Of course your association has a mission statement with goals to benefit your members. You wouldn’t have members if that wasn’t the mission! But we’re willing to bet that you also have goals of reaching out and bettering your local community. And if it’s not the case, maybe it should be! The benefits of reaching out and helping the community will come through in spades for good publicity and local support.
So how do you do it?
1) Do what you do best!
Tap into your members’ interests and see if you can do something to help out the community! If you are part of an educational association, maybe a weekly tutoring session or book drive would be a great way to step into the spot light and help out the local community. Building and construction associations could always latch on to Habitat for Humanity or other similar charities including disaster relief, and even something like knitting clubs can get together and donate hats to cancer patients or blankets to woman’s shelters. This is really an opportunity to think outside the box. Ask your members how they utilize their particular skill set to help out when they have the opportunity, or simply what they would like to do. Suggestions never hurt!
2) Check the local news
With the economy as up and down as it currently is, it is almost certain that any disaster from unemployment to hurricanes is going to have a HUGE call for volunteers. Perhaps adopting a local family struck with a medical tragedy or helping to raise money for a local store that was recently struck with robbery would be a good way to connect. Remember, you don’t have to come up with these initiatives yourselves! There is almost always another organization taking the helm for these projects. All they need, usually, is an extra pair (or several extra pairs) of hands to really make a difference.
Having said that, there is always a need for qualified, kind volunteers. Retirement homes, for example, are always looking for visitors as well as long-established nonprofits like the YMCA or the Red Cross. Would it be a good fit for your association and members to fit in with these reputable foundations?
4) Showing your faces at local events
Sometimes it’s not even about the amount of work put in or the money raised, it’s just about showing support. Well-attended events make the biggest splash (as you well know!) so it could be incredibly valuable to just show up sometimes. When a nonprofit is applying for a grant they want pictures of smiling supporters to be able to show off to a potential donor. Just reaching out and showing up can be enough to help sometimes, and may take the sting of commitment out of the “ask” for your members.
5) Sponsoring events
Did you know that the foot racing community is one of the largest contributors to nonprofit fund raising in the country? It’s because the individual runners often “run for a cure” and gather donors to support their runs and walks by pledging money per mile. Is that something your budget could swing? If not, that’s ok! You could always reach out to local events like charity races and offer to sponsor and staff a water stop, which usually just means filling up hundreds of little cups and handing them to runners as they stop by and probably clean up afterwards.
Running not your thing? No worries! If there’s an event out there, chances are there’s a way to “sponsor” with volunteers or make a charitable donation. Every major league and probably most minor league sports teams have foundations associated with them, so sponsoring an event could be as easy as buying baseball tickets. Reach out and ask- you have nothing to lose!
Reaching out to your community is really a win/win, and you can do it without stretching your budget too much or putting too much strain on your already overloaded schedule. Remember to ask your members what works for them, and consult your board for the best fit. You want to support your local community, but your association community comes first!