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Good for you, good for your community, good for your business

Author: Laurie Donohue, Vice President, Agency & Broker Marketing, Aartrijk

donohue laurie 150x150 Good for you, good for your community, good for your businessVolunteerism.
Good for you, good for your community, good for your business.
Being involved in your community is a hallmark for independent agents. Many agents are active members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club and many other civic organizations. Most also are involved with area charities, like United Way, the American Cancer Society or the local food bank. What’s more, insurance agency employees often are directly contributing with time and money to many other worthy causes.
The problem is that few people know about all this good work. In my discussions with agents about their marketing, many tell me that yes, they are involved with the community, but they do it because they want to – it satisfies an internal need to do so – not because they want praise or recognition.
Well, that’s a noble thought, but the truth of the matter is that people want to know how you and your business are giving back. In fact, it can play an important role in a potential customer’s buying decision. And, it’s becoming more and more critical with the younger generations. They view volunteerism and involvement as important as the products and services you offer.
There’s nothing wrong with letting your community know what you’re doing to improve the lives of the people you serve. Here are some tips on how to get make your efforts work for both you and your constituents:
1.  Pick only three of four major charities/organizations each year to be involved in. I know many agents balk at this because every day they get another charity asking for a sponsorship – $50 for an ad in the high school yearbook, $100 to sponsor the local children’s dance recital. There are two things to remember here. One. – all charities know they’re up against huge competition for your dollar and they do not think worse of you if you say no. Second – by concentrating your money and effort into just a few projects, you get much greater exposure and the people involved will actively sing your praises around town.
If you still feel bad about saying no, here’s a great way to lighten the burden: Set up a charitable giving committee in your office and have them choose the three causes your agency will work with this year. Then, if another charity comes knocking, you tell them you have a charitable giving committee and the money is allocated for this year, but the committee will be happy to consider their proposal for next year. Also, put aside $500 – $1000 for those incidental ones you know you just won’t be able to say no to.
2.  Consider developing a special event and/or award exclusively from your agency. How about offering a special driver education scholarship to area high school students? One agency has a “Let’s Shred Day” where people can bring documents to be shredded. Or, how about a “Park Clean Up Day?” When you develop an event that’s exclusively yours, you get a lot more publicity and buzz than if you’re just sponsoring a program. Sure it takes more work, but the pay off is huge.
3. Allow your employees a certain number of work-hours per month to volunteer. Let them serve lunch at the local community kitchen, do a walk-a-thon, etc. By representing the agency while volunteering, the agency image of caring and commitment in the community grows. Your employees will talk to others about how they are encouraged to give back, enhancing your image.
4.  Promote it! Have your employees blog about their volunteer experiences, or post information on their Facebook pages. Post the information on the agency Web site, Facebook page and anywhere else you can. Send press releases to area media. If you’re sponsoring a charitable event, make sure your logo is being used and you are being publicly thanked at the event. Don’t be shy – remember, people want to know!
By actively supporting your community and making sure your constituents know about it, you’ll enhance the image of your agency and more people will think of you first for their insurance needs. It’s relatively inexpensive and very effective. Just remember, it involves some time and effort both in supporting the charities and making sure the word gets out.
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