Tackling the world's problems, especially when we hear news reports of overseas strife or natural disasters, feels daunting when trying to know how one person can make a difference. We want to find affordable housing for everyone or give a new opportunity to a family fleeing a dangerous country, or even create positive impacts for underserved communities in our own state. But where do we start?
Here's a tip: the way to impact meaningful change is not to try and solve global problems, but to invest in your local community. Even the simplest community impact is within our own reach and can be achieved through volunteering with local non-profits, getting involved in your local government, supporting the economic development where you live, or even just showing up to community events.
When you invest in community activities, programs, and organizations, you enhance the economic health and amplify the positive impact your community has on you, your neighbors, local businesses, and the overall community development. A community investment means more than a dollars and cents commitment to the economic development of the area where you live, shop, work, eat, attend school, and spend your free time. It means how can we work together as community members to grow and develop the positive changes you can make in your own neighborhood.
Here are four reasons it pays to give back to your community and make a difference in your corner of the world.
1. This is where you live!
Throwing yourself into the local matters and prioritizing your community engagement requires a commitment from you and your family. Knowing the leaders in your community, those people who organize events and raise awareness of what's happening where you live - or speaking up as one of those voices yourself - allows you to have a pulse on the issues that matter to the people who live around you. Understanding the broader concerns of your neighbors allows you to make sure your community grows - and grows together.
Examine the decisions that sustain community development, especially those that impact the health of the entire region, but that also are important to you. Get to know others who share your concerns and those who have concerns of their own. It's community investing, but it's also a personal investment, and you'll be tied much closer to the outcome.
Imagine trying to develop this connection when dealing with larger scale issues, especially on a global scale. Starting with a healthy community where you are engaged and supportive of the work others are doing together becomes more satisfying when you directly see the fruits of your labor. The relationships you form with the residents and contributors to your community's health and success can bring about the needed results to make you proud of the community where you live.
2. Enliven your community
Community investing - even just choosing where to spend your dollars - fulfills one part of a much larger process that goes beyond just supporting local businesses. It means you're participating in building a unique, distinct culture centered around the services represented where you live. A community that looks different from those all-too-familiar cookie-cutter streets and neighborhoods likely includes businesses to appeal to residents and newcomers. In turn, this attracts more talent and people, and makes your community a more vibrant place to live.
A small investor or a family-run business, backed with the capital resources of a sustainable community investment fund, all powered by the same people who rely on these locations for their livelihood and for the goods and services that make the community hum. This type of locally driven economic development brightens and strengthens everyone who lives around you.
3. Pride and home value
Every financial institution which loans money to a family to buy their home or to an entrepreneur to jump-start an idea contributes substantially to the overall community benefit. Whether utilizing the community bank on the corner or a credit union down the street, these cornerstones offer community investment options that may not otherwise be available where you live. Whether buying real estate or simply obtaining financial services, these institutions provide an overall community benefit that enhances every block and every street where you live.
Creating a vibrant community and supporting a strong local economy that attracts families and creative young people is a huge source of pride for residents. And, if you're a homeowner, a strong and vibrant expanse of local business and financial services may also up the value of your property!
A strong streak of independence runs deep in many Americans' veins. There's something comforting about knowing who owns the local store or bank, or who designed the new baseball diamond. Knowing there is quality health care available if you need it, or options and choices when you make plans for date night, make a community enjoyable and resilient. In fact, this is a key reason so many choose to do business with a credit union or local bank. These institutions exist to serve their members and the interests of their community - a far cry from the vast, impersonal structure of the megabanks.
So tonight, instead of binge watching your favorite new streaming show, take a step outside and immerse yourself in your community. Look in the local paper for upcoming community events, check out City Hall's website for town hall meetings and developmental improvements, or search for non-profits that align with your values. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the difference you can make, and the rewards that come with the place you call home.