are often multiplied, and the positive change you will make won’t go unnoticed. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, the year is full of holidays, and they are all fantastic opportunities for you to help those in need.
It’s not just about building a better brand image for your company, it’s about promoting the spirit of giving back in your society, and that is truly priceless.
#11 Partner With Other Local Businesses
Teaming up is probably the smartest, not-so-obvious move you can make. You never know when an unlikely business partnership can start bringing half your customers your way. Do you have a catering business and happen to know a wedding planner? Do you own a bakery with a deli next to your location? As long as you’re willing to look, you will always find other business owners eager to join forces in a mutually beneficial partnership.
#12 Incentivize Your Employees by Joining Their Side Projects
Find out what your team is passionate about outside of work. Is it a volunteering organization they’re a part of, or a community project they’re trying to get support for? When you incentivize your employees to make the change they want to see in their society, you’re not only getting the credit for helping, but you are also strengthening their loyalty to you. An employer who supports a team’s interests and passions outside of work is one worth working for.
#13 Support a Local Building Project
If you want to leave a lasting impact on your community, you might want to consider supporting a local building project. It can be for a new library wing, a children’s playground, a help center, or remodeling the community theater. You can bring other small businesses together and share the costs or at least a fraction of them. It would make such a grand difference in how locals see you.
Bonus Community Outreach Idea: Involve Locals in Your Business
This doesn’t mean hiring them as workers, but rather involving them in certain decision-making processes. For example, are you looking to change your logo or add a seasonal dish to your restaurant menu? Looking for new product ideas or service names? Nothing is too small or too big to ask your community to help with ideas. Including them into the process will not only instantly grant you points of awesomeness, but it will be a fantastic PR move that will increase your local visibility and sales.
The Bottom Line
If there’s any takeaway you get from this blog, it should be this: community outreach doesn’t mean giving your hard-earned money away, so locals think you’re cool. Community outreach means lending a helping hand to those who need it. Often, all you need to do is donate your time and volunteer at local events and for projects. No one will blame you if you can’t afford to fund a cause, but everyone will appreciate your input into making it work.
We hope these community outreach ideas for businesses help you better connect with locals. Doing that can boost your company image, attract new clients, and make a big difference at the same time. Good luck!
Stay tuned for our next topic!