A business colleague recently asked me about our community program. He wanted to know how we decided what to become involved in. It got me thinking about how business approaches engaging with the community.
There’s a strong community feel in regional Australia, particularly in Geelong. It’s one of the core reasons why we chose to start our business here. For us, the Geelong region is unique in Australia; there’s a true parochial sense of community and we really look after our own.
There’s no doubt that being an active member of the community is good for business, however from my own experience there’s more to it than that for our team at BTS.
The exciting thing for us is that being involved in the community became more than just writing a cheque. It became personal: We could apply our own value set to what we’re doing. The exciting part is when you start to see the impact of what we are doing on the lives of people in our region. It became more than a community program for all of us at BTS.
Build a pillar approach to your program
We’ve developed a different approach that I think works for building your community support program. When looking at how you become involved I believe you need to look beyond just one area of the community. I think of it in terms of 4 distinct pillars, each of them equally important as the others.
Supporting those who need a hand is always a core part of any program. It’s important to the health of the community, there are plenty of people out there doing it tough and there are many ways to get involved. We’ve made it part of our culture at BTS and the whole team buys into the causes we support.
It’s pretty much a certainty that sport will be in the mix for any business’s program. While its common to be involved, what is not always well thought out is how far reaching your sponsorship is. For me, you need to look at a program that gives you a wide spread of demographics, from junior athletes right through to senior elite level performers.
A strong arts culture builds a strong community. It’s even more important in regional areas where we don’t have the big city benefactors to rely on. What often happens though is that this part of the community doesn’t receive the support it really needs. We’ve made it a focus of our program, as we truly believe that it contributes to the diversity of our region.
This one is critically important to the business community and also covers a few different leadership areas.
It firstly applies to showing leadership in our dealings with government. Regional Australia is just one of many voices that are lobbying hard for a slice of state and federal government support, banding together gives the region a better shot at having its voice heard.
There’s also a local element to it. Building the strength of our local leaders is all about providing our region with the right people to help it grow into the future. These people won’t just give back to the business community, they’ll also help in local government, not for profit, and other community based programs.
So what do we support?
As an example, I’ve included a few of the core community initiatives we support under the 4 pillars model, which might start you in the right direction for building your own program:
• Karingal BacLinks
• Give Where You Live
• Basketball Geelong
• Newtown Chilwell football and netball club
• Geelong Performing Arts Centre
• Back-to-Back theatre
• G21 Alliance
• The Committee for Geelong – Leaders for Geelong program
Make it more than money
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is this: Don’t do it for the money. You can work out really quickly when someone starts with the wrong intentions. If it’s all about ‘business’ then you really won’t see long-term returns. My advice is to make it about more than the bottom line. If your motivations are right to begin with then the old adage of ‘what goes around comes around’ will prove correct. That way both you and the community will benefit.