Turn your business into one that supports and engages the community

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Seeing businesses doing awesome things for their communities is AWESOME, and we should totally convince everyone to do it. So I always wonder why aren’t they giving back? Some just might not want to, some might feel they don’t have the resources, and some might be intimidated on how to start and need some help to get it going.

There is a lot of material out there on how to build successful CSR programs, but a lot of it can be daunting. If you have limited resources you might not feel like a long-term partnership with a charity might be possible due to financial or people power resources, but there are many ways besides that where you are given the opportunity to do good. In my last post I talked about ways companies are giving back. If you don’t have the financial resources, there are still opportunities for your business to engage.

Supporting the community as a business owner is hard work, so let’s figure out how to make it simple. Here are some basic things to consider when deciding what efforts to support and how:

  1. Start with “why” (if you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s book, do it) doesn’t just refer to your business being successful, it is a mindset that translates well to any situation. Keep why you are doing what you are doing at the forefront of everything. So when choosing a cause or charity to support, start with your why. Why is your company in existence and how does that relate? why do you want to give back? why are you passionate about certain causes? The best causes to support are ones that you, as an owner or manager, are personally connected to, or one that really resonates with the mission of your company. The closer it is to you, the easier it is to support.
  2. Determine resources that your company can give (time, money, in-kind donations, etc.). If you try to give before you know your limits, you can end up in bad shape. Figure out what you can give, and what value your business can add to the community. You have great assets, so determine what those are and how you can be of best use to the nonprofit.
  3. Assessing need is key to having the greatest impact. If you are choosing an organization to donate to, look into their financials and their strategic plan. Make sure what you can/are willing to offer is a good fit. You also want to be sure that you are attaching your name to a cause/organization that you are proud of and will happily stand by. Determine whether your plan is to stay local or expand. My vote is always for local!
  4. Managing partnerships is not as simple as writing a check or sponsoring a charitable event. There is more to it than that. Once you have determined what you can give and who you plan to give it to, creating a partnership with them is key to really contributing to the community. If you are a small business with limited resources, it might be the owner or a staff member who volunteers their time to build these relationships. Often times in large corporations, they will have a whole department or staff person dedicated just to CSR. Creating solid relationships will help both you and them in the long run. Don’t just give your money and run, work to understand their mission and how you can support it.
  5. Follow-through on what you commit to, for their sake and yours. Whether you know it or not, nonprofits you reach out to are depending on you. From the minute you commit to a donation, they have already factored that into their costs and allocated it to where it will be best put to use. A business never wants to get a bad rap because they promised things and didn’t deliver, especially when it is to a charitable cause that speaks to people. Word travels fast.

Turning your business into one that supports and engages the community can be simple, but should still be well-thought out and strategically done. If you are small (but mighty) and need some help, look to those large corporations that might have it down. If you are a big business, sometimes it’s good to look to the smaller fish and get back to your “why”, and support local efforts.

Check out CSRwire for news and report updates on CSR, and theguardian for other news on environmental CSR.

Corporate Social Responsibility: What is it and why does it matter?

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, more and more corporations are vamping up their social responsibility efforts, and more and more individuals are choosing to shop, eat, and work at companies that have a strong tie to community efforts.

So what is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? 

Nicole Fallon, contributor to Business News Daily breaks it down for us. “Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to a business practice that involves participating in initiatives that benefit society. Liz Maw, CEO of nonprofit organization Net Impact, noted that CSR is becoming more mainstream as forward-thinking companies embed sustainability into the core of their business operations to create shared value for business and society.”

CSR can take many forms; it might be monetary, volunteer time, advocacy, or sustainability efforts that a company is making. It can come from a large corporation, small local businesses, or a social venture who’s core mission is community based. Some businesses engage in one or the other, some engage in all aspects. Here are a few ways we see businesses giving back.

  • Donations/Advocacy- For-profit companies make money, so why not put some of that back into the community you live in? Companies all over the world are donating locally, nationally or globally, towards causes that resonate with their company’s vision. You see Wells Fargo supporting financial literacy education, Disney engaging youth and young leaders, Microsoft working towards computer science education, and countless others. They are not only giving away their money and encouraging employees to do the same, they are also getting the word out and standing behind causes they believe in. Hanes is an advocate for the homeless, Nike supports Planned Parenthood, and Avon speaks out on violence against women.
  • Volunteering- Many corporations have very strong employee volunteer time contributions. That may mean that they give paid time off to employees to volunteer on their own, or host team volunteer days for the company. Xerox scientists participate in youth consulting, U.S Bank does weekly employee volunteering, Deloitte offers PTO to volunteer, etc. 
  • Sustainability- Businesses are watching their carbon footprint, and going green. Google has been carbon neutral since 2007, Marriott is reducing consumption and building LEED hotels, Intuit reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and that is just the start.

Engaging in CSR is a win-win for corporations and for the non-profits and causes they support. Nonprofits get grant funding, volunteer hands, and exposure to millions of people through the CSR efforts worldwide. They receive funding through company donations, matching programs, and employee donations. Not to mention, they are given the opportunity to get thousands of long-term donors by engaging first with their employers. Agencies are also receiving potential skill-based volunteers to move closer to their mission. Nonprofits and the communities they serve can drastically benefit from a company having a strong CSR program.

Businesses with STRONG CSR initiatives are given the chance to use their power for social good. Through it they grow a positive public image, grow their consumers/constituents, and create a positive work environment for their employees. People want to see positive change in their communities, and they are willing to support businesses who make that happen. It makes them look good in the eyes of others, and is worth more than just a regular ol’ marketing campaign. It’s simple, employees like working for companies who are doing awesome things, and who are highly regarded in their communities, so give them something to be excited about and make them want to talk about the values of the company they work for.

CSR. Do it.