As an arts organization, you have the power to enrich lives and bring people together through the beauty and inspiration of art, music, theater, dance, and literature. But to do so, you must be able to effectively connect with your local community. Many groups have long-standing relationships with community organizations, but the nature of these relationships probably hasn’t changed in years, even though the community around you has likely changed dramatically.
Community engagement is crucial for arts and culture organizations. It helps you reach new audiences, build support, and increase your impact. It also benefits the community by providing access to cultural experiences and fostering a sense of belonging and connection. It’s essential to keep these existing relationships fresh and to seek out new groups every year that reflect changes in the broader community.
It’s true that there are challenges to increasing community engagement—lack of resources, lack of awareness about your events and programming, or a perception that you are not relevant or accessible to the community. But there are ways to overcome these challenges and broaden your community connections. Here are a few practical tips and strategies to consider:
3 Ways to Engage With Your Community
Partner with local organizations
If you’re not already, look for opportunities to collaborate with other nonprofit organizations in your community, such as schools, libraries, or community centers. These partnerships are proven to help you reach new audiences and build relationships with potential patrons. If you’re already mining these common resources, try searching for new partnership opportunities through local business associations, medical centers, and places that interact with community newcomers, like real estate agencies, corporate Human Resources personnel, and local restaurants.
Use social media to promote events and programming
Social media is a powerful tool for reaching and engaging with your audience. Use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok to promote your events and programming. Encourage followers to share with their networks, too! Try to broaden your reach by following local groups and businesses, and consider paid promotion to target new residents in your area.
[Tip: Social media platforms prioritize video content in their algorithms, which means that your video posts are more likely to be seen by your followers. That’s easier said than done, but this list of video ideas and examples will help!]
Host community-focused events and workshops
Consider hosting events or workshops that are focused on the needs and interests of your community. This could include things like art classes, music workshops, or writing circles. These types of events can be a great way to build connections and foster a deeper sense of community. Chances are, you’re already offering these, but make sure they’re meeting the needs of the community first, and not just your need to sell more tickets. Ask yourself how each of these events speaks directly to the group you plan to welcome. How can you make it even more unique and targeted to their specific needs?
[Tip: Community calendars and directories are a great way to spread the word about activities and workshops. The best part is that you’re reaching people who are actively looking for something to do in the area!]
You can build meaningful connections and increase your impact by taking steps to engage with your community, especially with relatively untapped groups like new residents and small businesses. Even if your efforts result in modest returns at first, you can be sure that the inspiration your organization provides will motivate these newcomers to return, and bring their friends with them!