Top 10 tips for effective community engagement

Tips from our April Newcomers workshop on effective community engagement.

  1. Corporate partnerships with charities are about supporting the core of the charity, not the beneficiary. Charities struggle to find core funding and as a business you can create a skills-based volunteering programme that will support the core of what they do and harness your people’s real strengths (e.g., in strategic management, financial analysis, business case building, etc).
  2. Find out what the charity really needs: not what the charity thinks the corporate wants to hear. Get the charity to tell you everything about their needs and to be honest with you about barriers to success they face. Only then, in partnership, can you co-create the ways your employees can support the charity. Creative partnerships can generate their own momentum.
  3. Partner with a charity that shares your values. Relationships with charities can be made even easier when each organisation’s values correlate.
  4. Plan carefully, keep a fluid relationship and remain patient. The first few meetings are critical for planning activities, areas of support and proposed deadlines. The relationship should be fluid with regular check-ins to ensure plans are on track. However, it should be noted that there are often crunch points in the yearly cycle for businesses and charities, so, it’s best to be transparent about any issues or challenges throughout.
  5. Start small and develop the relationship: do not commit to an unachievable project. Start with a small, easily deliverable project which links with your core business values. The relationship could develop by committing to another project and upping the game.
  6. Embed measuring your community work from the start, not as an after-thought once you’ve started your community work. Measuring social impact is not about terminology but about structure and clear focus.
  7. To understand impact, think and map out input -> output -> outcome -> impact -> value. Use this as a mapping tool to understand what is trying to be achieved.
  8. When measuring your impact: remember to put yourself in the shoes of the beneficiaries you are trying to reach best serve and maximise the value you seek to add for them.
  9. When communicating your impact: tell a story . How many lives were changed as a result of your work? How did your work change the environment? This makes for a compelling case to sell internal involvement and benefits to senior and operational staff.
  10. Refine your work to increase impact. Using measurement tools companies can identify areas which can be improved resulting in greater impact.

We would like to thank Hannah Christie, Kiran Noonan, Anthony Harmar and Oran Blackwood for demonstrating an excellent case study in community engagement at the workshop. Also, thank you to our other presenters Meera Chadha, Nesta and Elliott Trevithick, TSIP.

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