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Corporate Social Responsibility: The Right Way to Design Your Next Initiative

It’s no secret that an increasing number of companies are investing in philanthropic work, and for good reason.

Besides the warm feelings that often come with altruism, workplace philanthropy can be good for business. Whenever a company gives to the community, the community will respond in kind. In fact, 66 percent of consumers would spend more on a product or service when it comes from a sustainable brand.

But workplace philanthropy does more than just impact your bottom line. It can do wonders for recruiting and retaining talent, especially talent of tomorrow. More than 50 percent of millennials say they’d take a pay cut to work for a company that matches their values, while 90 percent of this generation wants to use their skills for good.   

In other words, corporate social responsibility — or CSR, for short — makes your company more attractive to not just consumers but job seekers.

The only problem: companies don’t always get CSR right, believing that employees will participate when given the chance. But one size rarely fits all with giving activities, and trying to “standardize” the process only really benefits its management, not its level of participation. 

Doing Good Is Just Good Business

If you’d like to establish a CSR initiative that benefits both the business and the community-at-large, then consider the following strategies:

Choose the right charity.

Most companies choose to support causes that align with their business in some way. Otherwise, your outreach efforts look more like an attempt at good PR then doing good without expecting anything in return. When designing a program, make sure it makes sense for the business, mission, values, or culture of your company.

Let’s say, for example, your company makes home improvement products. A logical choice would be to devote your energies to fighting homelessness through Habitat for Humanity, StandUp for Kids, or the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Give employees a say.

When creating a workplace philanthropy program, it should be designed to maximize engagement. That means organizing CSR efforts around causes that resonate with employees. Ask staff for their input on what they care about, allowing them the opportunity to make a difference based on their values. It also shows employees that you value their input.

Pass more than the hat.

Cutting a check is generous, but it won’t provide the same benefits that often come with other CSR efforts. By donating your time to causes, corporate giving becomes much more authentic — at least from a marketing perspective. People will see your company as an organization that genuinely cares about social or environmental issues.

This isn’t to say you should forgo financial support, but you’ll also want to look for ways to get out into the community. Offer free services, sponsor some events, and get staff out into the community to become an actual part of that community. Besides, giving activities can be powerful employee engagement tools for your business.

Make philanthropy easy.

It isn’t enough to just institute a workplace-giving program; you must empower employees to serve. And one of the most effective ways of doing this is to make it as easy as possible to donate time or resource. Make opportunities readily accessible and available. Encourage employees to take advantage of those opportunities that play to their strengths or align with their interests.

When you empower employees to serve, and allow them the freedom to decide how and where to serve, they’re far more apt to participate. And your support in their volunteerism can translate into greater loyalty and engagement, which can reinforce your retention and recruitment efforts.

Develop communication strategies.

Companies often establish workplace philanthropy programs without ever making employees aware of their existence — or encouraging participation, at that. Increase awareness with banners, slogans, and internal promotions. Enlist the help of employees from all departments and at all levels to get the word out.

In fact, treat a CSR initiative like any new product or service, and start marketing it to your internal customers. Find out what will move them to take action. A millennial will respond differently to a message than a baby boomer, so try to really get to know your employees before creating your messaging.

Don’t make it about your brand.

People respond to people, not brands. Instead of focusing solely on the hours and dollars your company gives to a cause, put the personal stories front and center. Make your employees the heroes, not your organization. Their involvement will essentially vouch for the authenticity of your involvement.

As a result, consumers will believe your commitment and choose you over other brands — what with 90 percent of shoppers saying they’d switch brands to one that supports a cause. What’s more, your efforts can improve employee loyalty by an average of 38 percent.

Workplace philanthropy isn’t just the right thing to do; it often has a major impact on retention and recruitment. Once your company makes CSR a priority, it’s amazing how much your business – and your employees – will benefit!