Good business: Corporate social responsibility
In fundraising, there’s something called the “warm glow” theory that offers reason for why people give. While research has suggested that tax benefits, vested interest in causes and recognition all compel people to donate, it’s the warm glow—the feeling of doing good—that truly drives the act of giving.This theory has been extended to the corporate world as well. It has been proven that purchasing from companies that act ethically or give to a cause provides further incentive (warm glow!) to the consumer. The late 1990s and the early 2000s saw an uptake in businesses giving proceeds or providing volunteers to causes linked to their brands. Some called it “corporate social responsibility;” others called it “corporate philanthropy” or “corporate citizenship.” Regardless, it was a way for businesses to raise visibility while raising funds for good.

At that time, many supposed that corporate social responsibility—often referred to as CSR—was merely a trend or a means to market brands in a new way. While there is truth behind these speculations, consumers responded in ways that have undeniably shifted corporate social responsibility from trend to expectation. Today, businesses continue to see positive results from exploring CSR efforts, such as:

  • Enhanced reputation
  • Increased sales and customer loyalty
  • Strengthened relationships and expanded market share
  • Competitive edge
  • Peace of mind and satisfaction

While business may always be about profitability, it is becoming commonplace for companies to expand their bottom line to include investments in the communities and markets that launched them to success in new ways of doing things or in causes that stand to affect brand viability in the future. That’s what corporate social responsibility is all about.

So how can your business get started with a modern corporate social responsibility strategy today? We’ve got a few ideas …

  • Set a goal—what is it your business hopes to accomplish?
    CSR for good, for innovation or cost reduction, for sales and marketing or for enhanced reputation are all goals many other businesses take into consideration.
  • Narrow your focus—what will your business offer?
    Consider focusing on funding, investments, grants and in-kind donations toward a cause, cause-related marketing efforts, sponsorship of cause-related events, employee volunteers and contributions, or over-arching CSR-minded business practices.
  • Communicate
    What is your message, and how will it be communicated (if at all)? When developing messaging for a CSR plan and strategy, messages should be genuine, positive and provide a clear and logical link to a business’s overall goals and marketing. It should answer the question of “why” to incite buy-in from audiences. Like all messages, CSR messaging also needs to be consistent. The first step is internal communication. Tell staff why it is that CSR makes sense for your organization and what the goals and focuses are. Make the announcement at an all-company meeting and create excitement with fun, humanitarian-themed gifts like globe-shaped stress relievers or Healing Hand Keytags.

Then, communicate to external audiences, too, if it makes sense with the focus of your strategy. Consider holding a public event to announce the CSR beneficiaries. Get them excited with giveaways like T-shirts or hand fans. Don’t forget to promote your CSR efforts through other marketing efforts, too.

  • Measure and thank
    Measurement of a CSR plan and strategy can be tricky. If a business is involved in CSR for the greater good, the measurement will surely lie in the difference it is making toward a cause. Yet, if the main goal is enhanced reputation, the strategy is better measured with more traditional forms of public relations measurement such as media impressions, website statistics and focus groups or polls. Depending on your overall strategy, it may also be valuable to thank employees and volunteers from time to time for supporting CSR efforts—notes and small tokens of appreciation, like mugs or Bentcils that say “You’ve helped us a make a difference!,” go a long way.

For more information on developing a corporate social responsibility strategy, check out our Blue Paper®!

Leonhardt, David. “The New York Times.” The New York Times. 09 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 May 2010.

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