Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is more than just writing a check to your favorite charity; it is about incorporating social giving and awareness into your company’s culture.
Earlier this week, we mentioned social responsibility as part of “Last-Minute Holiday Marketing Tips”. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, now is the perfect time to look at ways your business may want to adopt social responsibility as part of your corporate structure.
Social responsibility is more than just writing a check to a local charity or sponsoring an event. It is about making your business a community partner and committing to your business activity being an integral part of your community’s growth. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can be defined as a company’s sense of responsibility to the community and environment in which it operates, including local, national and international causes. In addition to philanthropic efforts and donations, companies flex their social responsibility muscle in how they operate, from in-house recycling programs and sustainable business operations to contributing to educational and social programs.
In addition to benefiting a cause and the community, businesses have much to gain from being socially responsible. In a study conducted by Cone Communications and Echo Research and reported in Fox Business, more than 90% of consumers surveyed were likely to switch to brands that support a good cause, given similar price and quality. Additionally, 90% of consumers said that they would like to see more of the products and services they use supporting CSR.
Whether you are a large firm or a mom-and-pop shop, social responsibility can and should be a part of your company’s culture. Here is a simple guide to get you thinking about your own business and how you can incorporate social responsibility in your day-to-day business activity:
- Choose a Cause or Causes – Choosing a focus for a corporate giving program may sound simple, but it’s not. Survey your team and find out the causes that are of interest to them. Once you choose a focus area, contact the charity or organization(s) to learn more about their needs; set a meeting with their Development Department to discuss current giving programs they may have in place for business partners or propose your own annual event or program. Many nonprofit organizations have guidelines for how to best work with them. They may have particular programs that are shy of funding or areas that are reserved for corporate support. Meet with the organization’s leaders to ensure that you are following their guidelines for representing their organization, using their logo and publicly communicating about the event or giving program. You will need to establish a clear line of communication and a mutual understanding of expectations including the percentage of profit that they will receive as a result of your events or programs.
- Spread the Word – Whether it’s an annual golf tournament or an in-house collection, make sure you share your good work. Add the events or programs to your website and public calendar. Add the benefiting charity to your partner links and related literature. Promote the event or program, and provide updates about progress and final outcomes. Create and distribute press releases and schedule donation photo opportunities when appropriate. Don’t overlook employees either; along with fostering their support and participation, encourage them to invite their friends and family to join the effort. You will find that they will be strong advocates, and your company will be rewarded with a boost in team morale.
- Commit – Whether you are committing to a particular cause or a regular program or event, stick to it. One-time giving is great but does not constitute Corporate Social Responsibility. In order to be consistent and make it a habit, you will want to be sure the program that you put in place is realistic and sustainable. Set a goal and implement steps for reaching that goal, just as you would for any business effort. Think long-term, and make sure to have buy-in from your staff, as well as the benefiting organization(s). If you communicate to the public that you support socially responsible causes but don’t actually follow through with your promises, you risk damaging your company’s reputation and appearing disingenuous to both supporters and beneficiaries. For this reason, create and commit to a clear-cut timeline with action items that will allow you to reach your goal.
A properly designed and executed corporate giving program gives back to more than just the community or your chosen cause; it gives back to your business. Your business can gain a competitive edge through improved brand recognition, increased consumer sentiment, boosted team morale and appealing to and retaining top talent. The gains to be made on all levels far outweigh the cost of being socially responsible. It’s never too late to start, and giving back will give you and your team even more for which to be thankful.
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