7 Questions To Ask When Defining Your Community Outreach Strategy
Outlining an outreach strategy and platform can be a daunting task. To help you get started, we’ve put together seven questions to consider when defining your community outreach strategy. Good luck!
What are you already doing from a community outreach standpoint? When formulating an outreach strategy, or community service ideas, it’s always best to start by evaluating what the athletic department is already doing. There are three things, specifically, to identify: 1) Trends: Are several of the teams participating in the same event or supporting the same cause? Are the male student-athletes less likely to volunteer than the females? Has one team forgotten what volunteering means altogether? 2) Current staff involvement: Which staff people are currently involved in community outreach — Are communications staff publicizing it? Do coaches field requests and encourage student-athletes to attend? 3) How is the institution telling its story: Are certain teams sharing community outreach via social media while others post stories to the website? Are student-athletes sharing via social media, some teams more than others? These insights will zero in on causes the student-athletes and staff are passionate about and identify allies that are already involved in outreach and groups that may need additional encouragement when introducing the new outreach plan. More importantly, they allow you to build upon or tweak existing methods, saving you time and energy over starting from scratch.
How will you ensure that you are compliant with NCAA regulations regarding promotional appearances? The NCAA has several rules regarding “promotional appearances.” How will you ensure that your institution is following the rule book for every appearance? How will you educate your student-athletes and staff on the rules? It’s easy to overlook compliance when thinking through an outreach strategy but it’s important they are involved in every step of the process to ensure the student-athletes do not commit a violation while serving the community.
Does the institution have the staff and monetary resources to support the program if it gains traction? If the program does take off and you succeed in increasing student-athlete and fan involvement, how will the institution support it? Will it have the capacity to hire another staff person if requests double? Are you implementing new programs and initiatives in a way that’s sustainable? It’s easy to get excited and implement several new things at once — let’s hit the ground running, right? It’s important, however, to take a step back and consider the feasibility of doing things well and for an extended period. Community outreach is emotionally-taxing work. Take that additional stress into consideration when evaluating staff capacity and potential for burnout.
What causes are the student-athletes and coaches most passionate about? Interest drives involvement. Student-athletes and staff will be more likely to volunteer if the opportunities resonate with their interests and passions.
How will the student-athletes get to and from appearances? Lack of transportation to and from volunteer events can be a significant barrier to volunteering for student-athletes. Depending on staffing structure and expectations of the student-athletes, there are a few solutions. Some institutions provide free taxi services to students to and from approved volunteer sites. Institutions that have staff members dedicated to community outreach can also transport the student-athletes in an institutional vehicle. Take the cost, time and effort associated with getting to and from an event into consideration when planning which events to associate with and how far you are willing to travel to volunteer.
What’s the process for fulfilling a request? Determining a standard process for receiving and fulfilling community requests and organizing student-athlete involvement is the foundation of a successful outreach effort. Put yourself in the shoes of a non-profit. If you want to request a student-athlete to appear at an event you’re hosting, where will you submit the request? And, once it’s received, what is the internal process for fulfilling it? Who in the athletic department will field the requests? When does that person(s) get compliance approval? Inform athletic communications? When and how do they reach out to the student-athletes? When and how do they communicate with the non-profit whether or not a student-athlete(s) or staff member(s) can attend? Ensuring that everyone is on-board with the process will go a long way towards increasing student-athlete involvement.
How will you say “no” to some requests and why?Inevitably, you will receive a request(s) for a student-athlete to appear at a charitable event that does not align with your mission or standards for student-athlete involvement. What is the criteria you will use for determining which requests to fill and which not? When you do have to decline a request, how will you communicate it in a way that does not turn the fan away or lessen their affinity for the institution? Having answers to these questions ahead of time will ensure that fans are receiving a consistent message from the department and save you from being put on the spot when someone calls wondering why their request was declined.