By David O’Hair
Patrons describe businesses using emotional terms such as cozy, welcoming, cold or thoughtful, because businesses have personalities. These personalities are seen by the community and help aid in success if said personalities match up with the community’s values.
Here in Seattle, it is important for businesses to be sustainable, eco-friendly and ethical, but businesses still want to do better. The push for businesses to focus on their communities is not just common in Seattle though.
Philanthropy Northwest, a regional powerhouse for educating businesses on how to interact with their community, helps all their members in the Northwest. Their organization compiles the philanthropic based practices of six states and has hundreds of member businesses. However, they also educate said businesses on how to network with their own communities.
Philanthropy Northwest and like organizations recognize that a business should be involved with more than just getting into the black for the upcoming quarter. They also recognize that it is not always the easiest to instantly become community-minded. There are many ways that businesses can interact with their communities, but here are four steps your business can take to be a more community-minded operation.
Discover The Community’s Needs
In order for businesses to successfully connect and aid the community, they first need to truly know what the community needs and wants. Use your already established communication channels to discover what your community’s needs really are. These communication channels can be your website’s chat feature, social media’s comment section or instructing your staff to engage your customer base and ask the important questions.
The community’s needs might not always be clearly obvious. In Seattle, there are lots of viable community projects that need funding. Schools, sports, income assistance, substance control, and the list goes on. However, adult job retraining is a widely popular topic in Seattle, especially within the technology sector.
That is why Amazon, headquarters located in Seattle, has been a heavy contributor to an organization simply called, Code. Code helps teach people the skills to obtain in-demand technology jobs and they are kept incredibly busy in Seattle.
Trying to tackle a community’s needs can seem like a daunting task at first glance. Where do you even take the first bite? However, due to the landscape of today’s job market and technological progression, there is one easy way to start helping your community.
As technology advances at such a rapid rate, that means there are more features to learn and updates to understand. It is important to understand that a large portion of your community is probably behind on the basic functions of tech. For example, email, social media, internet browsing, etc. If you want confirmation, just tell most people that you store your information in the cloud and wait for their confused faces.
Comcast NBCUniversal, a Civic 50 honoree, has taken notice of this knowledge gap and already implemented their program to close said gap. Their program, Internet Essentials, is one of the nation’s most successful community-centered initiatives. Since beginning five years ago, Internet Essentials has connected 2.4 million economically disadvantaged community members with home internet. Chances are your business isn’t large enough to build a program like Internet Essentials, but your organization has talents and you can to focus them to affect change.
Develop Sustainable Events
Once you have determined what the true needs of the community are, now it is time to set up events to address said needs. If the community is lacking in mentor programs for children, then develop a volunteer based program. If the community is severely behind the technological times, then organize a series of lectures and workshops aimed at eliminating that problem.
The key is to look at the community’s long-term well-being and make prolonged change a top priority. Change takes time and sometimes your company needs to start small. Think of starting a day where the company gets together and dedicates all their resources to the community and helps with that community’s specific needs.
Even massive organizations implement these effective, day-long pushes. Previously mentioned Comcast has been working with various communities for 15 years through initiatives like Comcast Cares Day. One example of how small steps in the beginning can lead to lasting and effective change.
However, it is important to pick goals that are both needed in the community and that your business’s staff can get behind with enthusiasm. The events are going to be relying on the manpower of the business so it’s key to make sure the staff will be motivated as well to act for sustainable change.
Creative Mornings, is a free, monthly event that features speakers and forums focused for the creative community in Seattle. They host lectures for a specifically identified community and have developed a sustainable operation that has a presence in several major U.S. cities.
Partner with Like-Minded Organizations
When your business has settled on a good program and is on the path towards sustainable change, the next step is to grow the reach of the change. Partnering with other organizations within the community will not only expand your business resources, but it will expand the reach of the program to an entirely different customer base.
When you grow the network of people trying to affect specific change, the potential for change will grow proportionally. Give your program the best chance at success and partner with others who are focused on developing a more community-minded business.
Seattle Good Business Network, is a collection of like-minded businesses that are all focused on bettering Seattle’s various communities. With their various initiatives, the Network pushes everything from eating local to pledge drives for worthy causes.
These are just three ways that will bring your business closer to changing for the community for the better, however, there are multiple paths that can be taken towards that same goal. Do you have a great idea for how to make your Seattle business community-minded? Let us know in the comments.