Whether you are part of a nonprofit, foundation, corporation or other organization, you operate within a wider society with which you want to build a connection. Sometimes you may turn to your community to seek support, e.g., by asking them to volunteer, donate money or share their expertise. At other times you may reach out to offer your help and support in an area where you feel equipped to make a positive impact.
Your community engagement strategy defines how you will create and maintain a connection with the community around you.
There are many good reasons to develop a community engagement strategy. By launching community-based initiatives, you raise awareness about your brand, which can help improve your reputation—great for business. Community projects also allow you to establish meaningful connections with people in your sphere of influence and give something back to those in need. For example, by providing students with scholarships, you are not only helping them in a time of need but also deepening ties with people who may one day become employees or collaborators in your business.
If you haven’t already done so, now is an ideal time to think about how to reach out and build connections that will advance your business as well as allow you to make a positive impact. The following 2023 community engagement trends will give you some food for thought to help get your plan underway.
Community engagement trend #1: Providing educational scholarships
Now, more than ever, money is a major concern for students—especially in this period of financial uncertainty where they don’t even know if they will be able to secure suitable employment at the end of their studies. Outside support—which could include either financial assistance or mentoring and work experience (or both)—is something most students these days will welcome.
As well as allowing you to support the future generation of workers, running a scholarship program will offer your organization other benefits:
Demonstrate commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion—By supporting underrepresented students or those from minority groups, you can demonstrate a clear commitment to DEI, an important value for companies and organizations to espouse.
Develop your own talent pipeline—You may choose to support students who are studying certain subjects that could be of use to your business in the future. By starting to build deeper relationships with students in the earliest stages of their careers, you are setting the stage for the future and allowing them to learn more about your organization and the opportunities your sector has to offer.
Retain your existing workforce—You do not need to limit your scholarship just to students. You can also offer financial and practical support to employees who wish to further their education or learn new skills. Your generosity will likely pay off by sparking greater loyalty and ensuring employees’ long-term commitment to the organization.
Build your image as a socially responsible company—The up-and-coming generation of employees are very interested in a company’s overall values and may even check out your CSR strategies before deciding whether to apply for a job. By running an equitable scholarship program, you might well be increasing your chances of attracting top talent to your business.
Boost positive brand awareness—We tend to hear about the companies that do a lot of good in the world. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation (CCSF), for example, is world-renowned for its incredible student scholarship program that has provided over 6,600 Coca-Cola Scholars with more than $78 million in educational support since 1989. Run your own company-branded scholarships program and see your reputation soar.
Community engagement trend #2: Building alumni networks
Just because an employee or member has left your organization, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road. Smart and savvy organizations realize the value of staying in touch with both current and former employees in a meaningful way. Here are some good reasons to keep the flame alive after employees quit:
They may come back—More than 30% of respondents would consider being rehired by a former employer, according to a Gracechurch Consulting study. By keeping in touch over the years, you increase the chance of this happening, and every corporation knows it is easier and cheaper to onboard someone who already knows your company well than a total newbie.
You’ll get quality referralsֿ—Even if some of the people in your corporate network never choose to come back, if they remain connected to the organization they are more likely to refer people from their professional networks. Research shows that alumni referrals are 3-4 times more likely to be hired than non-alumni referrals.
Free brand ambassadors—Actively engaged and happy alumni will be some of your most valuable brand ambassadors. By keeping the relationship alive, you’ll stay top of mind and increase the likelihood that your former employees will say good things about you on both their social media channels and in their business interactions.
Build a knowledge well—Your former employers have skills and knowledge that might be useful to you even as they go off and explore new paths. Encourage them to remain connected and active on your alumni network and you can always dip into this well when you need an expert opinion or someone with specialist knowledge.
Community engagement trend #3: Running Corporate Social Responsibility programs
While every organization is interested in its bottom line, most also care deeply about leaving a positive mark on the world.
Both employees and future clients want to align themselves with companies that have value systems that reflect their own. Organizations and companies are often judged by their level of commitment to CSR and the nature of the CSR programs they run. For this reason, it is important to get the word out about the positive work you are doing and attract volunteers and supporters.
An alumni platform is a great asset to any CSR program as it can grant you access to a wide number of your former and current employees. Use your network to publicize your CSR projects and engage volunteers and helpers. Regularly share impact stories and update on your progress to make your network truly proud of the organization they are part of.
Community engagement trend #4: Growing volunteerism and engagement
It is one thing to attract volunteers and quite another to retain them. Whether you are a corporation or a nonprofit, volunteers are likely to be an important part of what it is you do. A community engagement platform can help you keep volunteers engaged and motivated in the following ways:
Ask for helpֿֿֿ—Use your platform to tell alumni about the projects you are running and ask for the help you need, explaining why you need help and what kind of impact their efforts will have.
Share impact stories—Everyone wants to feel that their efforts are valued. Use your platform to share stories and stats about the difference volunteers are making in the lives of those you help.
Say thank you—Show your appreciation by creating beautiful thank-you videos and messages and showcasing those people you want to thank on your member platform.
Stay in touch – Stay in touch with your network all the time and not just when you need to ask for something. Share news and milestones and offer networking events and other opportunities for your members to connect with one another and with your organization in positive ways.
Leverage the power of your community in 2023
Harnessed in the right way, your community can be one of your greatest and most powerful assets, offering you a pool of eager people who can help you run your business as well as reach out and help wider society.
In today’s online world, a community platform—such as Community from Gravyty— can help you leverage the full power of your network. Community is the ideal tool for nonprofits and corporations who want to leverage the power of their communities, maintain good relationships during and after their tenure at the company, and offer employment opportunities, mentorship, and high-level networking capabilities.
Use Community to easily engage your network with a state-of-the-art virtual networking experience, a personalized feed, and a directory to connect with peers and virtual events—all from one place.
Find out how Community from Gravyty can help you build a vibrant and engaged community around your organization.