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Work with Voluntary Groups

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 9 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
Business Local Community Voluntary

If you're interested in having your business take a strong positive role in your local community, it can be well worth getting together with other people who have the same aim in mind - the members of voluntary groups. Your local council can supply you with a list of registered groups working within your area, but it's up to you to work out how you can develop a positive and productive relationship with them. In doing so, it's useful to understand why people get involved in voluntary work and what their priorities are in terms of support and meeting their objectives.

Choosing the Right Group

Before you start contacting voluntary groups it's important to think about what you want out of the relationship. Normally, an arrangement like this will provide you with publicity materials to boost your public image (and impress customers), so it's important to choose a group which complements your business image. For instance, you might look for a group which organises sports events if you want to be seen as active and dynamic; you might choose an amateur dramatic society or a group which organises a local parade if you want to be seen as creative; or you might choose one which looks after elderly people in the area if you want to make a good impression on your older customers.

As well as choosing a group with the right agenda, you should choose a group with the right members. This is something you'll need to bear in mind when meeting groups to see what they do. Will these people be willing to be pictured and quoted in your publicity materials in return for your support? Do they look appropriate and are they articulate enough to supply what you need? Above all, do they seem committed, coherent and friendly? The last thing you need is a group where infighting and bitterness could potentially result in bad publicity for your business. Make sure they're people you can get along with who understand what you need out of the relationship.

Providing Funds

When funding voluntary groups you have two basic options: funding specific projects or providing ongoing financial support for the group itself. Specific projects can get you bigger headlines. They usually require a larger cash injection but you won't have to worry about your ability to keep on providing finance in the long term. On the other hand, a long term relationship can help you to develop strong positive relationships within your local community, not just with group members but also with the people they serve. It's not so effective at getting you into the public eye but it's a good way to generate ongoing good feeling and a reputation as a company which cares. Furthermore, when you need to impress your local council, this kind of work will demonstrate your social worth.

Providing Support

As well as providing funds, there are lots of ways in which you can offer useful support to voluntary groups. Most people get involved in voluntary work because they feel a passionate commitment to their endeavour, but that doesn't mean they don't get tired and frustrated. Sometimes progress is slow and they may feel that their hard work isn't bringing them much reward. At times like this you can offer incentives to help them keep going. Small gifts to group members from your business can help a lot, letting them know that their work is appreciated. You can also offer them discounts at your business, securing their custom and garnering good word of mouth at the same time as providing a reward.

Because their resources are often slight, voluntary groups often rely on the goodwill of business owners like yourself for crucial services. Providing free or cut-price photocopying, design work, catering or a place to meet can give them a big boost. If they're going to be out and about and want to raise the profile of their organisation, why not have t-shirts printed for them bearing their name alongside your business logo?

Making a Difference

Often one of the biggest challenges of doing voluntary work is soldiering on even when you feel you're doing it alone. The involvement of a business can make a big difference to people in this situation - the boost to morale can be as important as the practical assistance. By engaging with voluntary groups, listening to their concerns and developing strategies to boost their success, you can make a real positive difference to your community.

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