Helpingcommunity.biz Review What You should Know About Helping Community

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Why Helping Your Community Helps Grow Your Business

There is no greater pride than helping your own community succeed.

By joining together with your local customers, businesses, nonprofits and organizations, you’re promoting many different benefits such as economical growth, charity awareness, and the sense of camaraderie, just to name a few.

Supporting your community will always be a win-win situation.

Here are a few ways helping your community can help grow your business:

Building awareness

Helping your community helps people get to know you! Whatever you end up doing, there is probably going to be some level of exposure. If you serve food at an event, volunteer to clean up a park, or donate a product or service to a nonprofit fundraising auction, there are usually incentives that are given. These incentives could include your name being printed on flyers or posted on online event pages. That’s free exposure.

Also, there is a good chance that many of these community engagements will be covered by local press or even television. You could even get an interview if you are onsite. What a great reward for getting involved.

TIP: Involved in a community event? Spread the word and let your customers know. Use email marketing to share the event information and encourage customers to attend. This will help the organization throwing the event, as well as your business, to see more action.

Interacting with your customers

How often do you get to interact and get to know your customers outside of your business? Probably not too often. But, when getting involved in your community, you have that opportunity to get to know your customers on a different level.

That’s right, in many instances, your local community members are your customers. And if they aren’t already, they will be once they see how you are helping their community succeed.

TIP: Local events can be a great way to grow your email marketing list. Plus, your community involvement will encourage them to join your customer base.

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Set up a sign up sheet and let people know what value your business will be providing them in return for their email address. This could be anything from discounts, tips, and special offers to joining a loyalty program.

Establishing partnerships

Becoming involved in the community can open many doors. When people come together for a specific cause, the opportunities to network become abundant.

This is an ideal time to make new quality relationships with fellow community members and business owners. You all have the same sense of pride for serving the same community. Getting together with other local businesses during community events or volunteer opportunities can plant the seeds for beneficial business partnerships.

TIP: Launch a business referral program using email marketing with one of your local business partners. For example, a florist could set up a discount program for customers referred by a gift shop, and vice versa.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

As noble as it is to support your community, local charities, and nonprofits, there are also many ways doing so can benefit your own business. Building awareness, the opportunity to interact with customers, and building new business partnerships are just the tip of the iceberg.

From donating time, goods, services, or money, you will get back what you give in one way or another, so get out there and get involved!

Emily Wiseheart

Constant Contact contributor. Emily is a passionate writer/marketer/gardener with experience working for small businesses and a dedication.

What Role Should a Family Business Play in Its Community?

Executive Summary

The Business Roundtable’s Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, delivered in August 2020, reflected a pronouncement of a new paradigm for business. The signatories, CEOs of some of the most influential companies in the world, declared that “they would commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders.” It makes clear: “These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.” As a family business leader, you must ask: what is your understanding of the “social contract” today, in 2020? How do the family and other stakeholders view the multiple roles of the family business in the community? What is the proper balance of the three sectors? The future of not just your family business, but of society as a whole, is at stake.

If you own or manage a family-owned business, you know that being a provider of the goods and/or services you offer to customers is only one of many roles that your company plays in the community. Your business is an employer, a standard bearer, and a community hub, just to name a few. And, you serve these roles for a diverse set of stakeholders (including customers, vendors, charitable organizations, and more) in the context of a societal structure (aka the “social contract”) that is — quite possibly — in the midst of its most profound transformation since the eighteenth century.

This is because historic assumptions about the purpose of business are in question while at the same time the balance among government, private enterprise, and the charitable sector is in flux. Given this complex environment, you — and your family business — must consider: What is your understanding of the social contract today? How will you address each of your roles in the community as they evolve in the future?

Stakeholders or Shareholders?

The Business Roundtable’s Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, delivered in August 2020, announced a new paradigm for business. The signatories, CEOs of some of the most influential companies in the world, such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon; Larry Fink of BlackRock; and Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, declared that “they would commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders.” It makes clear: “These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.” It doesn’t deny the importance of shareholders, but broadens the scope of responsibility: “Each of our stakeholders is essential. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities, and our country.”

Insight Center

Leading a Family Business

This statement will undoubtedly strike a chord with younger generations, who by all evidence are more inclined to seek alignment between their values and the behavior of companies. But it is not clear how it will be implemented and, ultimately, judged for success or failure over the long run. And, it’s not without its critics. The most notable is Warren Buffett, who has rejected the statement’s principles and remained steadfast in claiming that the purpose of a corporation must, above all, be profit for its shareholders. This shareholder primacy model is grounded in free market capitalism with an implicit nod to the “invisible hand,” traditionally the place of government. Buffett identifies a key contradiction of stakeholder theory: “Many corporate managers deplore governmental allocation of the taxpayer’s dollars, but embrace enthusiastically their own allocation of the shareholder’s dollar.”

These are just two examples of the competing views of the role — or more aptly, roles — that a business serves in society. More importantly, this debate gets to the core question of how society ought to structure itself, with its origins in “social contract” theory.

Social Contract Evolution

“Social contract” theory originated in ancient Greece and had its heyday in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as philosophers sought to understand how a society can best ensure safety from a chaotic “state of nature.” Foundational concepts such as “Natural Rights” and the “General Will” formed the core of a theory about how all individuals will be better off if each gives up some freedom for a system that provides security to all. One must not — especially today — ignore the fact that we are still, as a society, trying to figure out this balance between freedom and security. And, recognize that in all likelihood each of us would choose principles of freedom and fairness if we found ourselves under a “veil of ignorance” where we didn’t know what our place in that society (rich, poor, sick, healthy) would be.

At the core of the social contract in any society, and as recognized by Buffett in 2020, is the role of government as arbiter and allocator. Today, this debate is playing out through societal upheaval and protests, unprecedented levels of inequality, technological and industrial disruption, historically low tax rates, and generational shifts. Some business leaders, including some prominent family business owners and heirs, known as the Patriotic Millionaires, have publicly declared that they believe the balance is off-kilter — that government’s role must be supported through higher taxes, especially on the wealthiest who have gained so much in the past few decades. Other members of business-owning families have led the development of impact investing and social enterprise, which has often been funded after sale of all or part of a business and administered through a family office. Where family business owners in the past would have funded philanthropy after their lifetimes, now they are actively engaging in charitable work through family foundations and active philanthropy while still alive. Many choose to also align their business mission with their family values and focus on community impact as well.

The reality is that family businesses have long understood that they have multiple stakeholders. Boston’s Market Basket case, where thousands of employees and customers protested decisions made by the family owners, shows how powerful the expectations of customers and community can be for family businesses. As a family business leader, you must ask yourself and your family: what is your understanding of the Social Contract today, in 2020? How do the family and other stakeholders view the multiple roles of your family business in the community? What is the proper balance of the three sectors? Is the goal of saving taxes for your family as important when seen in the larger context?

As you and your family consider these questions, remember that the future of not just your family business, but of society as a whole, is at stake.

Turn Your Customers into Your Community

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Executive Summary

For many organizations, cultivating a community will mean cultivating a new capacity. This is a democratic, not autocratic, route to building customer relationships. It requires trusting instead of controlling, and commitment instead of flightiness. Take inspiration from organizations like LEGO, TEDx, and Twitch. Though there may always be companies that prefer the path of building for their customers, the companies who decide to build with are reducing their risk—and growing their opportunities—in a changing world. Begin to collaborate with your customers by asking:

Today, does our company hope for the best at the big reveal? Or do we build trust with customers throughout our process?
Does our team know the answer to who we want to invest in and why those people want to come together?
Have we “followed on” our initial investment in this community? When and how?

In the early 2000s, facing growing competition from video games and the internet, LEGO found itself on the brink of bankruptcy. The company continued to struggle before staging a remarkable turnaround and surpassing Mattel to become the world’s largest toy maker. Central to that transformation was a fundamental shift in how LEGO approached their customers. For more than 75 years of its history, LEGO made toys exclusively for customers in a closed innovation process. But over the last decade, LEGO learned how to build with their fan community.

One of the defining features of the past decade is the diminished power companies have in controlling customer interactions. While marketers used to initiate nearly all of the interactions a business might have with its customers, today a Twitch streamer can enjoy free-flowing dialogue with other gamers online, Instant Pot fans can swap cooking successes (and failures) in specialized Facebook groups, and sneakerheads can critique the latest Nikes on Instagram stories without ever interacting directly with those businesses.

LEGO’s success — and recapturing of the toy market — came from understanding this. In 2008, LEGO launched the LEGO Ideas platform, allowing fans to submit new concepts for LEGO sets. Proposals are voted on by other fans and top vote-getters are reviewed by LEGO staff. Chosen ideas are turned into sets for sale. The fan designer receives 1% of the royalties. This community has grown to over a million users, more than 26,000 product ideas have been submitted, and twenty-eight sets produced, including a Women of NASA set and playable LEGO piano. Through LEGO Ideas, the 87-year-old company successfully transitioned from simply building for customers to building with an engaged community.

In our work researching community-driven companies like LEGO and helping others to build communities, we’ve learned that true communities are more than groups of customers, they are groups of people who keep coming together over what they care about. This is true of Porsche, who we helped shift from talking at their audiences through ads and marketing, to forging a place for their superfans to connect directly with one another on apps and in clubs. With their app ROADS, Porsche enables passionate drivers to share routes they recommend and connect with each other over their love of driving.

The past decade brought many of the technical tools that were necessary to build communities. In the next decade, collaboration with customers will become both easier and more vital. To not just respond to this shift but to embrace it, here are the three crucial lessons to consider.

Lesson 1: Be willing to trust your customers.

Think of community-building as progressive acts of collaboration — collaborations big and small that demand trust from the company or original leader. Consider TED’s decision to invest in TEDx. Founded as an invitation-only conference in 1984, TED made a bold decision to introduce TEDx in 2009, empowering volunteers to independently organize TED-style conferences in their own cities. By doing so they allowed massive numbers of attendees to participate, including those who could never afford the central TED conference’s elite price tag ($10,000 for the 2020 offering).

Before launching TEDx, TED organized the entire process. But they knew that if they only offered private, curated events for a certain audience, their impact would eventually plateau. Through trusting and empowering an external community, they’ve been able to spread ideas at a remarkable scale. More than 30,000 TEDx events have been held in the last 10 years with a supporting HQ staff of fewer than 20 people.

In our conversation with Jay Herratti, TEDx executive director, we asked him why TEDx exists and thrives when so many other media companies have failed at cultivating a community with their audiences. “Ultimately, Chris Anderson [the head of TED] just really trusts people,” he told us. “For him this is really about finding the people who are most passionate about TED, those who really love what we do and believe in spreading ideas. Then you trust the people who support you the most and don’t freak out.”

Some organizations simply don’t want this two-way relationship with their customers. Earlier this year, we spoke to a senior employee at a luxury cosmetics and clothing brand. She told us that a community strategy didn’t make sense for their brand. Why? Their customers want the company to make luxury products for them. This reflection helps illuminate what companies who want to build communities need to understand: Co-owners act differently than standard customers. If you’ve misjudged trends, co-owners will tell you. Some companies might think of this as a risk. But it can — if handled appropriately– actually reduce risk. If you miss the mark on a product change, co-owners will help you get it right.

Lesson 2: Start with “who,” not “what”

Building a community isn’t about what an organization can achieve; rather, it’s a manifestation of what an organization and a group of passionate people can do together. With LEGO Ideas, LEGO pinpointed an energetic who, teen and adult fans of LEGOs, who were already devoted to dreaming up ideas for new LEGO sets. The LEGO Ideas platform supercharged what community members naturally wanted to do, which aligned with LEGO Inc’s own interests.

Like LEGO, don’t try to conjure motivation out of thin air. Organizations that jump to tactics without pausing to set a community’s purpose risk building a space where no one shows up. These organizations often park community-building efforts under a proxy function like marketing, social media, product management, or support without a potent strategy, and the resulting initiatives are organization, not community, led.

Instead, start by identifying keen participants (or who you think they might be). Community-building is an ongoing practice of trusting and collaborating with a specific group of passionate people who bring energy to your brand. Maybe they already even engage or contribute in ways that you haven’t yet recognized. Supporting those people may start as a responsibility under one department but at its best becomes a cross-functional effort to supercharge a core group of stakeholders.

Lesson 3: Consider a sustained collaboration, not a short-term investment.

Twitch and Instagram are both platforms with thriving communities that were essential to their early growth. Both platforms have been acquired and are now owned by public parent organizations (Amazon and Facebook, respectively). But they’ve taken remarkably different paths with their community investments.

Instagram was once a community-building darling. As co-founder Kevin Systrom explained, “Anyone can create a photo-sharing app; not everyone can create a community. If you can protect that asset — if you can help nurture and grow it — and your product doesn’t suck, you have created something much more valuable than a great product with a terrible community.” But in recent years, the company reduced its community investments. They eliminated their global community team, reducing their investments in storytelling about passionate community members. They’ve automated customer support. A few years ago, they halted their support of InstaMeets, the meetups passionate users put on organically. And they even removed “community first” from the company’s values statement. Yet in the short term, their bottom line continues to grow and grow. (One of us, Bailey, was one of the first Instagram team members.)

Twitch, on the other hand, has continued to make deep investments in their community even as they’ve grown. Their Twitch “ambassador” program trains burgeoning streamers and flies them into HQ to speak directly to product and data teams. New product ideas are shared with community members before they ship. The Twitch team continues to spotlight remarkable users in their product and editorial. And they have invested in a fast-growing series of meetups around the world.

Why does Twitch continue to invest in these relationships if they’ve already reached such scale? Erin Wayne, the Head of Community Marketing at Twitch, told us: “Our community has strong opinions about what we at HQ do because they spend so much time on our platform…Six years ago there were 50 million people using the site. Now there’s four times that number, and we should still be doing the same things. It doesn’t mean that our community’s opinions are less important because there are more members.” The Twitch community’s passion is remarkable: members give their time to advocate and organize on behalf of the brand. So Twitch continues to show up for their users and offer a higher standard of care, building with, not for them, even as they’ve reached the scale most companies can only dream of (more than 1 million users on the site at any moment).

In the early days of Instagram, there was a thriving community, but it was never guaranteed to stay that way. Twitch, by comparison, is investing in deep relationships with customers. A company can continue to thrive — as Instagram so far has — without investing in their community but if you don’t sustain your relationships you are at risk of taking on community debt. For most companies the loyalty of a set of customers is one of their most defensible assets.

A community is only a community if people keep showing up. Thus if companies want to build communities, they too will need to keep showing up. They need to be consistent. The ROI of community investments can’t be measured as immediately or evidently as other tactics like digital advertisements. But beware: Organizations who don’t make real sustained investments, putting resources and time into nurturing relationships with their most passionate people, simply won’t succeed at building a community. They will get out what they put in.

For many organizations, cultivating a community will mean cultivating a new capacity. This is a democratic, not autocratic, route to building customer relationships. It requires trusting instead of controlling, and commitment instead of flightiness.

Take inspiration from organizations like LEGO, TEDx, and Twitch. Begin to collaborate with your customers by asking:
Today, does our company hope for the best at the big reveal? Or do we build trust with customers throughout our process? Does our team know the answer to who we want to invest in and why those people want to come together?
Have we “followed on” our initial investment in this community? When and how?

As we move into the coming decade, your customers will be acting on your behalf anyway, driving interactions themselves. You can either stand on the sidelines, or you can take an active role by empowering them.

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