Looking out for others comes naturally for some people. For those involved with community engagement, identifying the needs of others and finding ways to address them is all part of the job. Community engagement is important to ensuring communities have access to the resources necessary to improve their quality of life. Learn more about the kinds of skills you’ll need if you’re considering a career in community engagement.
What Is Community Engagement?
To understand why you need certain skills for community engagement, learning more about what the field entails can help. To answer that question, we looked to Minnesotans engaged with their community. Anthony Herrera, Quality Control Technologist at the American Red Cross in Minneapolis, explains it as “anything that someone can do that improves the lives in their community. You can do this by donating time, resources, or money. It all plays a role in helping the community.” This type of engagement involves interacting with community members and learning about their concerns or hopes for community improvement.
How is this done? For Adam Braegelmann, Senior Project Manager at CentraCare in Big Lake, community engagement involves “doing clothes and winter need drives where I’m helping people be safe, warm, and prepared for the cold winters of MN” and helping young people get involved. Community engagement can be handled in various ways as long as the aim is to improve the community.
How to Build Community Engagement — Skills You’ll Need
What kinds of skills do you need to develop and improve community engagement? You should build the following skills if you plan on doing this type of work in your career:
Networking skills allow you to form connections with professionals who can help your organization or department achieve your goals. For example, you might network with local business leaders to raise awareness of community members who are in need and obtain the resources to help them.
2. Strong Communication Skills
Whether you’re talking to community members or writing to local lawmakers about community concerns or issues, you’ll need to have strong communication skills. When you’re in a degree program for community or civic engagement, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to work on developing your verbal and written communication skills.
3. Event Planning
You might be expected to plan events for your organization while working in community engagement. These might include fundraising events to raise money for the community or educational programs that provide community members with information on local concerns. Planning these events requires excellent organizational skills, attention to detail, and time management.
Nonprofit organizations that are involved in supporting local communities need to raise money for programs and other resources that serve community members. Working in community engagement means you’ll need to come up with ideas for fundraising events and activities. You’ll also be expected to oversee these fundraising events and spread the word about them, whether on social media or your organization’s blog.
You might need to market services your organization offers or programs and events that are held to help the community. Marketing skills can help you develop effective ways to inform community members or your targeted audience about upcoming events and available resources. Influencers on social media can also play a big role in marketing.
6. Volunteer Management
You might be responsible for managing volunteers when you work in community engagement. This includes recruiting volunteers and training them as needed. Some community organizations ask for volunteers to handle certain tasks or assist with events, such as fundraising. Volunteer management skills also involve determining where help is needed and allocating volunteer time accordingly.
7. Program Evaluation
While community outreach programs have noble goals, they may not always be successful at achieving them. Effective community engagement requires evaluating community programs to determine their value. This might lead to adjusting programs, developing new programs, or discontinuing programs.
8. Data Analysis
Community engagement might seem like a career that mainly involves interacting with others. However, it sometimes requires taking a close look at data. For example, you might need to analyze data gathered from community members to identify community needs. This allows you to determine which resources are needed and where they’re needed most. Data analysis skills help you make informed decisions that help your community.
9. Grant Writing
In order to implement community programs, organizations sometimes turn to businesses or other funding sources. Writing grant proposals to raise money for programs is an essential skill to have when you work in community engagement. Grant writing involves explaining what your proposed program will do and providing evidence to support why it’s needed. Many grants have stipulations attached, such as following up after a set time period with an analysis of the program’s performance or evidence that funds were used appropriately.
10. Public Speaking
As a community engagement professional, you might need to speak at public events. Public speaking skills are invaluable, especially if you don’t have much experience addressing a crowd. You can work on developing public speaking skills as progress through your degree program. For example, consider presenting a project to your class as an opportunity to hone your public speaking skills.
Community engagement can involve finding other individuals to support your organization and its efforts to improve the community. Recruiting talent involves identifying those strongly committed to helping community members. Inspiring others to get involved requires strong communication and leadership skills.
Why Is Community Engagement Important?
Community engagement matters for a number of reasons. It can help build trust between you and your community. Working on behalf of a nonprofit organization or government entity can help ensure that your programs or services meet the community’s needs. This type of engagement is important for encouraging community members to make use of the programs and services your organization provides.
As Herrera explains, “It’s very easy to see problems in your community, but... when you get out and help, it can improve and make your community a better place.” For Braegelmann, “when a community comes together and gives their time, I believe that can make a major difference.”
Learn More Today
If you’re considering working in community engagement, contact the University of Minnesota for more information. The College of Continuing and Professional Studies offers a Master of Professional Studies in Civic Engagement, so you can build the skills needed for this rewarding career.