Civic engagement is good for business

Politics tend to make companies and business leaders nervous. That’s why prior to this year, standing on the sidelines was often the default approach. But in 2020, employers are engaging on topics they never would have before. Many employees and consumers who used to prefer that companies stay out of politics now expect them to get engaged in civic discourse. It turns out that if done right, civic engagement can actually be good for business.

Company leaders should not feel nervous about encouraging employees to exercise their right to vote and get involved in the political process. Successful civic engagement campaigns give employees the tools they need to learn who their candidates are, what they stand for and how to vote. Some companies, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, even embrace civic engagement as part of their mission. President and CEO Craig Samitt said they believe that “community health is shaped by the strength of the democratic process.”

Companies that have taken on civic engagement campaigns aimed at informing their employees and encouraging them to vote have found that it positively impacts their brand. A 2019 case study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation found that both small, internally-focused efforts as well as large, externally-focused campaigns led to positive impacts for business, as well as increased voter turnout. Companies in the study cited “meeting consumer expectations, raising brand awareness and increasing employee satisfaction” as benefits their business experienced from communicating about civic responsibility.

While Minnesota law requires employers to provide time off for voting without the loss of pay, personal leave, or sick time, a growing number of companies are making additional accommodations for employees this year, such as closing their stores or offices on Election Day, limiting office hours or meetings that day, or offering paid time for voting and volunteer efforts. For great examples, check out the more than 1,300 companies that have made public commitments to give their employees time to vote this year as part of a nonpartisan campaign called “Time to Vote,” started by Patagonia, Levi Strauss and PayPal.

Even though Election Day is drawing near, remember that civic engagement happens year-round. It’s never too late to thoughtfully plan for an employee or consumer-focused civic responsibility program. We’re going to have a lot of new elected officials at all levels of government in January. It would be an opportune time to help employees better understand how their government works for them and encourage them to engage.

Pay attention to what other companies are doing and use these examples as inspiration for your own plan to strengthen your company culture through civic engagement. Or, call Goff Public. We can support you in designing your own program tailored to your company’s unique culture, values and goals.

Top four fundraising tips ahead of Give to The Max Day

This year’s Give to the Max Day (GTMD) is right around the corner! With traditional in-person fundraising opportunities no longer viable this year, GTMD will be an especially useful opportunity to connect with new and familiar supporters virtually.

Here are four recommendations for making your GTMD successful:

1. Plan your campaign communications ahead of time – don’t try to wing it. 
Whether you plan to stick to the basics with a few social media posts or want to go big with a multimedia approach, planning your campaign communications ahead of time is critical. By taking the initiative in advance, your content will be more engaging and more effective.

Even though you may pre-schedule content, it’s important to stay nimble and adjust your communications approach as needed. Did any relevant current events or community updates crop up last-minute for you to incorporate into your call to action? Is there any content your audiences really seem to be responding to? By having a general plan of attack to begin with, you’ll have more capacity to monitor and adjust your approach as it happens live.

2. Make sure your GTMD page has complete information that looks visually appealing.
Approach your page as though you are learning about your organization for the first time. Take the time to explain your group’s mission and vision, fundraising goals, and what donations will fund. If possible, include quality photos or graphics that can breathe a little life into the descriptions you’re giving – bonus points for consistency in language and colors! Finally, double check that all links to your organization’s website and social media pages are functional.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, consider including a brief video message (recorded via Zoom or iPhone – it doesn’t need to be high budget!) from your organization’s leadership or from beneficiaries of your work. People want to donate to causes that inspire them and align with their values. Cultivating a nice balance of information, resources and visuals will help them feel more knowledgeable and confident in donating.

3. Create high-quality, creative content for your GTMD page.
Once you have the above basics covered, tap into your creativity to help communicate your organization’s unique voice. Ask yourself if the message you’re trying to convey is better communicated through writing, video or a still image. Adjust as necessary!

There are many ways to have your page stand out from others. Specify a fundraising goal and include a progress bar. Or, with their permission, highlight stories from people whom your organization has served on your page.

Keep in mind that no matter what creative content you include, it should all still be written in an approachable, easy-to-understand way. It’s also important that communications are transparent and consistent, but not constant – too much will clutter up the page.

When it comes to the day-of content being shared on your organization’s social channels, you should have more than two simple introductory and ending communications. It’s widely considered that the average person needs to hear a message seven different times before they take actual action. Depending on your organization’s fundraising goals, planning for 5-10 posts throughout GTMD is recommended.

Don’t have the capacity to draft content? Not a problem – GiveMN has you covered! In addition to their general guide with featured tips and training, GiveMN has also put together templates, graphics and other helpful communications content that will help your campaign shine.

4. Engage your allies.
Leverage board members, employees, volunteers and existing donors to broaden your reach. Research shows that an individual is 83% more likely to act when someone they know and trust makes a recommendation. Ask your allies to share your GTMD content on their channels to get in front of their networks and increase your chances of getting more donations.

Another helpful way to plug in your allies is by tagging any people or organizations participating with your campaign in your social content so it shows up on their audiences’ feeds. Showcase a wide variety of donors on your page to demonstrate the impact of your group’s work.

Is that uneasiness you feel a lack of preparation?

By Jennifer Hellman, aka “the Crisis Coach”

The uneasiness in the air (and on social media, in the media and in our organizations) is palpable. Nothing feels certain. People are on edge. Emotions are high and reactions are more extreme. I’ve been doing a lot of speaking lately to groups about crisis communications. It’s a topic that regularly piques the interest of leaders, but today it feels especially relevant, and urgent.

To respond to this demand, we’ve stepped up our crisis preparedness offerings to help organizations plan, practice and prepare for any number of crises. Good planning and preparation are no longer “nice to have.” They are an essential insurance policy for every business and organization, no matter your service area.

One of our clients once told me that he loves working with Goff Public because he can sleep better at night knowing we are there. If that sounds like something you need, check out our website and/or give me a call. We can’t predict the future, but we can certainly get you ready for whatever reputational challenge may be coming your way.