In most company cultures, people are motivated by a spirit of competition. Last week we looked at ways to start a charity endeavor within your company — a proven way of raising company pride and internal spirit. But what if you threw a party and no one came? This week we’ll look at ways to increase awareness and participation for your community outreach program.
Tell Them Once, Tell Them Twice, Then Tell Them Again About Your Community Outreach Program
With any type of endeavor, there is always a head-scratching percentage of people who say “I didn’t know about it!” I like to say that you can’t read someone’s email to them, and sometimes there’s no possible way they couldn’t know and yet… they seem not to.
To help promote your community outreach program, utilize every venue of advertising possible. Make sure that someone from the human resources or communications team is plugged in to help you get your materials approved so you can get the message out.
Some ideas of ways to communicate internally:
- Use your email, newsletters, company chat rooms, etc. to spread the word on a regular basis. Keep your content fresh with updates on progress towards your goal; profiles of the beneficiary organizations or individuals (often if you are working with an organization they can provide this material to you) — whatever will help raise interest in the cause.
- Disrupt the environment with posters and signs in common areas, from break rooms to bathrooms.
- Let department heads know you’d love them to support the endeavor by mentioning it in their meetings or other team communication — and encouraging their team to participate. If you are running a department-based competition, make sure to keep them aware of the standings!
- Hold a rally or event at lunch. You know people will come running for free food so see if you can siphon off some money from the budget to have everyone in for cookies or donuts and a little more information. Have someone there from the participating organization to give a brief summary of the cause and pull at those heart (and purse) strings.
Shout It From the Rooftops
Another way to increase participation in your community outreach program — and get the ear and eye of management — is to promote the event externally. Make sure your outreach is approved by your human resources and communications departments, but your community service offers a chance to raise your profile outside your four walls.
Some ideas to communicate externally:
- Send a news release to the local paper to see if they’d like to do a story on your event or participation. It could be as simple as taking a photo of the goods as they are amassing, or inviting them to use your company as a “case study” for a story they might be doing anyway on a high-profile community event like “Race for the Cure.”
- Invite customers to participate. If your office lends itself to drop bys, create an email that can be sent to customers and suppliers inviting them to participate. Wording is crucial — you want to be low key so they don’t feel uncomfortable, but just let them know you’d welcome their participation if they are interested.
- Use company blogs and newsletters to tout the effort and results. Include high-quality photos of participants in action shots.
So you’ve told everyone about it, now what? Here’s where you can get creative to get the most people to participate:
For Collections: The most obvious way is to pit departments against each other to see which one collects the most. Keep the competition fierce, but friendly, by posting a thermometer-type sign that shows where each department is. Make sure the reward is something fun; from a special coffee break treat one morning, to an extra “casual dress” day or the opportunity to throw a pie in the face of your president! (if he or she is one of those fun-loving sorts!)
For Events: Participating in a walk or other event as a company is a great way to build teamwork outside the office.
Extend the camaraderie value of this event by holding training events if it’s an athletic competition; creating fun team slogans, names and T-shirt designs; and, again, holding a friendly competition between departments over how many are participating or how much money has been raised. Keep in mind that some departments might have wildly different numbers so do what seems fair.
Make no mistake, the promotion of any cause you undertake will be time consuming. But the payoff will be more employees involved, more money or goods raised, more good will in the office — and more interest from management.
In the final installment of this three-part series, we’ll examine how to evaluate the results of your efforts and reach for the sky!
Series on How to Start a Community Outreach Program at Work
- Part 1: Tips on How to Start a Community Outreach Program at Work
- Part 2: How to Increase Awareness of and Participation in Your Community Outreach Program
- Part 3: Community Outreach Program Post-Mortem
by Cathie Ericson