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One thing I feel strongly about when it comes to corporate giving and community support: It doesn’t have to be all about giant checks and grandiose gestures. Sometimes, the most meaningful impacts are one-to-one connections — the chances to have a simple positive impact on a community member’s life.
As a perfect example, a landowner in a solar development project in Ohio recently reached out to me about bidding on his son’s rabbits in the county fair’s 4-H auction. I was able to make the winning bid, donating $600 to the Fairfield County 4-H on behalf of National Grid Renewables.
Teaching skills that support the agricultural way of life
More than supporting 4-H, that winning bid was a way of supporting and encouraging that individual boy’s hard work. Raising animals is one of the projects that nearly every 4-H kid does, usually progressing from chickens or rabbits to sheep and cattle. The kids learn a lot about responsibility, and how livestock play an important role in their local economy.
As a farmer myself, and someone who lives in a rural agricultural community, it means a lot to support the next generation of young people in fostering their passion for this way of life.
Making connections at the human level
This is also a great example of how we approach making connections and getting involved within a project community. We don’t come in with a big, flashy news conference about how much we’re donating to the school district. We don’t want to own the spotlight, and we don’t want to look like we’re buying our credibility. We start by getting to know real people — talking to them, answering their questions about a project, and finding opportunities to help by meeting them where they’re at.
We’re in the very early stages of developing the solar farm, but we’re already doing community engagement work. And I know it’s helping: It puts a face to this company that’s new in the community. Landowners and community members start to feel like they know me, and it’s meaningful that I’m a farmer myself. So, they feel like they can call me or come talk to me with questions or concerns — and I think one-to-one or face-to-face conversations just work a lot better.
At the end of the day, it’s all about showing the community that we want to work with them. We’re going to be here for 20 or 30 years. And we want to build a fruitful relationship that lasts.