I am currently working as a program coordinator for a small non-profit called KNOW(2) in Cherokee County, South Carolina. As a communications professional, I understand the importance of establishing relationships with community stakeholders, but I did not truly understand the importance of these mutually beneficial relationships until I began to immerse myself in the community I am working with. Building strong relationships is important in numerous ways. The community in which you work lays the foundation of what you are able to accomplish as a non-profit organization. The community essentially consists of everything and everyone you need to run a successful organization. If volunteers and donors are members of your community that you wish to reach out to, you must first establish a lasting relationship with them.
These are the 5 ways that a non-profit can establish mutually beneficial relationships within their community:
1. Attend Community Events
Participating within the community you work with is an excellent way to establish lasting relationships and gather support for yourself. Contact your local chamber of commerce and gather a list of events happening within your community. Support your community by attending church events, plays and fundraising events. By immersing yourself within the community you work, you are not only forming relationships, but you are also generating positive public relations for your organization.
2. Attend City Council Meetings
As a non-profit you are here to serve the needs of your community. Although non-profit organizations are normally not political it is beneficial to understand what is happening within the community you are working with. Attending city council meetings will allow you to meet the “decision makers” within your community, and will also help you spread the good news of your organization to individuals who have a larger voice in your community.
3. Support Local Business
Supporting local business in your community is important because these businesses are stabilizing the economy in which you work. Most businesses are willing to make financial contributions to non-profit organizations, but it always important to support these them and build relationships before asking for donations. This can be accomplished my meeting face to face with the owners. Introduce yourself and give them details about your organization and your purpose. Buy a meal at their restaurant or purchase a product at their store. Show local businesses that you are willing to support them. Doing this will help you later down the road when you are ready to ask for a financial contribution.
4. Meet Face-To-Face
Because we live in a society that is driven by technology, we often forget the importance of communicating face-to-face with individuals. I have found that when I meet in person with someone for at 30 minutes, I am more likely to communicate with that person more frequently in a personal manner. When meeting with any community stakeholders, always ask to meet in person. By doing this you are showing them that they are important enough for you to designate a portion of your day to meet with them. Once you meet them, you will be able to recognize them out in the community which may lead to more networking opportunities.
5. Maintain Relationships You Have Established
Once you have formed relationships with community stakeholders, now you must maintain these relationships. As a non-profit, you must view these relationships as ongoing in order to have success. Keep in touch with the individuals you have connected with. Send them a monthly newsletter about the progress of your organization or invite them to events. Engage them in a professional manner as much as possible and showcase the work you are doing in your community.
In August 2016 KNOW(2) celebrated the grand opening of bGEN, whose purpose is business generation for community transformation. The space allows new businesses to take root in a short-term space that is cost-effective and convenient.
Tenants rent a space for $150 a month and are able to access the space 24/7. Other amenities are offered, including free Wi-Fi, Printers, a desk chair and landline phone.The space currently houses six tenants offering a large variety of business to the downtown area. Some of the businesses include: Zack’s Barkery, Basket Case Formal Wear and Windows and Siding by Joey and Matt Gault.
KNOW(2) is very proud of bGEN for the huge impact this will have on the economy in Gaffney, but this project is far from over. Tenants are currently being sought for the next phase, which will include 1,000 feet of office space. The final phase of the building will be a space where businesses may house their equipment.
Because of the strong support of Cherokee County, bGEN has already seen much success. KNOW(2) is excited and honored to be apart of this initiative and hopes that bGEN is just the beginning of more economic success in the county.