Relationships are a big reason why people turn to independent agents for insurance coverage. That’s because agents understand the unique needs and circumstances of their customers and treat them as people rather than numbers, writes the team at O’Connor & Co. Insurance.
Being a good listener, getting to know your customers and anticipating their needs are all traits that give you an edge over larger, less personal companies. That personal touch is in fact one of the main advantages and selling points that independent agents have.
But you can take it further by using those skills and your own interests to help others within your community — and grow your business. Here are tips for how to get involved in charitable community events plus some inspirational stories of independent agents doing great things in their communities.
Volunteering for Local Causes
“Volunteerism is one of the most important and beneficial actions that we can take as human beings,” writes Eric Burger at VolunteerHub. “Our ability to provide our time and expertise can make an immense difference in the world around us and within the communities that we reside.”
Volunteering allows you to plug in directly to local organizations and get to know people on a personal level.
Australian volunteer organization Volunteering Victoria says volunteering has other major advantages, including positively impacting the lives of individuals around you, ensuring that your community has the necessary services it needs to thrive and building community resilience. Beyond that, it can also help you become a better leader. In fact, 92 percent of human resource executives believe that volunteering improves leadership skills, Burger adds.
You don’t need to be an expert to make a difference. It’s just a matter of taking an existing skill or interest that you have and applying in a way that benefits your community. And when it comes to local causes, there are opportunities abound.
One example of volunteering in action is Bryan Pearcy, an independent agent at Wilkinson Insurance Agency in Brownsburg, Indiana. He volunteers at the annual Hoosier Burn Camp — an organization that helps young people who are dealing with the physical and emotional trauma involved with severe burn injuries. He has also participated in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, a fundraiser to support individuals with the disease as well as their families and loved ones. This particular volunteer effort is special to Bryan because his wife works with people with dementia, which makes it a passion of hers.
Create the Good is an excellent resource where you can search for volunteer opportunities in your area. VolunteerMatch is another good option. Browse these sites to see what’s available, or search by specific criteria if you have something particular in mind.
Create a Fundraiser
Another way to volunteer is to start a fundraiser to generate financial support for a charity that’s near and dear to your heart.
Ashley Winebrenner, an independent agent in London, Ohio started “Rockin’ on the Run,” an annual walk/run designed to increase awareness about pediatric brain tumors and to raise money for research. She was inspired when the daughter of a family friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“When [she] was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we just felt so helpless — she was only five years old,” Winebrenner says. “I always thought brain tumors were very rare, but I soon realized how many children are being diagnosed with this disease every day.”
Since 2010, Winebrenner has helped raise thousands of dollars and in 2017 received the Ohio Insurance Agents Association’s Community Services Award for her devotion and dedication.
Keep in mind that a fundraiser doesn’t have to be overly elaborate to work or require a massive time investment on your end. Network for Good has an extensive list of fundraising ideas including garage sales and Christmas gift pledge. Just be creative and leverage your available resources.
Start Your Charity Own Program
Or you can always start your own charity program that targets a specific cause.
Take Phil Richard Insurance, for example. This Danvers, Massachusetts-based insurance agency launched the “Tough Warrior Princess” program. They assemble and deliver “Survivor Baskets” to women around the North Shore of Boston who are dealing with breast cancer. These baskets contain items like gas cards, gift certificates for massages and acupuncture, skincare items, scented candles and note cards, providing much needed comfort in a very difficult time.
Another independent agent who’s doing great things is Chris D. Callen in Westerville, Ohio. A veteran, he started The Callen Foundation, which provides Ohio military families with short-term financial support to assist with urgent needs. They cover things like basic living expenses, child care products and late bill payments, explains Breanna George at Ohio Insurance Agents.
Callen understands what veterans go through as they make the transition from military to civilian life. Not only can it be tough emotionally, it’s often hard from a financial standpoint as well. Many end up leaving high paying jobs to do tours overseas for minimal pay. His foundation makes sure that these families receive 100 percent of the donations, which has made a huge difference in his community.
For information on the logistics and legalities of starting a charity, business and economics expert Steve Odland offers great advice in his Forbes guide. He takes you through how to develop a vision and write a plan to how to fundraise and keep your spending efficient.
Sponsor a Local Event
Sponsoring local events is another way to give back to your community. It’s also a smart business move, writes Jayleen R. Heft at PropertyCasualty360, because it gets your name out there and builds relationships.
When it comes to specific business growth advantages, the team at FreeLogoServices says a sponsorship can dramatically improve customer perception, with people seeing your agency to be reputable and trustworthy. They point out that nearly three out of four people (74 percent) are more likely to buy insurance coverage after seeing a brand at a charity event.
HR expert Reinaldo Lopez says that in terms of advertising, sponsorship is fairly affordable in the long run. This is evident when you compare the cost of sponsoring to other traditional marketing techniques such as print and radio ads. Sponsoring an event can be a one-time investment but its impact in terms of increased brand perception can last for years.
To maximize your investment, event coordinator Jen Remsik suggests first looking at the estimated attendance as well as the demographics of the attendees before making a commitment. Ideally, you’ll go with an event with the largest possible anticipated attendance and one where there will be key influencers and decision-makers within your community.
For instance, it would make more sense to sponsor an event that’s expecting 300 people at $25 per person than an even that’s only expecting 100 people at $75 per person. Even though the cost of sponsoring is exactly the same at $7,500, the return on investment would likely be much higher simply because you’ll reach more people.
Becoming a Trusted Name in Your Community
Relationships are one of your biggest assets as an independent agent. They’re what keep existing customers happy and often lead to new business. So relationships are definitely something you’ll want to put a lot of effort into.
One way to accelerate the relationship-building process is to use your skills outside the office and actively help your community.
“Independent insurance agents help customers protect what matters most,” explains Safeco Insurance. “But that’s just what part of what local agents do. Their passion for changing their communities for the better moves local insurance agents to do more.”
And as we’ve just learned, there are a lot of ways to go about this. Whether it’s volunteering, starting your own fundraiser or charity program or formally sponsoring a local event, you can make a huge impact on your community, while at the same time stimulating business growth.
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