The department I work in is called the Community Relations and Development Department. It is frequently shortened to “Development Department”. I believe that this shortening translates to the “Community Relations” portion of our responsibility too frequently getting short-changed. So help with that, I am devoting the inaugural CRD Idea Share blog post to Community Relations.
My unwavering mantra for Community Relations (for which public relations plays is a part), is “Ride the tide”. That is, make sure that what you are doing/promoting is what the media and public are already interested in. In that way, picking up your story/event/promotion is far more likely. Some parts of it are nearly impossible to anticipate, other parts happen like clockwork…or rather like calendarwork.
With the broad scope of programs and services offered by The Salvation Army, we can almost always find a logical way to tie in the upcoming events to something we do—it just takes some planning. In the CRD Department we can get-on blinders when thinking about Salvation Army services—thinking only of emergency or basic social services; ignoring our foundational services. Our worship and character building programs can be very attractive to segments of your community—even to those who may not wish to join you in them.
For the remainder of this post, I want to focus on one of The Salvation Army’s primary objectives—outreach. Yes, yes, I know this not a typical CRD topic, but since it is the essence of who we are as The Salvation Army; it sure should be.
Again, my mantra of “Ride the tide” comes into play here, specifically the portion that can be anticipated and even better something for which we KNOW is coming—let’s look at Father’s Day. More to the point, we’ll look at two Saturdays prior to Father’s Day as a day(s) of outreach.
What I layout below is just a few ideas—it is not meant to be definitive or isolated—just to get you thinking, planning, and working toward the cross-roads of CRD and our mission. It most certainly is not a step-by-step guide, but I believe it can serve as a springboard.
How can you use an approaching, well-known holiday to help with outreach? It might be tempting to want to do something for fathers on their special day (and you may still do so), but I submit that it is more practical to act in the days prior to Father’s Day to help the children prepare for this special day.
Offer a ‘craft hut’ to allow children to make a special craft for their father. In a nutshell, that’s the idea. From that there is a range of options based on budget (time and money). Here are just some of things you can do to make the craft hut more appealing, visible, and engaging…all for the purpose of outreach.
- Popsicle stick crafts
- Coloring pages
- Custom painted Tshirts (for dad to wear with pride)
- Homemade (and decorated) cards
- There’s no shortage of ideas; just search the Internet or Pinterest
- Hand out flyers around the neighborhood a few days prior
- Partner with another group to cross share ideas/interest groups [this could be non-profit or for-profit—one example might be to partner with a local spa or nail salon (mom’s are likely the one’s to bring the child to the craft hut)]
- Put out signs (think ‘coke banners’) leading up to it or if you plan to do the craft hut in a popular enough place, you can even put up signs that day and draw a crowd.
- “Ride the tide” – conduct your craft hut in conjunction with another existing event—festival, fair, concert in the park, etc.
- Upcoming VBS
- Summer (residential) Camp
- Day Camp
- On-going character building programs (SAAC, Girl Guards, etc).
- Where to have your craft hut:
- SA building or gym if in a central/convenient location
- Neighborhood park (maybe even reserve a pavilion)
- As noted, in a ‘booth’ in conjunction with an existing event
- At your ‘community partners’ facility
Community Partners for ‘value added’ opportunities:
- Bouncy/Inflatable dealer
- Shaved Ice vendor/truck
- Carnival Game rental
- Retail stores to donate “dad sized” t-shirts (which can be given away or sold)
- Nail Salon (get mom’s nails done while “lil’ Johny” does his craft
Here’s just one scenario, how it might play out:
You partner with a local spa to promote the craft hut and add to the “what’s in it for me”. You reserve a pavilion at your local community park near the playground. The Corps Cadets use the back of rolls of wrapping paper to make large paper banners to promote the craft hut on the day of the event. Your Girl Guards hand out ¼ page flyers promoting the event at the same park the week prior to the event. Your partner provides you with coupons to hand out and even has a couple of their staff show up to give massages while the kids work on their crafts. As the child leaves with their craft you make sure to tell them about VBS the following week and give them the flyer with all the details.
Of course, be sure to fully utilized and account for social media leading-up to, during and immediately after the event. Have reminders in the craft hut reminding parents to ‘check-in’ and sharing our unit’s social media contacts. Ask them to ‘tag’ your unit when they post pictures of the craft.