The COVID-19 crisis brought a wave of change unlike most of us have experienced in our lifetimes. I hope some of those changes will only be temporary, but others have the potential to be transformative in the long term.
This collective pause has forced us to reflect on what’s important in our lives, our communities and how we can better contribute to the greater good.
In my work leading the Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance Independent Agent Giving program, I connect with hundreds of agents each year to support philanthropic efforts. In response to COVID-19, we put $1 million in nonprofit giving into the hands of nearly 150 of our independent agent partners, bringing critical funding to local communities through emergency grants.
Thousands of agents nominated nonprofits for these emergency grants. The sheer volume of responses is just one example of how the independent agent channel has collectively stepped up to meet this sudden, vast need.
The response is not surprising. Many agents already give back: volunteering, making donations and offering expertise. However, many others are just now getting involved, revealing there is an opportunity for more agencies to integrate sustainable philanthropy into their business.
Now is the time for agency leaders to transform your passion for community wellness into long-term change. Here are three lessons from agencies that have effectively done so already:
1. Plan: Formalize a strategy and create opportunity
Many independent agents are planners by nature, which is a good thing for community engagement—the most successful programs are supported by a strategic plan.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start small and build from there. What’s most important is being realistic and consistent.
Creating a framework that allows and encourages community engagement at all levels of your agency—backed by company resources financially or by offering time during office hours—will always be more effective than grand, one-time gestures. Matching employee donations, offering paid volunteer days off and creating a customer referral program that incentivizes through nonprofit donations are some ways your business can formalize philanthropy.
2. Activate: Bring authentic attention
One of the most overlooked, yet critical, elements of a successful community engagement program is activation. And it’s not easy: How do you promote the positive work you’re doing in the community without coming across as disingenuous?
As a business, you have a platform that, if used authentically, can do more good on top of a donation of time or money. Authenticity comes from making the promotion more about the cause or nonprofit than your agency. Use all your marketing channels—from social media to newsletters and blogs—to showcase your collective efforts and tell stories about the nonprofit’s impact.
3. Evolve: With new information, comes new opportunity
The world around you is constantly changing and evolving, meaning the way you engage with your community should change as well. Revisit your plan on an annual basis, but don’t be afraid to shift to meet the changing needs of your community.
COVID-19 has touched all our lives, but tragedy strikes different communities in different ways every day. The planning process helps formalize the policies and practices your business can commit to, while also giving you a framework to pivot, modify and do what is right in the moment.
This article was originally published on IAmagazine.com.