Community engagement for your business may seem out of your reach, especially if you just launched your startup. However, entrepreneurs are constantly seeking and working on new ways to grow their businesses. Collaborating with different actors within the community, such as non-profit organisations, institutions, and fellow entrepreneurs for a good cause, is not only rewarding but also one of the ways to scale your enterprise.
In this article, you will find out what community engagement is and how it impacts your business.
What is Community Engagement?
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world”
Community engagement is defined as participation in activities that aim to address issues within communities and support their social well-being.
Community, broadly defined as groups of people, is a fluid concept. It suggests a sense of belonging which can be experienced by geographical proximity, special interest, or affiliation.
There are numerous ways in which businesses can engage with their communities despite limited resources. Be it through your time, money, or a bright idea, becoming involved in your community is a great way to give back and foster positive change. Regardless of the approach and scale of the involvement, consistent community engagement can raise awareness of social issues, empower diverse voices, and enhance local economies.
As an entrepreneur, you can help shape a more sustainable future, but how does it benefit your business?
Experience is important, but networking is what takes your business to new heights. Engaging with your community through various initiatives allows you to meet like-minded individuals and establish valuable relationships. What’s more, you gain visibility and thus may attract potential investors and partners. It also provides the opportunity to recruit people who share your vision or to exchange ideas with fellow entrepreneurs. Similarly, you receive feedback, which enriches your perspective. Such interactions shouldn’t be just swapping business cards and phone numbers, but should be charged with the desire for growth and innovation.
Making those connections forms the foundation of business and strengthens established ones. It is an essential component of business development.
Commitment to the community reflects entrepreneurs’ personal values, which in turn indicate what they deem essential. Nowadays, having a great product or service may not be enough. In the context of current global challenges, people are becoming increasingly concerned with the ethics and values of businesses.
According to 5WPR’s 2020 Consumer Culture Report, 83% of millennials in the US find it important that the companies they purchase from align with their values. In addition, 67% appreciate CEOs who advocate for an issue they care about.
This means that the efforts you make for the community build trust because you demonstrate your values through actions. And why is trust capital significant for your business?
- Loyalty. Establishing relationships with customers based on trust leads to increased connectedness and, as a result, a loyal customer base. When customers see value in your business and you continuously meet their expectations, you gain their respect. Loyal customers will support your business in difficult times and their trust might outweigh other factors, such as pricing and delivery, when making a purchase or using a service.
- Company’s reputation. Not only is cultivating trust crucial for expanding and retaining your customer base, it is also a key factor in improving your company’s reputation. Word of mouth, positive reviews circulating across social media as well as the high opinion of the public all nurture your company’s image. Your company’s reputation is an ongoing process that is built gradually. Therefore, it’s important to maintain and improve it. A good reputation enhances your sales and hiring and makes you stand out among competitors.
Employees work along with you to drive the success of your business, and the more satisfied they are, the more motivated and productive. Appreciation, team building, encouragement, or rewards are practices every employer should incorporate in order to motivate their employees, but there is more.
Research conducted in 2020 from the Research in Organizational Behavior Journal has shown people are happier working for a company that employs social responsibility. If you support community involvement, you demonstrate that you have a purpose beyond financial incentives.
Employees respond positively to a meaningful work environment. Just as you want your business to grow, employees wish to grow too, both professionally and personally. Thus, engaging with your community leads to:
- Job satisfaction. Being socially conscious translates into a positive company culture, which inspires employees to do their best, improves teamwork, and communication.
- Employee retention. Employees anticipate to be treated the way their organisation treats the community. Trusting you have their best interest at heart means they are less likely to leave the company.
- Company pride. Employees take pride in being part of a business that is respected within the community and represent your company to customers accordingly.
Leadership in Community Engagement
Business ventures are unlikely to be successful without a good leader. At times entrepreneurship can get quite stressful, causing you to struggle to find balance. Or you might start feeling stuck in your comfort zone, lacking strategic vision. Engaging the community allows entrepreneurs to become better leaders and consequently, manage their enterprise more effectively.
- It opens up a new space for you to exercise your talents and develop your leadership skills. Good leaders never stop learning and challenging themselves.
- It’s beneficial to your mental and physical well-being. Multiple studies have reported that volunteering is linked to better physical health as well as lower rates of depression and anxiety.
- Great leaders lead by example and possess the capacity to influence others in a positive and progressive way. By showing active interest in your community, you inspire others to do the same.
Before getting involved in community activities you should be able to define what your motivations and objectives are. They are the foundation of your endeavour. If not clearly defined, this can have negative consequences for the organisations you collaborate with.
A good start is to ask your employees how they would like to be of service, get to know your community needs and reach out to community experts.
Here are some ideas on how to get involved:
- Volunteer with your team with a local non-profit
- Implement a social media campaign to spread awareness on an issue
- Participate in a mentorship program
- Offer your product at local events
- Run a workshop
- Organise a scholarship fund
SnackNation, a healthy snack delivery service, donates meals to families in need with every snack box purchased. The company has provided more than 17 million meals via their partnership with Feeding America.
The company has also launched Work-from-Home Wellness Boxes designed to uplift employees’ spirit during the COVID-19 pandemic and help them stay connected to their teams.
BT Ireland is a telecommunications and internet company, which has been annually organising the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition for over 20 years. The Exhibition encourages engagement in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), giving the opportunity to thousands of students to showcase their projects.
That’s a Wrap On Community Engagement
Partaking in community initiatives offers mutual benefit for your business and the community. Apart from allowing you to diversify your network, it improves employee morale and retention, attracts talent and new customers. Company pride is fostered while you have the means to apply your leadership skills in new contexts.
Through community engagement you acknowledge the support system, feedback, and resources your communities provide. It’s an opportunity to create social change, collective empowerment, and to ultimately transform communities.