By Jacob Miller. Retail Operations Manager at Hobart City Mission, Australia
As an industry, customer experience and donor engagement are at our core. Without either, we fail to exist. The donors need to provide the product and the customers need to purchase it – but too often we fail to step outside this box and engage broader community. When was the last time you encouraged a store manager to walk down the high street and introduce themselves to each business? Each of us are mission driven and have our areas of focus but engaging locally is not a strength we are good at valuing or recognising.
In my most recent job application, I said “having fun, encouraging laughter, and sharing organisational stories all translate to community connection and sales”. Engaging people, connecting to their heartland, and building a sense of community is the cornerstone of our profitability and volunteer engagement
I do not think anyone disagrees with my point so far, yet we are all focused on the income. If our focus is less on the pence and pounds and more on the vibrancy, edge, and community connection then the income takes care of itself. PEOPLE + FUN = SALES
There are lots of ways for Area and Store Managers to begin to create community and add vibrancy and edge to their stores. They can join local social media groups, participate at council events and meetings, engage local school and colleges, invite in artists, and begin to see their stores as a ‘community hub’.
One of the most exciting opportunities I have had for community engagement has been establishing a collective of charity retailers at a local level. Like the Charity Retail Association but focused solely on our high street shop managers, we met together along with the businesses engagement team from the local council. Together we demonstrated the increased foot fall, diversion of waste, volunteer engagement and general wellbeing our stores had on community. Then we produced a map enabling all our customers a chance to stroll through all our doors and be thrilled to unearth treasures and novelties galore.
Pic: Jacob & his sector colleagues from the Southern Tasmanian Op Shop Collective.
Working on this project had very little financial gain for the first six to twelve months. It took this time to connect, engage and draw together data, however, the result was a connected customer base, an engaged local government, and increased foot fall for all charity retailers involved.
Whether it be hosting a market on your next election day, renting your shop to the local photography group or establishing meaningful relationships with local ‘competitors’; community engagement allows charity retail the chance to be values driven and unique from our typical retailer counterparts
Main pic: Oxfam
If you want to learn more about how to connect with your local communities, our online, click through course is a great place to start.
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