With a little creative thinking, there’s no limit to the ways that advisors can get involved and improve the world around them and gain community approval. It’s simply about reading the room, recognizing local priorities, and finding what’s missing and what’s needed.
Especially for new advisors, new firms, or even new office spaces, getting involved in the local community and establishing a rapport is an important step to building trust and driving business. That said, it’s not just about sponsoring a little league team anymore. How can advisors stay up to date with the times and adapt to new environments?
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was no way anyone could have anticipated the ways in which the nation and world was hit. As the economy ground to a halt and many lost their jobs, food insecurity skyrocketed. That made food pantries, community fridges, and other food-related organizations more important than ever. Though many states are easing restrictions, the strain on nutritional resources still remains, and organizations that feed those in need are excellent starting points for advisors looking to get involved in their community.
Canned food drives for food pantries, soup kitchens, and other organizations are a classic staple of charitable work. However, despite their popularity, it’s much more effective to donate cash. While many organizations will list priority food items that they’re trying to bring in, the truth is that as charitable organizations buying in bulk, purchasing power is in their favor when compared to the average consumer.  Although it can be satisfying to gaze upon the small mountain of cans your office has collected, when it comes down to it community service is, well, a service to the community. It’s better to maximize the positive impact of your actions rather than prioritize PR potential or other self-serving priorities. And, of course, volunteers are always needed!
Community fridges are another option that operate somewhat differently, as many are volunteer run but are not their own legal entities. These are a form of mutual aid that removes some of the barriers and stigma to free resources that include (but aren’t limited to) food; many community fridges are expanding to also provide clothing, appliances, entertainment, and more, and are open and available 24/7. Anyone who has non-expired food they may not want is welcome to leave it at the community fridge and take whatever they may need; often, grocery stores and nearby restaurants will partner with community fridges to provide fresh produce, pantry staples, and even fully cooked meals that may otherwise go to waste.
While food donations are obviously necessary to keep these grassroots aid efforts running, they also require volunteers to pick up donations, stock the fridge, and keep it clean; fridges to store food, accessible locations for the fridges to “live” and money for electricity, groceries (especially when donations run dry). Advisors may want to steer clear of perishable food donations simply for liability concerns but sponsoring the fridges’ electricity or volunteering to help keep these important communal resources running are minimal efforts that can truly make a difference.
No one does what you do better than you do, so it’s time to prove that actions speak louder than words! Introductory advising sessions are a great way to not only give back to the local community, but also drive business in a mutually beneficial way. Aside from simply offering free entry-level webinars or short group classes, advisors can also donate their time in raffles or other giveaways that benefit charitable organizations. Is the local park trying to fund new playground equipment? Does the animal shelter down the block need to crowdfund for supplies? Offering entry-level financial services like an hour with an advisor one-on-one can contribute to important causes, help community members with their financial needs, and also advertise your expertise all in one. If there’s anyone whose finances were untouched by Covid, they’re few and far between. Another method advisors may consider is offering a limited number of services on a sliding scale payment option, or partner with local social services to host tax prep sessions, help disenfranchised neighbors build wealth and community, and facilitate the connection between citizens and necessary social safety nets.
#3: Beautifying the Neighborhood
No one likes trash tumbleweeds rolling around the sidewalk, and advisors can make a visible difference in their communities by participating in or sponsoring and organizing local cleanup efforts.
Aside from removing unwanted detritus from the streets, advisors can replace it with desirable additions that enhance the neighborhood’s beauty. Philadelphia, for example, is known as the city of murals; not only is it home to Mural Arts, the nation’s largest public art program, but it has a robust and diverse street art community as well. Advisors can help beautify their neighborhoods by supporting local artistic organizations like Mural Arts, commissioning local artists, and sponsoring local theater and performance troupes.
With a little creative thinking, there’s no limit to the ways that advisors can get involved and improve the world around them, while also becoming an important part of the community. It’s simply about reading the room, recognizing local priorities, and finding what’s missing and what’s needed.
These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.
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