Bring in Community Business
We tend to think of a community as just being the people who live in an area. But there’s more to it than that - businesses are a vital part of the community. In many ways they’re actually the heart of a community helping to bind it together, not just by offering places to shop, but also to gather.
Think of it – without the shop, whether it’s on the corner or a supermarket, the post office or the bank, where would you really meet others in your community? Whether in a village or a city neighbourhood, businesses of all kinds give focus, character, and identity to an area. Even the gentrified neighbourhoods, full of boutiques and restaurants, have their own character.Often the owners of the businesses, at least if they’re small, local businesses, will live in the area and be part of the community, which gives them a vested interest in improving it.
Ways to Involve BusinessesYou will already know the people who run many of the businesses in your community. You shop with them, chat to them. Even with supermarkets, you probably know several of the people who work there – they live in your area.
If you’re planning an event, don’t be afraid to ask for donations from businesses, whether it’s cash or services and goods. That kind of sponsorship can be invaluable to make your event happen, and when it’s acknowledged on event posters and programmes it becomes a win-win situation: You receive things you need and the businesses are seen to be supporting the community. Big business, especially, can be quite generous in their support if approached properly.
But you can involve business with more than just single events. Neighbourhood watches, litter patrols and community centres all need ongoing support. You could put together a programme that keeps businesses as part of that, offering financial support in return for recognition. Pint out that it’s in their interests – a safer neighbourhood means more shoppers and less vandalism.
Something you’ll find is that businesses often appreciate the chance to be bound more closely to the community they serve. If you’re modest in your requests, you should find that they’re eager to comply, and will sometimes volunteer more than you ask, including time.
Cultivating BusinessesIt’s important to develop a relationship with businesses in the community. But you don’t need to restrict yourself to those (in some cases it could be very limiting). Approach businesses outside the area – restaurants can often be counted on to donate a meal as a prize, for instance, even if they’re a few miles away or in the city centre.
When you approach a business, be friendly, but quite professional. The more you can tell them about the event – or whatever you want their help with – the better. Show the literature on it, if you have it, whatever permits or other permissions from the council.
You should also go into the meeting knowing exactly what you want from the business. It could be money, it could be goods or services, but explain what and why you need it. Don’t be extravagant, and you’ll almost certainly hear a succession of yeses.