Friday, February 4, 2011

Community Involvement....

I've had a business in a very small community for something like 34 years now. I've lived in another very small community for something like 23 years now. In both of those instances, a recurring theme and complaint I've heard over and over from the locals in one form or another is the fact that a lot of folks who live there don't seem to participate in the local clubs, organizations or events that come and go, sometimes yearly or more often. A lot of those complainers always wonder why more people who move there don't become involved in the local happenings.

Even I, in the beginning years of working and living in these small communities had the same disappointments, to say the least. Years ago, I got into the whole website building business. I came up with an idea everyone who heard about thought was a wonderful and grand idea. I noticed back in the early days of the Internet that large towns and communities had these great websites. Websites that gave all kinds of information about the towns or communities. People from all over the world could simply go to the town website to learn everything they needed to know about that town.

So, my grand idea for my own new successful business was to build both of those towns a great, creative, informative website. Now get this! My thought was to do this FREE! No charge whatsoever from the community. What I did do however was to offer to build all the small businesses in that town a website and maintain it for a relatively small fee. The few businesses who already had a website in those early years could pay me to have a link directly to their website, so potential customers could access information about their business straight from the community website.

I even had town meetings with all the interested parties and businesses present. I would then present my idea with power point presentations to educate everyone about this service I was offering. Well everyone thought it was a great idea. YEA! They would say. Lets do this!

The only thing I requested and expected from the local involved folks was for people from each of the clubs, organizations and event people to feed me any information they wanted others to see on the website. I would do all the technical work on the website FREE!

So, I went about the labor intensive work of building two small local towns websites, so the world could access information about them. Then I rounded up quite a few local businesses that were interested in having me build them websites or have links to their websites. I then created all those websites and added all the links of the others.

Then went in person to all the clubs, organizations and event people to try and get them to assign the job of a liaison between their clubs and me. People who would feed me via e-mail anything they wanted to have on the website for the world to see. Well, everything went pretty damn well for the first year or so, then slowly but surely those people assigned to talk to me got slower and slower. So I then went back out to reinvigorate them into action again. Again it worked for a while, then slowly went away. With very little new information on the websites, the businesses began to logically slowly drop out also. The truth about websites, whether they are about towns or are business websites is the towns or owners of the businesses have to constantly update them with new exciting information. Without this dynamic, you might as well shut them down. They just set there and die a slow and painful death.

Well.........there finally came a time when I decided that as long as I was the "Super salesman personified" everything went pretty well. You know what though. I was always only interested in being the technical administrator, not the "Used Car Salesman of the month" with this. So eventually I shut both of the websites down and both these small towns lost an unbelievable resource back in those early Internet days to show the world what they had to offer.

I came away from this very telling experience with a far better understanding of the dynamics of the whole small town "Community Involvement" realities. The cold hard truth about these folks is new people who move to these small communities are generally people trying to escape the whole big city overcrowding, noise and "neighbors in your face" experiences. They are clearly trying to avoid the huddled masses any way they can. They are mostly rather "recluse" and came there to be able to do that very thing.

So where does all these truths leave the civic minded folks who want to become involved in their communities and make them a better place to live? The ones who are constantly complaining about the lack of Community Involvement from most people? Well, as anyone knows who tries to get folks "involved", you learn right away that each club, organization and event actually only has a very few energetic, great volunteers who do ALL the work involved in making it happen. Any others that come to the events just come on show day and enjoy the benefits of these few people's efforts. I'm not judging anyone here. This is just the reality of it.

So everyone else should at least just appreciate the hell out of the 4 or 5 nice, great people in each of these clubs who are willing and able to make these fun, entertaining events happen. The next time you're standing there enjoying the wine, eating the delicious little sandwiches someone went to all the trouble to make. Profusely thank those 4-5 people for all they do.

Now click on the "Comments" link at the bottom of this blog and add your response or thoughts for others to see when they click on the "Comments" link (Try it now!). It makes it far more interesting if we make it a conversation, instead of just my bullshit. Thank you to those who take the time and effort to do so.....
COME ON..........DO IT!!!