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ACT for Youth

Engaging the Business Community

Community coalitions tend to limit their outreach and partners to agencies they are comfortable or familiar with; however, outreach to all community sectors is important for success. To engage community partners from all sectors for a youth development effort, leaders will need to articulate what's in it for these partners, and will also benefit from thinking through issues related to community collaboration.

Why Connect with the Business Community?

Businesses are connected to youth. Young people are often their employees and their customers.

Businesses have clout and connections. When you are lobbying and networking on behalf of community change, it's good to have the clout and strong community ties that business leaders often bring to the table.

Interests in common. Positive youth development initiatives share certain goals with the business community:

  • Quality of life. Youth development initiatives and the business community share an orientation toward improving quality of life within communities. Thriving communities are good for business and help larger corporations attract high quality employees.
  • Building competencies. Positive youth development builds competencies. The business community is concerned with building a strong talent pool that includes young people who have developed basic professional competencies.

Talking Points for Engaging the Business Community

Describe Who You Are Succinctly

"Through our initiative, adults and youth take action together to create a community that values young people and builds the skills they need for healthy and fulfilling lives -- including fulfilling work. Our initiative brings local organizations together to make our community a great place to grow up."

What's in it for Business?

Visibility, reputation, and networking. "Our initiative is a community-wide effort. We want to involve leaders from all community sectors. Participation offers opportunities for networking, promotes your reputation as a good corporate citizen, and increases your visibility."

An investment in youth is an investment in your future workforce. "Our initiative aims to help young people build competencies, including competencies that prepare them for work: building communication and problem-solving skills, learning how to handle responsibility, and demonstrating leadership."

Quality of life in our community. "We want to create a community that engages young people in positive opportunities. Youth who are rewarded and supported in positive activities raise the quality of life in our community." Offer local examples.

How Can Business Get Involved?

These ideas will help you get started, but of course it's best to focus on the specific needs of your collaboration. When making your pitch, choose a few items that range from low to high commitment. Keep in mind that large corporations and small businesses offer different assets.
  • Provide space or refreshments for meetings or events.
  • Collaborate on a special event or educational opportunity to be hosted in a place of business.
  • Help the initiative reach out to other businesses.
  • Fund special projects, events, or publications.
  • Accompany delegations to meetings with government officials.
  • Collaborate on creating internship and certificate programs for young people.
  • Be a youth development champion in the community: speak at Rotary or Chamber of Commerce events, become a spokesperson for the initiative.
  • Take on a leadership role in the collaboration.

Tips for Engaging the Business Community

Get beyond money. Don't think of the business community only in terms of deep pockets.

Make them visible. Do keep in mind that the benefits to business include visibility; publicly recognize your partners at every opportunity.

Be clear and to the point. Do think of your approach to business leaders as a pitch: make it brief and to the point, and use language that is vivid and easy to understand -- not academic or social service speak!

Ask -- and give options. Do ask for something specific, but give a range of 3-4 options for consideration. When choosing what to ask for, be sure you can point to benefits for their business.

Choose the right messenger. Do choose the right person to make the pitch. A person with connections to the business leader, or a person with recognized community standing, might be your best ambassador.