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Creating a Community Impact Statement: A Worthwhile Endeavor
By William Scarborough 03-Nov-16
Early last year, I read about a significant public relations tool that we at Singapore American School (SAS) had never considered: a community impact statement. Many U.S. colleges and some independent schools have produced such a report—a comprehensive picture of the institution’s relationship with the community outside its gates. A community impact statement highlights the economic and social benefits of the school. It can educate and impress neighborhood groups, government officials, business partners, applicants, and potential donors. It also presents a narrative that school parents and staff may not know, and of which they can be very proud. Intrigued, we looked at examples online. We could find few from other international schools, but some remarkable reports turned up from schools in the U.S. With a large and diverse enrollment, neighborhood housing abutting our campus, increasing emphasis on philanthropy to support our programs, and reliance on good relations with the Singapore government, we saw that making clear how much we “give back” to the community could be helpful in many ways. We gathered information from individuals and teams throughout the school. As the extent of our impact on our host neighborhood, country, and region became clear, we were pleasantly surprised. In addition to obvious topics such as job creation, school spending, and community service, we saw that the report could also describe other ways we support our hosts. These include taxes and levies paid to the government, average monthly spending by school families, expenditures by students and educators visiting Singapore for SAS events, and school contributions to Singapore’s academic, environmental, and social welfare efforts. We could also explain how SAS helps attract companies and employees to Singapore, and how our programs and families promote Singapore to the greater world. Our report even includes a list of local attractions and performances supported by SAS field trips! After organizing the data, we added graphics and photos to make it visually engaging. It then became a prominent part of our public website (www.sas.edu.sg) as “Our Impact on Singapore” under About Us. Our weekly eNews promoted the statement to school parents and staff, and we are currently printing a limited number of hard copies. Producing the report was a significant project, so our next challenge will be deciding how often to update it. We have been very pleased with the response to the SAS Community Impact Statement. Our school community has gained a deeper understanding of our partnership with our host country. Non-SAS readers see that the school plays a vital role in the lives of many Singaporeans, whether employees, contractors, vendors, company executives, local teachers, or the many Singaporeans in schools, community groups, or care facilities who interact with our students through community service opportunities. Our Admissions and Advancement offices report that applicants’ parents and potential donors are impressed when we direct them to this document. We feel that this has been a very valuable exercise for us, and we believe that other international schools will gain significant benefits by developing their own community impact statements. William Scarborough is Chief Financial Officer at Singapore American School.
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