These days, most companies small and large recognise the importance of integrating with the communities they work in. This can take the form of corporate social responsibility, advocacy, environmentally-friendly policies and sustainability.
A great way to connect with the people in your community is to choose an organisation they care about to partner with and dedicate time and money to them. But don’t make the same mistake lots of companies do – approaching charity donations and community engagement on an ad hoc basis. Put some thought into it and you’ll get better results.
Here are some thoughts on why and how you should get started with your next CSR campaign:
It ingratiates your organisation in the community
One of the most important reasons for a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy is that it builds goodwill with your customers and with the communities in which you operate. There may be times when your company has to make unpopular decisions or gets pulled into controversy, so it’s important to have that bank of goodwill to draw upon. If your organisation is seen purely as a corporate entity whose only priority is making as much money as it possibly can, people won’t have any sympathy when a scandal breaks out. On the other hand, if your organisation is generally seen as part of the community, people will make allowances and give the benefit of the doubt.
It earns coverage in the media
Developing a strong Corporate Social Responsibility strategy is a great way to get earned media coverage (that means editorial coverage that you don’t pay for). Generally speaking, news outlets don’t want to do any free advertising for companies, but one notable exception to this is when organisations do something impactful for youth groups, community schemes, vulnerable people or less fortunate groups in society. Campaigns like this generate much-sought after positive headlines. It’s important to note that your priority should be making an impact for the groups you work with first, and earning friendly media coverage second.
It boosts staff morale and supports recruitment
Millennials in particular want to work for organisations that have values and stand for something more than generating profit and the bottom line. Giving back feels good. Working with your colleagues to make something happen in your community feels good. Knowing that the company you work for cares about things beyond the bottom line feels good. Coming together, outside of work projects, to work toward a higher purpose feels good. A strong Corporate Social Responsibility strategy can have a positive impact on recruiting top talent and retaining the people you’ve got.
So, how do I create a strong Corporate Social Responsibility strategy?
Partner with an organisation that makes sense for your company
Think about the challenges your organisation faces in the towns and cities that you work in. If a lot of people sleep rough in your area, create a campaign around supporting the homeless, like Amazon did when it shared it’s building with the homeless community in San Francisco. If parents at your organisation and across the community struggle with childcare, consider supporting local after-school groups and summer camps by sponsoring free places, or lowering the overall cost for all kids. If you struggle to recruit graduates of law, engineering or any other sector, consider sponsoring a scholarship place at a nearby university for a local student.Your employees will buy into your Corporate Social Responsibility strategy if they can see the logic you used when choosing which charities, community groups and local organisations you partner with and they can see and feel the benefits. If you want to really engage your employees in the process, shortlist three worthy organisations and let them vote on which one you choose.
Think about the long term
Changing who you partner with and donate to annually can be a bit of a logistical nightmare, it gets confusing, and it doesn’t really allow the charity or community group to truly benefit from your long-term support. Stick with the group you’ve chosen for three years before you reassess. Your support for them will become common knowledge over time which will really help with the community engagement and media exposure discussed above, and more importantly, they’ll be able to initiate longer-term projects in the knowledge that the funding isn’t going to get cut off unexpectedly.
Make it easy for your employees to donate their time and money
Very few people have €120 in their pockets to give to charity and community groups, but lots of people can afford €10 per month, which over the course of a year amounts to the same thing. Allow your employees to set up a payroll deduction that goes straight to the charity. If 100 employees each agree to donate €10/month, that’s already €1,000/month or €12,000/year, which is a tremendous amount of money for most charities.And that’s just the start. Give your employees one ‘charity day’ per year, that they can use any way they want to raise money for your chosen organisation from running a marathon to organising a table quiz to holding a bake sale. To really encourage your employees’ competitive spirit, sponsor a prize for the department that raises the most money.
So, those are just a few important factors to take into account when you’re developing a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy or a sustainability campaign. What have I missed? What does your organisation do to give back to the communities you work in? Let me know in the comments!
Katie Harrington is a Communications and Content professional based in Dublin, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as in the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.