CSR: It’s More than Giving Money to a Cause

Laying the Foundation for Effective Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives

By Ed Murph

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a common term heard among the business community these days. We talk about the importance of giving back and doing good outside the workplace. But with various types of charity causes to support, how does a company determine which organization best fits their employees, clients, customers and vendor partners? Even then, who determines the resources needed and how the partnership will be executed?

There are three questions companies should ask themselves when beginning to discuss possible CSR initiatives:

1. Is there an existing charity or cause of interest to the executive team, i.e., animals, kids or health-related causes?

Any businessman can haphazardly give a few hundred dollars to the first charity in the phonebook and call it CSR, but it doesn’t come close to being corporate social responsibility. It takes a measured approach and can be much more rewarding when a business does more than simply send a check to an organization. When determining the “right” cause for the company to support, start with the executive team. When leaders have a passion for a cause, it trickles down throughout the entire company and makes for an effort backed by the whole team, as well as a common denominator of interest among employees. When efforts within a company are driven by the leadership team, especially when time and money are blended together, a successful initiative can grow. At the same token, if an employee or a customer who regularly visits the business has a cause they are passionate about, that can also bring a company to rally around an initiative.

The partnership between a company and the benefiting charity should be natural. A genuine connection between organizations will be more meaningful for all involved.

2. Will the company partner with one charity or engage with multiple charities throughout the year? 

A business’ best option is to create a CSR plan to ensure all giving is aligned with its marketing strategy. A company could either give to different charities a few times a year or partner solely with one charity.

By engaging with multiple charities throughout the year, there are opportunities for companies to work across various causes and support a wide demographic of people. Additionally, it allows for flexibility of the partnership between the company and nonprofit because there are no long-term expectations, but rather one-time giving events. The goal is to build relationships between employees, organization and the community.

By selecting only one or two charities to support over the course of the year, companies to can really dive into the charity’s mission, see how their consistent efforts can make a true difference and build long-term relationships for awareness of both parties.

Neither is right nor wrong, but it’s important to consider what will best fit your company’s passions, budgetary means and involvement levels.

3. What does the company envision for the partnership?

The implementation of the partnership depends on the company’s goal – the amount of hands-on labor it is willing to offer, the frequency of desired interaction with the charity, etc. Whereas an annual gala often requires heavy interaction and financial means, a monthly promotion might better allow for more consistent interaction throughout the year, as funds can be spread out.

It is important for a company to identify its primary goals for establishing a CSR campaign, i.e., which organizations will the company partner with; how much time can be given to promote the efforts; what is the allotted budget, etc.

For a company’s first time executing CSR initiatives, there’s no need to jump in head first. By simply joining an established charity event such as gathering a team for a 5k run, the company can gain insight into how other organizations execute a CSR event or promotion. Being part of another event still makes a huge difference in the community and to the benefiting charity. Start small, even if there is existing man power and financial backing, learning what works can be the key to launching a successful CSR campaign.

Successful CSR initiatives come from the heart and are developed to create a sense of community among a company’s target audiences – everyone working for a greater cause. It’s important to have a solid CSR vision and structure, and have the right people in place to drive the efforts, because the end result is a company that gives back and stands out as a leader for other businesses within their industry.

Ed Murph is the owner of Norma’s Cafe, a Dallas home cooking institution serving home-style meals with a Texan flair since 1956. Find them online at www.normascafe.com.

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