Gone are the days that you pick up the phone, explain to the recipient what you offer and BOOM, you land a new client, new job or whatever else you may be seeking. Today, it’s all about personal connections and relationships. But relationships take time to build and last. That’s one reason word-of-mouth, customer testimonials and referrals are so important. Without this human connection that establishes both individual and business credibility, you can miss out on key elements of building up your personal and professional reputation.

Although your business and client’s recommendations are one factor, who and what you choose to surround yourself and your business with is another. This can be considered the elements that you can control, and it is a missed opportunity if it is not prioritized. By getting involved in your local community, you do more than just give back. In fact, there are several long-term benefits to note that are relevant for businesses, as much as it is for individuals. Here are the key four:

  1. Humanizing Your Brand: the first thing that usually pops into your mind when referring to community involvement is networking opportunities. Although the networking aspect is highly beneficial, it is also an opportunity to put a human face(s) to your business. Again, a business may simply mean your own personal brand, or it can represent a large organization. Through your community involvement, people are given the chance to personally meet your brand outside the business setting or environment. Instead of a digital first impression (usually via your LinkedIn page or website) or a cold call out of the blue, getting this informal first impression outside of the office environment allows you to control that introduction and begin building those relationships. It adds visibility to people you may have never met otherwise. Which leads us to the next benefit…

  2. Retention & Prospecting Opportunities: as you surround yourself with others in the area, there’s always an opportunity to meet new people who may become potential clients, employees and business partners. By consistently putting yourself and your brand out in the public, you surround yourself with like-minded folks. In fact, 82% of US customers take into account corporate social responsibility when determining what products and services they buy. (1) Furthermore, employees demand to work for companies who prioritize corporate social responsibility and those that implement programs to support it. Therefore, when considering employee and customer retention, this is a huge business factor that cannot be overlooked.

  3. Shared Values: in addition to contributing to your network of connections, participating in the community also allows you to surround yourself, and your business, with people sharing similar interests and a common set of values. This community (within a community) is focused on a larger purpose and has made a commitment, whether it be of time, money or energy, to support it. By coming together under this common purpose, you establish a connection instantly through your efforts.

  4. Unexpected Returns: having a mindset of giving is a powerful concept. In fact, science now confirms that by the act of giving, in return, we actually feel happier, it is good for our health and brings out a gratitude mindset. (2) This in turn can lead to a more fulfilling life when you feel part of something bigger than yourself. By consistently nurturing your own well-being, and associating with other individuals and businesses who support it, you set yourself up for the most positive and fulfilled life.

So how can you find ways to get you and your business involved in the community? Giving back comes in many shapes and sizes, and there is never too little to give to reap the benefits mentioned above.

Here are three ways that you can pay it forward and make an impact:

  • Financial Giving – you may consider to sponsor or contribute money to local events or charities. Some examples include a local race, such as the Pocatello Marathon or an event, such as the Bannock Civitan Revice @ 5 Summer Concert Series. There are also countless charities that can always use financial assistance. Use this link to search for one that aligns with your passion and interests. Whether you’re looking to contribute to a specific animal you love, a sport you’re passionate about or a hobby you love – you can most likely find a way to support that through charitable giving.

  • Give Your Time – “time is money” and giving your time is also a great way to contribute to the community. Whether it is through mentoring at the Boys and Girls Club or volunteering at a local elementary school, you can find numerous ways to get involved in local community events. Lending a helping hand does not go unnoticed and is a great way to meet new people, have fun and make a difference.

  • Lead the Change – if you’re not sure where to start or feel a more broad approach is better fitting to you and your business, joining a local Civic Organization or Chamber of Commerce can introduce you to leaders in the community and provide more insight and opportunities to get involved within the community. Simply attending these meetings and beginning to network can be instrumental for your growth individually and as an organization.

If you’re ready to get involved in your local community but feel slightly uncomfortable about going at it alone, don’t worry. Most volunteers are in the same boat, but to break the ice in your networking conversations, here are five introductory lines to help you feel confident and get the conversation started on the right note:

  • “How did you hear about this event?” or, “How did you get involved in this organization?”
  • “Where are you from?” or “What area of town do you live in? Do you like it?”
  • “What school did you go to? Did you like it? What made you choose it?”
  • “Tell me about your background.” or, “What field do you work in? Do you enjoy it?”
  • “I recently joined this organization. I’m looking to learn more about (blank). Do you have any good contacts to help me out?”

Once you find your common ground or hear interesting points of reference, keep the conversation going by saying “That’s interesting! Tell me more” or “I’d love to hear more about that.”

Life is built on relationships and human connections drive what we all do. No matter your background, interests or experience, there are always ways you can give back to your community, which in return can provide lasting long-term benefits on both a personal and professional level.

As Howard Zinn once said, “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” Don’t miss these moments to make a difference in your local communities. We can’t wait to see you out there!

Check out ISU Credit Union's commitment to community initiatives - Teal Team VI

(1) https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2017/06/08/how-community-involvement-programs-can-grow-your-business/#5cc544ba421d
(2) https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/7-unmistakable-signs-of-happiest-people-that-are-hard-to-find.html?cid=nl029week31day30_4&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Inc%20Must%20Reads&position=1&partner=newsletter&campaign_date=30072018