Part of running a mutual business is about thinking through the values to which you operate and more importantly translating these values into activities that you think your members and customers will appreciate.

Most of the time, this is about products and service and the way in which you deliver fairness and value for money. But sometimes it must go further and be about the way in which the business interacts with, and in, the community it serves.

As part of our 2012 plans we are working up a community strategy, so that everyone who works at Kent Reliance and OneSavings can understand and, more importantly, get involved in activities from fund raising to more tangible projects to help our chosen causes.

Last week I embarked, along with various members of my team, on our first initiative of the year. There is a Kent based charity called Demelza Hospice Care for Children, which is a 10-bedded facility providing a large range of care services to children, young people and their families. For anyone who has ever had experience of a children’s hospice or even just visited one, they will know what a fantastic service they provide and how amazing the staff are who tirelessly provide care and love at extremely difficult times.

Demelza gets its funding from many sources from local shops to a lottery scheme, but with running costs of £6,000 per day every bit of fundraising is greatly appreciated. With 2012 being a leap year, an extra £6,000 was needed to help balance the books.

So various teams from Kent Reliance arrived first thing at Demelza’s shops in Chatham, Sittingbourne and Strood. First we were tasked with giving away doughnuts, in exchange for a donation of course, which clearly became a little competitive between the teams with regular reports between shops on who was selling the most. Being a fairly competitive animal myself, I decided to buy all of Sittingbourne’s remaining stock before moving to the local Sainsburys to sell re-usable trolley tokens. At this point I was joined by Demelza’s CEO, Steve Hoy, who it transpired was also pretty competitive. So sorry to all those people I accosted at the trolley park.

The afternoon was spent actually at the Hospice, where following a quick tour, two teams were agreed and dispatched. One to help with the ever present gardening jobs and one to make a sensory and stimulating Easter egg hunt trail for the children. This team consisted of me, our Finance Director and our Sales and Marketing Director. We had the full use of the art room and following an initial period of head scratching were actually pretty happy with what we created.

The Kent Reliance team with the cheque for Demelza Hospice Care for Children

It was a great day that ended with us presenting a cheque for the extra days running costs. We all went home pretty tired that night, but all with a feeling that working in and with a community is exactly the sort of thing that a regional business should be doing.