Connecting To Community
BY JAY SINGH, CHAIRMAN, NCASEF
7-Eleven franchisees have a long history of getting involved with our local communities, and we do this through community outreach. To increase our sales and our presence in our local neighborhoods we need to let people know about our stores, and we need to participate in events that do good for our communities and create higher visibility for our brand.
The National Coalition every year supports one or two national charities, and over the years has supported numerous deserving organizations, including MDA, MDA Summer Camps, St. Jude,
Swim Across America, Hire Heroes USA, and Susan B Komen, to name a few. I heard a figure several years ago that 7-Eleven franchisees have given or collected over $82 million for MDA in the last 30 years. This year, our chosen national charity will be Swim Across America, an organization we have supported for the last three years.
On a local level, in order to fully participate in our communities, we need to support local schools, fire and police, legislators, charities, and local events in the community. We need to invite city councilmen, local legislators and state senators to our local FOA meetings. We need to embrace this direction as individual storeowners, and help others who help us. We can always invite 7-Eleven management and vendors to our meetings, but it pays to make connections locally. On the local FOA level, community outreach has at least three stages.
1. Local Community Outreach. Each FOA and each franchisee must assess thelocal community’s needs and get involved in whatever activities are available. Support as many activities as you can as part of an FOA effort or as an individual storeowner. This includes schools, hospitals, local and national charities, police and fire departments, local clubs, chambers of commerce, bike and road races, car rallies, the list is endless. It all depends on what activities take place in your neighborhood and what opportunities present themselves in your area.
2. Legislative Outreach. Franchisees as local businesspeople face all kinds of legislative issues: tobacco, plastic bags, soda taxes, minimum wage, recycling, licensing, and more! As it turns out, we can influence local and regional legislative assemblies to pass business-friendly legislation, but as with everything, we need to get involved.
We can approach county commissioners, local city halls, county and city councilmen as individuals or as representatives of an FOA, a group of businessmen very important to the community. Donate to their campaigns, talk to them at community events, invite them to your FOA meetings and talk to them every chance you get. You never know where you will find the next champion of small business.
3. National Issues Outreach. Legislative action on a national level needs the participation of grassroots organizers who can raise the visibility of our issues in state houses and in Washington, D.C.
In the past franchisees have supported fighting interchange fees, tobacco licensing changes, minimum wage, and sugar taxes, and we have supported such issues as fair franchising laws and new product legislation. We have visited Congressmen, Senators, and House reps in their offices, and we have proved we can make an impact.
The message is clear: Community outreach and involvement is important. It can be integral to the success of our stores and our local FOAs. The stronger the relationship with your community the more support you can expect from the local community at large.
Often our efforts at community involvement are not based on immediate financial gain, but such involvement almost always pays off in the long run by establishing our stores and our FOAs as part of the community at large. Convenience stores are often one of the local resources that residents look to in times of crisis—hurricanes, wildfires, snowstorms—and it is important for our communities to know who 7-Eleven is and what we are about.
We need ongoing visibility in our communities, and we do this by working in our communities to build relationships and partnerships. Local politicians, like their counterparts in Congress, know opportunity. If you knock on their door, you can make significant changes.
A community outreach plan should be an integral part of any store’s involvement and any FOA’s plan. Yet starting a community outreach program can be challenging. You might start by establishing an Outreach Committee as part of your local FOA. Create a team, make a list of potential partners and opportunities, and identify the opportunities that exist. Mutual support is based on building relationships, and FOAs have to focus on the long-term goals of the organization. This means doing community activities and being visible.
Social media can also be useful to connect to the community. Many stores have created Facebook pages. Some stores have Slurpee Kings and Queens, and have a dedicated person to reply to
Facebook messages. Which reminds me…. The National Coalition has a new electronic newsletter, and you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. To do this, visit our website at