What does community mean to you? Is it the town where your office is headquartered, a new city where you hope to expand, or a group on Facebook? However you define it, community engagement is an often overlooked, but powerful tool that can foster deep, meaningful connections.

Grassroots community engagement can take a variety of forms. Whether it is through starting an employee impact program, building a charitable campaign, hosting a community event or just looking for ways to be more involved, these efforts can:

1. Build your reputation

Increased involvement in business or civic groups should be a primary aspect of any community campaign. Meeting face-to-face with key influencers helps increase the visibility of your organization and can lead to strategic partnerships.

For our client Point Breeze Credit Union, opening a new office in a new market meant the need to create awareness and trust. To reach this goal, we created the Community Care Challenge, a competition that challenged local businesses, non-profits and individuals to compete for a $10,000 prize to fund a project that demonstrated the potential to enhance and improve the community; in this case, Westminster, Md.

On behalf of Point Breeze, we connected with over 150 non-profits, businesses, community groups and local schools to share the details of the challenge and encourage entries. Judges then selected four finalists to pitch their community enhancement idea in person during a special event at the new branch. An additional finalist was crowd-sourced from the local community, which voted on finalists through a Facebook fan favorite contest.

Working closely with finalists who advanced to the fan favorite contest, Point Breeze reached its highest-ever Facebook engagement. The Community Care Challenge posts received over 560 likes, 19 comments and 130 shares.

The Community Care Challenge pitch event brought together community and civic leaders, including those from the county’s Commissioner office. Ultimately, the winner of the contest was Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory, Inc. (MAGIC), which demonstrated how it would provide innovative, in-home healthcare monitoring for elderly adults. The four runner-ups all received a $1,935 prize towards their community enhancement projects.

Throughout the Community Care Challenge, the community played an active role in the campaign, and learned about Point Breeze along the way. And as a business, Point Breeze took seriously its responsibility to give back to the community and make it a better place to live and work.

2. Drive media coverage

Media coverage that highlights community impact helps shine a positive light on your organization. To make the most of a community campaign, craft activities that will build unique stories. Instead of just donating money to a local charity, work with a non-profit to create a program where your employees can help support individuals that the non-profit serves.

Recently, our client The Wise Investor Group partnered with a local homeless shelter to assemble and provide lunches for over 200 residents. The Wise Investor Group engaged its entire team, as well as family members, to help put the lunches together. As a result, a reporter with a local media outlet, The Reston Connection, attended the event to take photos and published an article that ran here.

The more impact that your program has, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to tie in media coverage.

3. Engage employees

Involving employees in grassroots campaigns can help create a sense of pride and help boost employee engagement. When employees are supported to participate in community activities, they tend to be more satisfied with their workplace and look forward to coming into the office. Employees also tend to be well connected in the communities where they live and work, and can serve as advocates for your brand to share the company’s message of giving back.

Our client 1st Mariner involved its employees in a recent tree planting campaign with Blue Water Baltimore. For every 1st Mariner account that was converted or signed up for Paperless Statements this past May, the banks dedicated employees worked as a team to plant trees around Baltimore. Since the employees live locally and the bank is built on the community, they want to help build up and make the community stronger.

If you need help generating excitement in a new market, or building deeper relationships with your current community, we can help. Reach me at amanda@abelcommunications.com.