As someone who gets anxious in crowds and hates public speaking, this maybe wasn’t the best choice of gig. But in the end it went off without a hitch and I even managed to get a selfie with Antiques Roadshow presenter Katherine Higgins; who said I don’t know how to rock a Saturday night?
Giving back to our local community is an important part of our culture at Informed Choice. We’re very much a local business, with our roots in the local community and the lives of the owners firmly rooted here too.
With Christmas approaching, it’s an especially busy time for the voluntary work our team does. It’s become apparent that David Cameron’s push for Big Society effectively means that if volunteers don’t organise events for the local community, nobody else will.
The Cranleigh Christmas Lights event at the weekend was the culmination of countless hours of planning and preparation, which started back in January. On the day itself, it saw us building a stage in the village square, rigging up speakers and snow machines, and then hosting the event itself for hundreds of families to enjoy.
Coming up this weekend, we’re sponsoring and organising a 10k race at nearby Dunsfold Park, home of BBC Top Gear. This is the seventh year we’ve backed the Jigsaw Run 10k, which raises funds for local charity Jigsaw Trust, who do excellent work for children and young adults with autism.
A couple of weeks later and we’re also helping with the Cranleigh Santa Dash; a slightly smaller fun run in the village, which raises money for our local Rotary Club, which they donate to the various schools here.
By the time Christmas comes around, we’re all due a well deserved rest.
We do this volunteering, and much more, for entirely selfless reasons. That’s not to say that getting our hands dirty in the local community can’t have commercial benefits too.
Many of our clients have engaged with us as a result of getting to know, like and trust us when we’re outside in all weather, raising money for charities or keeping the village looking tidy as part of the Cranleigh in Bloom initiative.
It never fails to surprise me when I see advisers move into a local area and expect to win the trust of prospective clients and professional contacts by using traditional marketing alone. No amount of paid advertorials in your local magazine or roundabout sponsorship signs are going to convince your target audience to place their faith in you, especially if you’re new to an area.
By living, working and being deeply involved in your local community, you stand the best possible chance of overcoming the tainted reputation associated with the retail financial services sector.
My best advice here is to do more than simply throw money at event sponsorships; become one of the core organisers too. Giving the financial backing to a local event or cause is great, and these organisations will always need your money. But more than your money, they need your help.
There’s a wealth of experience you can take from running a business and donate towards local good causes. The one role every charity and voluntary organisation seems to always need is that of treasurer, so a Financial Planner with a head for figures would be well suited to that particular job.
Finding causes in which you have a personal interest is also important; a lot of the events I choose to support revolve around running, a particular passion of mine, when I’m not injured that is!
It’s also important to strike the right balance between volunteering and working. It’s only by running a successful business that we are able to dedicate the time and money we do towards these local causes.
Each year I turn down far more requests for help than I am able to accept. As my planning for 2019 begins in earnest this month, I need to think carefully about which organisations I can continue to work with, and which I can no longer spare my time.
Martin Bamford FPFS Chartered Financial Planner SOLLA Accredited Later Life Adviser
Managing Director, Informed Choice