One of my clients just moved out of their loop high rise. Their administrative team and several of the program offerings were housed in this location. And while the loop address made it easier for some Board members to attend monthly meetings, it was convenient for many of the clients they serve. And so, when the lease was up, they moved out. The administrative team made a move to their north campus – the established site of their therapeutic day school and residential treatment facility. The programs which were previously housed in the loop moved out into the communities they serve. And while this may pose some internal logistical challenges going forward, it makes great sense, as it makes it easier for many of their clients to access services.
In my opinion, this organization is being strategic and thoughtful about connecting with communities. It is very easy to get comfortable “where we are”, both literally and figuratively. Being proactive and reaching out to new communities is not always easy – or even welcome. Yet, for many organizations, it is imperative. Whether you want to better connect with clients or reach new donors, it takes planning and effort. Regardless of the reason, if you are looking to expand into new communities, here are a few simple ideas and questions to get you started.
Identify the reason for expansion.
- Are you looking to expand your service offerings to additional communities? Or is your goal to expand your donor base? Or is it simply to increase awareness?
- What research have you done to identify which communities are the “best fit” to help meet your objectives?
- If you are looking to expand services, what organizations exist in the targeted community that may be influential? For example, are their other service providers with whom you may partner? Are their service organizations, such as a neighborhood association or Rotary Club? Are there churches or other community organizations who may be helpful?
- If you are hoping to expand your donor pool, it may be helpful to know if there are other organizations that the community currently supports.
- What is your timeline?
Communicate your idea to key constituents.
- It is essential to share your plans with the Board and solicit their support. You may also have others (staff members, donors, volunteers) who may be influential in your efforts to expand.
- Share your objectives, research and timeline with key constituents and ask for their help.
- What are their thoughts about this expansion?
- Do they know people in that community who may be influential in this expansion? If so, would they be willing to help? Perhaps they could provide an introduction or host a lunch to educate those in the community about the organization.
- Be sure to listen to your key constituents! Perhaps they have ideas and other ways to expand your organization’s footprint.
Identify and reach out to community connectors or influencers.
- Take advantage of any and all introductions. Reach out and ask for meetings. Listen to those in the community; they know it best and may have wonderful ideas to share.
- Be patient but persistent.
- Be sure to say thank you. Thank those who have made introductions. Thank the community influencers. Be grateful for their assistance.
- Whether your objective is to open a local clinic – or start an Auxiliary fundraising board – use all of the knowledge you have gathered and put your plan into action!
Be present. And patient.
If you truly want this expansion to be successful, it is important to be present – not just in the beginning, but for the long haul. Building relationships takes time. And, as my client realized when they made the decision to move into the communities, it is easy to get “busy” where you are, but if where you are is in your desired community, you will begin to establish roots and meaningful relationships.