5 Steps to Engage with Your Community

As the success of Care Home Open Day earlier this week has shown, community engagement is becoming an increasingly important element in the success of care homes. Engaging effectively with your local community can bring multiple benefits including increased enquiry levels, enhanced social opportunities for service users and greater numbers of employment reviews as more people become aware of your service.

Marketing, recruiting and social activities can be expensive and often thankless tasks which take many hours of management time, not always with successful results. However, by taking simple steps to improve your visibility in the community and encouraging contact with local people and organisations you can bring real benefits to your organisation, often at little or no cost.

Tips for Effective Community Engagement
Provide volunteer opportunities. Liaise with your local volunteer co-ordinator to offer opportunities for volunteers who have an interest in working with your client group. Jobseekers and students, in particular, are often keen to obtain relevant experience to support job or university applications and can provide valuable social support to service users. In some cases, they may be suitable for employment within your own organisation and can move into vacant roles that arise.
Build links with schools. Schools provide a host of opportunities for building mutually beneficial links including the provision of work experience for students, opportunities for young musicians to visit to play to an appreciative audience or simply to visit at Christmas or Harvest time with songs or seasonal activities. More innovative activities such as luncheon clubs allowing visiting students to dine with care home residents and then to host a return visit to their school, have been particularly successful.
Support good causes. Fundraising for local good causes is an excellent way to raise awareness of your service whilst also supporting local organisations that may be relevant to the type of care you provide or the interests of your service users. Consider asking service users to nominate a charity they would like to support and hold events such as coffee mornings or bake sales to raise funds and provide an opportunity for social interaction.
Work with community groups. Many of your service users will have been members of local organisations such as churches, sports and social clubs or societies. Consider how you could offer these groups the opportunity to visit your home, use your facilities or work with service users to maintain their previous interests. Many organisations are only too pleased to show off the work they do and share their interests with a wider audience.
Offer your facilities. If you have a facility, such as a training room or large garden, consider offering it for the benefit of local community groups to meet or hold social events. Increasing the number of visitors to your service will only increase awareness and providing facilities at a nominal charge (or for free) is an excellent way to build goodwill.

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