Thanksgiving season. Turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies, and football. It’s a time to reflect on what we have, cherish time with the ones we love, and connect with those around us.
At Social Pinpoint, we champion digital engagement with our community, after all, it’s our bread and butter (or our pumpkin and pie?). But, when it comes to Thanksgiving time, we know there are so many more opportunities to establish a real, human connection outside the digital world. Whether it be sponsoring community events, donating your time, or simply showing up, Thanksgiving is the prime time to step outside the norm and connect with stakeholders of all demographics – no matter how big, or small.
Turkey, Pie, and Trotting
The YMCA of USA is known for providing fun, healthy, and enriching services to each community they serve through outreach, fundraising, and youth programming. Each year, many branches of the YMCA host their annual Turkey Trot, a charitable event featuring a 5K race and fun run. Branches from California to New York and everywhere in-between kick off their fundraising efforts with one common goal: raise money for the Y Open Door Funds, a charitable program committed to providing inclusion for members of their community.
The culmination of this event comes on Thanksgiving morning, where all participants gather for some friendly competition and healthy fun before heading to indulge in turkey and pie. Whether you choose to participate in the race, or would rather support it with a sponsorship, stakeholders will surely remember your presence and commitment to this worthy cause.
Football at the Forefront
Another event that always comes to mind when discussing Thanksgiving is football. While some choose to gather around to watch on TV and others enjoy participating in a neighborhood flag football game, many Thanksgiving traditions are guaranteed to include football in one way or another. This could be a simple and non-intimidating opportunity to open lines of communication with stakeholders by inviting all to a local park for a game of flag football. Not only is this a fun way to gather, but it is a chance to circulate resources, listen to feedback, and build trust with community members of all ages.
Giving Back to Stakeholders in Need
It’s hard to imagine that not all who reside in your community are fortunate enough to have a full Thanksgiving spread on their table. In 2020, the United States had an official poverty rate of 11.4%, which is an increase of 1% from 2019 [Source]. This shows that now, more than ever, giving back to your community is an imperative step to building trust and engagement.
Food drives are a wonderful way of supporting underprivileged children and adults alike. Set up a donation area, circulate the word, and give back to the local Food Pantry or another charitable organization. Beyond the Thanksgiving staples, those donating could also include other non-perishables like peanut butter. Many companies around the country even entice people to donate by committing to match donations raised from company funds.
While donations are a wonderful way to help, perhaps a more memorable way to step in would be donating time. Can you help bag lunches to distribute? Or perhaps serve food at the local shelter or church? Taking time out of your day-to-day to support your community could leave a lasting impact and may even help you better understand the unique needs of your area.
Thanksgiving is the time of year where there is an influx of those looking to volunteer, but it can certainly be intimidating if it’s a new experience. If you aren’t sure where to start, Feeding America is a nationwide resource that can help guide you on where to go to take action!
A Reflection on Connection
Thanksgiving tends to kick off for the very busy holiday season, and it’s OK if you cannot commit to a face-to-face engagement activity this year. What is important, though, is taking the time to reflect on your efforts. Ask yourself a few questions:
What does community engagement look like for you?
Is your team simply checking a box, or do you have strong programs in place to gather feedback and engage?
Have you done enough to listen and hear all voices?
Community engagement doesn’t stop at those same few people who show up to meetings. Is there enough being done to reach all members of the community? Whether it be including those experiencing homelessness, those who have limited access to transport or younger demographics such as students –it’s essential all voices are heard.
Do you feel that you have a trusting relationship with your stakeholders?
Unfortunately, there is a natural distrust between governments and stakeholders. But, taking the steps to build a trusting relationship, like a well-thought-out engagement program, can make formal government decisions feel more like a partnership with community members. This is incredibly important for pioneering digital engagement, as your natural authenticity and transparency with your community will create an engaging, open space for all.
What can be done differently?
By taking an honest look at your efforts and considering how to improve your community engagement will surely be a step towards productive change in your community.