Strategies to achieve meaningful community engagement
Giving back in a meaningful way to the people your agency serves is a time-tested win-win that provides a range of benefits to the community. Similarly, it helps grow your organization by generating new business leads, differentiating your brand, promoting your values, building staff morale, widening your social circle and receiving invaluable insights into the local ecosystem.
But what are the best strategies for growing relationships in the area your agency operates? Here are some tips to consider on how to optimize your resources and maximize community engagement.
Reflect your community
The first thing to consult is a mirror. What are your values? Where do your strengths lie? And, of course, how much free time do you have?
Community engagement can be as simple as hanging a poster in your office window or as involved as hosting an annual charity event, fundraising for a cause or founding a new recreational club. The spectrum of possibilities is broad enough to encompass just about any schedule, personality type or agency profile.
Whatever path you choose, it ought to showcase your strengths. If patience, communication and strategic thinking are your strong suits, maybe coaching a local sports team is for you. If teamwork, communication with many personality types and perseverance are fortes, perhaps volunteering at a nonprofit is a possibility.
If public speaking is a strength, sharing your expertise via speaking engagements is also an option. Thought leadership can be its own form of community engagement. The topic can be anything in which you have a deep understanding or technical skill. But always conduct webinars, lunch-and-learns, industry meetings and other similar events with thought leadership in mind rather than developing sales opportunities.
Looking beyond the personal, ask your staff what issues are relevant to them and their communities. Consult members and other professional contacts for ideas and feedback. For online resources, check out volunteermatch.org and createthegood.aarp.org, which let you search volunteer opportunities by location, cause and other variables.
You might also consider organizations with which Nationwide has had longstanding corporate partnerships, including American Red Cross, Feeding America, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and United Way. Each year, a significant number of our associates across the country donate dollars, time and energy to important causes and charities through workplace giving and volunteerism.
“When choosing where to donate, fundraise or volunteer, give more weight to causes that overlap with your and your community’s values. Keep in mind consumers are increasingly taking note of the ideals their brands support. Our Agency Forward research found that 84% of consumers said they place high value in working with an agency that gives back to the community.”1
Once a project is chosen, try to involve your associates as much as possible. Schedule permitting, consider allowing volunteerism to occur during business hours, providing your staff with a welcome break from their daily routines.
Also, while socializing during events, don’t focus exclusively on rubbing shoulders with prominent figures, business owners or community leaders. Not only does this come off as opportunistic, but it’s also a poor business strategy. After all, good leads can come from citizens and residents just as easily as they can from the founder of an organization.
Community engagement should occur in an organic, easygoing manner. There should never be any hint of high-pressure sales or marketing efforts. Remember, the goal is to brand yourself as a resource rather than a salesperson.
Amplify your efforts
That being said, there’s no reason the world shouldn’t know all about your engagement efforts. Be sure to capture engagement activities in video and pictures, and then share them on social media, your website or the agency newsletter.
Consider these best practices for documenting your community engagement efforts:
- Designate a photographer, someone with a camera or a good smartphone. Test it beforehand to ensure quality.
- Make a list of photos and videos you want—such as group shots, before-and-after images of a project or interviews with staff—prior to the event.
- Whenever possible, shoot images in various candid, posed, landscape and vertical orientations to provide multiple options over a range of platforms.
- Get everyone’s full name and correct spellings so captions will be accurate and inclusive.
As an added benefit, such community service efforts can serve to reach new pools of potential associates. In the changing labor market brought on by the pandemic, more individuals are reevaluating their work life and searching for fulfillment beyond a paycheck. A report by McKinsey & Company noted the insurance industry’s increased willingness to work together toward common philanthropic goals and millennials’ growing influence on the types of charitable efforts in which it engages.
Working with carriers like Nationwide that are committed to these efforts can help clients feel well-protected and that they are contributing to making the world a better place. For example, in 2020, Nationwide invested $173 million in renewable energy and $375 million in green bonds. That same year, our involvement provided more than $256 million to support affordable housing.
We believe in the power of community. When extraordinary examples of community involvement come to light, we’ll proudly recognize those agents and agencies for their outstanding business partnerships and dedication to our shared values.