As schools struggle with funding cuts, however, businesses have an opportunity to step in and help.
Not only will you provide an essential service to young people, you will win the hearts and minds of their parents, teachers, school administrators, and the larger community.
How can you get involved?
Start by contacting your local school department. Don’t assume you know what they need, because you don’t! You want to reach a decision maker – the head of the history department, a school principal, perhaps the school superintendent. Your approach is, “I am concerned about students learning their local history, and I know you have funding challenges. How can I help?”
Here are three suggestions they might have.
• Fund a field trip to your local historical society, museum, or National Park Service site.
Field trips are often the first to go, and those of us who teach history know that kids get turned on to history outside of the classroom much more than they do inside.
• Underwrite a school visit by local reenactors.
Nothing brings history to life like talented, professional actors portraying historical characters who engage in conversation or demonstrate how to fire a musket or cook on a colonial hearth. Kids love it!
• Sponsor a history contest.
Students could create a project on their favorite historical character, house, site, or event. The project could be a written essay, a video – you name it! The prize could be a history scholarship in your company’s name. Make sure to throw a wonderful party to announce the winner and show off all of the final entries!
Leveraging your contribution
These are just three ideas; your schools will have many more. The key here is leverage – and you will need to do it. Schools don’t have marketing and PR staffs, nor do they think this way. But for very short money on your part, you can leverage your contribution into a very appealing customer attraction and loyalty campaign.
Because your work will involve young people, you will need to seek special permission and work within strict guidelines when it comes to photography. This is for their protection, as you might expect. But work with your local media and the schools. They know the rules.
You will also want to work with any other organizations involved to make sure they are promoting your sponsorship. You, in turn, will do the same for yourself – online, in print publications, whichever methods make sense.
And please think of this as a long-term investment – as a strategic partnership with your local schools. You could do “something” every year, and build it right into your marketing budget.
Small investment, significant return, AND the knowledge that you are playing a role in teaching history in your community.
Will that boost your reputation as a business that cares about its community and its young people? As a local hero?
You bet it will!
2010 © Bonnie Hurd Smith
History Smiths works with service-oriented businesses to use history — their own and their community's — to achieve customer loyalty, referrals, and high status. Subscribe (above, right) to our free Ezine, Connections, where we share ideas and examples of businesses embracing history to achieve business goals.