Engage local businesses

Local businesses can be great sources of donations and important allies. Stores, banks, and buildings that border your park can benefit from value increases, increased tourism, and overall improved quality of life. Since they’re invested in the community and its surroundings, open space can help improve their investment returns. Here are a few tips for engaging local businesses.

1. Focus on businesses that are likely to give.

  • Businesses near the park. This includes stores but also the landlords and co-ops that own buildings bordering the park. 
  • Businesses where your members and friends work. Large corporations often donate where their employees volunteer.
  • Businesses with a logical link to an event. For example, a music store for a concert, a kids clothing store for an after-school program, or a hardware store for a spruce-up.
  • Branches of local banks and your local utility. Banks usually give small grants to community groups at the beginning of the year. A bank branch manager is a great person to have on your board.

A group of people sit in a circle on chairs in a studio space.
Image credit Ian MacLellan

2.  Before you ask for donations, develop strong relationships with local businesses.

  • Introduce yourself. Go door to door introducing your group and make sure businesses near your park get your group’s flyers and newsletters. 
  • Attend meetings of any local merchants’ associations or business improvement districts and invite their representatives to your meetings. Ask local merchants for their input, especially those who work near the park and have a vested interest in its condition. 
  • Invite a representative of the local business community to join your group or your board. Involved businesses are much more likely to support you financially.

A woman stands and speaks to a group seated in a classroom.
Image credit Jorge Rivas

3.   Give something in return!

  • Publicity. Publicly acknowledge helpful businesses at an event, in your newsletter, or on flyers.
  • Promotional opportunities. Allow businesses to give out coupons and free samples at an event—make sure to ask the parks agency first—or let them use your mailing list. You can also sell ads in a newsletter.
  • Community goodwill. Spread the word to members and neighbors about the business’s generosity and be sure to patronize the businesses yourself. An article in the local paper does this very well.
  • Your thanks. Always send a thank-you letter or gift.
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