Our communities are what make us strong as individuals. Community members celebrate and help one another in impactful ways. When a community comes together to support a cause, it is a site to behold.
Schools, nonprofits, and other organizations are uniquely defined by their communities. These organizations exist to further a greater cause. Their relationship with the community directly affects their ability to realize their mission.
That’s why, as a nonprofit, your community outreach matters. Without the ongoing support of your local and global communities, your nonprofit’s mission would still be a dream instead of a reality. Connecting with your community can also improve your fundraising efforts and further your positive brand awareness.
What is community outreach?
Community outreach involves a nonprofit’s efforts to engage community members in fundraising or volunteer opportunities that support a charitable cause. This could look like inviting community members to participate in a 5K fundraiser or attend a fancy fundraising dinner.
Effective community outreach requires transparency and genuine interest from your nonprofit. You have to show community members that you care about them and are invested in being a positive force for good in the local area. Get to know your community members personally and express a sincere interest in their lives.
Once you’ve established a positive relationship with your community members, encourage them to invite their family and friends to upcoming fundraising events. If you stay consistent, soon, you will have a reliable, diverse community network.
Benefits of community outreach
There are several upsides to community outreach. Although it takes a bit of effort, you will reap the benefits in years to come. A successful community outreach program will help you:
- Improve your organization’s public image. It’s one thing to be noticed as an organization. It’s quite another to get consistent praise for your efforts. When community members mention your nonprofit in a positive light, it’s like free word-of-mouth advertising. In other words, people value direct referrals from those they trust incredibly highly.
- Raise greater awareness and support for your mission. Community outreach gets people talking about your promise to make a difference and opens the door to fostering more support. People naturally reference your mission when they know your nonprofit name.
- Develop valuable community partnerships, such as corporate sponsorships. In many ways, corporate sponsorships can be the golden ticket that helps your fundraising get off the ground. Partnerships with other local organizations are useful as well. When you team up with another local school or nonprofit to host an event or fundraising campaign, your united efforts will go a long way.
These are just a few of the pros of getting to know your community. Be aware that these benefits may take some time to materialize, but once they do, they can exponentially propel your mission forward.
What are some effective community outreach ideas?
Creating a plan will assist your community outreach efforts. Ideally, your strategy will contain a variety of outlined ideas planned throughout the year. If your organization is newer, planning more outreach events ahead of time will maximize your ROI.
Below are some options to reference to find the optimal pathway for community outreach success:
- Host a volunteer open house. Volunteer open houses are similar to regular open houses because they are casual, low-stakes networking opportunities. It can be a drop-in event where community members can volunteer for an hour or so while learning about your volunteer opportunities and program.
- Engage community members in a sneaker recycling program. Everyone, especially parents with growing kids, has an extra pair of running shoes lying around. Partner with a sneaker recycling program like Sneaker4FGood to collect gently worn, used and new running shoes from your community members. You could host a 5K to collect the shoes, take them to the nearest shipping center, and receive a check in exchange for the donated shoes.
- Host a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Have your current network facilitate supporter growth. Peer-to-peer fundraising is a personalized campaign reliant on volunteers requesting support from their networks. These volunteers act as ambassadors for your cause and help you reach your fundraising goals.
- Lead a sustainability webinar. We can all do our part to cherish the environment. A sustainability webinar explores practical ways your community can give back. You could cover various topics like how to decrease single plastic use or top farmer’s market picks.
- Partner with a local business for an event or fundraiser. Talk with community members to learn about their favorite local restaurants or entertainment venues. Then reach out to these businesses and inquire about hosting an event or fundraiser in their spaces. It could look like a brunch at a cozy breakfast spot with proceeds benefiting your cause.
- Interact with supporters on social media. Keep your social media feed updated with the latest content about your mission. Reach out to potential supporters directly to see if they would be interested in featuring you in a post or on their timeline.
- Ask for supporter feedback. Send a survey or offer a poll on your website. Gather supporter feedback concerning specific fundraisers to see how you can improve for your next event. Make sure your surveys are short and straightforward to respect your supporter’s time.
- Provide advocacy opportunities. Do you see a major opportunity for positive change within your community? Categorize your community needs and tackle them by advocating for either policy, environmental, or systems change. Host an advocacy committee to reach out to the appropriate leaders to kickstart your movement.
A combination of fundraising ideas, volunteer opportunities, and community events can help you reach different audiences. Get to know your community to decide which outreach idea they would most likely do. Make your outreach relevant and impactful to them.
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