Just a nice to have?

A corporate social responsibility program. It sounds nice, right?  Yes. And it's nice to have. And it's good for business. Consider:

  • 88% of new job seekers choose employers based on strong corporate social responsibility values.
  • 86% would consider leaving if the company’s corporate social responsibility values no longer met their expectations.
  • Companies with highest levels of employee engagement see increases in their bottom line, improving an average of 19.2% in operating income, compared with a 32.7% average decline in companies with lower levels of engagement.
  • Highly engaged companies can reduce staff turnover by 87% and improve performance by 20%.

Looks like a corporate social responsibility program isn't just a nice thing to have. It's a must-have.

 

Research sources: Social Ethics: A Peek into 2012, Linda Novick O’Keefe, Founding Executive Director, Common Threads; Harvard Business Review, Green Research - Annual Sustainability Executive Survey, 2012.

Know the numbers

The marketplace demands "doing good."

  • Regulatory influences, governance, and sustainability pressures are requiring businesses to pay increasing attention to social responsibility, community impact, and “doing good."
  • The definition of philanthropy and social responsibility has expanded well beyond giving to charities to reflect a global, inclusive definition of the activities that count as "doing good."
  • The marketplace is increasingly socially conscious–both the talent base and the consumers.

Connection is a commercial imperative.

Corporate social responsibility is valuable for building a positive employee culture and emotional loyalty with employees, customers and other stakeholders. Connection has become a commercial imperative--and social impact is a fundamental tool to allow a business to build meaningful relationships with audiences.

Why is this?

  • At its classical origin, philanthropy is a love of humanity involving both the giver and receiver.
  • Philanthropy embodies emotional energy, storytelling, and universal human respect and understanding, which in turn connect people with each other and make it easier and more productive to conduct business together.

Social impact matters.

Stakeholders are listening for evidence of a commitment to social impact in the brands, organizations and companies they trust.

  • A study of hundreds of major brands, led by Procter & Gamble’s former CMO, Jim Stengel, demonstrated that a business built upon values returns four times the S&P 500.
  • Our own research--and dozens of studies by other firms--indicate that more than 90% of consumers want to purchase products and services from companies that are doing good.
  • Studies of the emerging workforce, including Deloitte’s third annual Millennial Survey of nearly 7,800 Millennials from 28 countries, consistently demonstrate that a clear majority of the younger talent base wants to work for companies that are committed to charitable giving, volunteering, and making a positive impact on the bottom line and beyond. And the 2014 Millennial Impact Study showed that 94% of Millennials want to use their talents for doing good.

Where's the glue?

Do you ever ask, "Where's the glue?"

Virtual offices. Remote workstations. Flex time. Multiple locations. A series of acquisitions. Employees are all over the place! Physically, yes, but also in terms of corporate culture. What’s the glue that will hold your talent together, creating the corporate culture of success you know you need for the company to succeed? That’s where corporate social responsibility (CSR) can come in handy. Harness the collective energy of your team by making the most of your employees' desire to do good. CSR is rapidly becoming one of the best ways to engage employees in learning and embracing corporate values, energizing a company's human resources and giving the company the edge it needs to meet its goals.

What’s hot when it comes to engaging employees in a CSR program? Surveying employees is a great place to start. That way, you can determine current and potential levels of engagement in an existing CSR program. Be sure to cast a wide net around what you call "doing good." Your employees are probably involved in a wide range of activities that fall under the CSR umbrella, including things like participation in corporate giving campaigns, giving to their own favorite causes, volunteering, recycling, spearheading office campaigns, board service, fundraisers and canned food drives. One-on-one interviews are an excellent source of the information a company needs to get its arms around all of the ways the company and its associates are doing good and giving back. Often, management is surprised to learn just how much good is really going on. And sometimes management is surprised to learn how much--or how little--employees know about the company's values, its commitment to social responsibility and all of the ways the company is supporting various community and industry initiatives.

Only when you know what's really going on, and what your employees really think of it--can you define your company's CSR program, tying a ribbon around all of that good and packaging it up in concise, compelling messages and strategies to deploy in the company's sales, marketing, market expansion and talent recruitment channels.

And who knows? You might just find a few things that can be tweaked a bit. Sure, keep the activities and the causes everyone loves. But maybe there are a few things that people don't really like doing but they're afraid to say so. Optimizing a CSR program, getting things organized and achieving efficiencies is a great way to make a little room for trying something new. Start an employee giving campaign to engage everyone in a handful of strategic causes that bolster the company’s market position. Or consider establishing a birthday program for employees to celebrate each person’s gifts to the community. Or start up an employee education program for employees to learn how they can make the most of doing good, at home and in the workplace. And none of it has to break your budget.

Indeed, today's CSR-savvy companies are asking employees to roll up their sleeves and help make decisions about where the company's philanthropic dollars ought to be spent to bolster corporate goals, brand engagement and customer relationships.

And here's the real bonus. CSR. Employee engagement. You know your company has to do both. Why not combine the two and get the most bang for your buck?

Managing the gap

Five years ago, a company might have been able to get by with defining its corporate social responsibility program by making a commitment to recycling, establishing a corporate foundation and offering an employee matching gifts program. But that won’t work today because employee demand for CSR is climbing, steadily and rapidly. Employers aren’t keeping up with internal and external markets.

Consider:

  • 88 percent of young job seekers choose employers based on strong CSR values. That’s data from a study released earlier this year. A similar 2006 study found that 79 percent of young job seekers look at a company’s social responsibility program when deciding where to work.
  • 86 percent of young employees would consider leaving if the company’s CSR values no longer met their expectations. That’s the 2012 statistic. In 2006, that percentage was only 56. A dramatic increase, in only six years!
  • The average employee participation in a corporate matching gifts program, one of the most popular CSR tools, is just 7 percent.

Employers are not offering the social responsibility programs that employees want. The gap between what employees want and what employers are providing spells trouble for companies who hope to retain and attract key talent. Certainly that is a risk too great for any savvy employer to tolerate, especially considering that the cost of replacing an employee can run between 30 and 400 percent of the employee’s annual salary. That is why it is worth leveraging CSR, taking a strategic approach to talent management. A strategic approach can reduce employee turnover rate by an average of forty percent.

What can an employer do? An employer must address the CSR gap, immediately, starting by defining social responsibility in a way that actually engages employees, weaving together employee engagement activities with social responsibility activities so that the company maximizes its investment in each.

Confused about cause marketing?

You see it everywhere! Companies and brands aligning with causes. And promoting it, everywhere. In advertising. In office and retail locations. On packaging labels. In new product promotions. All over social media. Even sometimes wrapped up in the brand itself. Anything to sell a product or service, right?

Feeling a little left out? Not sure where to begin? Not sure cause marketing is a fit for your company? Don’t worry. If you’ve come down with a case of cause marketing confusion, you’re in good company. Literally. Plenty of top-notch businesses have yet to add cause marketing to their to-do lists. For very good reasons, too. What if the company selects a cause that backfires, making customers and employees mad instead of happy? What if the cause has a bad reputation you weren’t aware of? What if the company spends more money on the cause marketing parts of the product or service than the profit it makes? All very good question.

Remember, in the end, a case of cause marketing confusion might turn out to be a very good thing. It means you are taking your time, weighing your options, looking at return on investment, determining whether your business really needs cause marketing as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. The answer may be yes. The answer may be no. The key is to make sure any program you develop is genuine, authentic, and created out of a true desire to enrich the lives of others. After all, that's what CSR is all about.

How do you know your company needs a formula for CSR success? If you’ve come down with a case of cause marketing confusion, congratulations. Being thoughtful about how you use causes in your marketing means you're in good company. Forward-thinking businesses know better than to follow a trend just to follow a trend.

Make it good and make it real.

What's hot in CSR?

Lately we've been inspired by organizations whose leaders are digging into CSR, taking advantage of the power of doing good to power business results. Leading organizations are taking an inventory of all of the ways that the organization and its employees are giving back. And they're coming up with some great ideas for celebrating good.

Here's what's most popular:

  • Surveying employees to determine existing and potential levels of engagement in the corporate giving program and setting goals accordingly
  • Streamlining overall program structure
  • Implementing a time-bound employee giving campaign to engage associates in the company's strategic charitable causes
  • Establishing a birthday program for employees, annually acknowledging the personal contributions each associate is making to the community
  • Setting up a way to easily monitor and measure the results of a corporate giving program to more easily share the results of what the employees and the company have accomplished
  • Establishing a regular employee development and continuing education program to support employee interest in giving back, and maximizing its positive impact on the corporate culture

It all sounds good to us. How about you?

Is it substance, or form?

Is CSR anything more than an exercise in form over substance? Absolutely. But not many companies get that. At least not yet.

The most forward-thinking companies understand that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not only about “doing good.” Rather, a well-designed CSR program increases the significance of the business itself, not only by creating improved conditions for the community as a whole, but also by supporting the growth of a successful commercial enterprise. In today’s marketplace, well-organized, well-executed CSR activities are critical factors in driving business improvement, brand engagement, customer loyalty and employee retention.

The hitch is that CSR doesn't work unless it is real. When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of a CSR strategy, here's the statement companies dread most from a consumer: "That company is just trying to make itself look good." Ouch. No one wants CSR to be a fake. Not the company, not the employees, not the consumers, not the community. Unfortunately, that's often what happens when well-intentioned executives tack on an employee volunteer program to check a box. Or buy a few tables at community events. Or slap together a cause marketing program by designing a fancy logo with ads to match. That's classic form over substance.

Today's employees and consumers are savvy enough to know CSR window dressing when they see it. That's because giving is part of the lives of most Americans and very much encouraged by popular culture. Today’s consumers cast a wide net around what it means to give back and be socially responsible. They define “doing good” as a combination of activities that together create a socially responsible lifestyle and define an overall giving footprint. And it’s not just about giving money to a charity of choice, directly or through a foundation. Today’s giving equation includes volunteering in the community, recycling and respecting a sustainable environment, serving on civic boards and committees, celebrating favorite causes by supporting and attending community events, marketing with a focus on a charitable cause, purchasing products and services that include a charitable element, and donating canned goods or used clothing to people in need. The social consciousness of America is growing, rapidly. And Americans can spot a phony.

CEOs and marketing executives want to make it real. Every CEO must pay attention to CSR trends, whether the business he or she leads is private, public, large or small. Market pressures are heating up. Similarly, using CSR effectively is critical to the success of any marketing effort. Most of the time, CSR activities are going on across a company in various departments, creating inefficiency, extra cost and, perhaps most damaging, diluting the brand’s overall voice.

But how is CSR substance created?

Substance over form occurs only through a thorough understanding of social responsibility and the dynamics involved from a philanthropic, regulatory, governance and sustainability perspective. This makes it difficult for an executive team and marketing departments to develop meaningful content that will be viewed by audiences as legitimate and authentic. With the heightened social consciousness of Americans and the increasing scrutiny of charitable causes, social responsibility efforts must be legitimate or they will be viewed consumers and employees as disingenuous. This means companies need strong CSR frameworks based on best practices, activated through a series of meaningful experiences and evidence of impact that can be deployed into brand and delivered to engage audiences. CEOs and their marketing teams need to get educated about CSR. And they need to get organized. And then they need to get going.

Six critical elements drive an effective CSR program: mission, alignment, engagement, communication and sales, and evaluation and reporting. Only after a company has established a solid framework for its CSR program can it move into action to create the substance required to secure authentic brand engagement. A CSR program should not be viewed only as a budget expense. A CSR program built on an effective framework is an asset to leverage the company’s growth. Specific, tactical steps must be part of an ongoing action plan to use CSR to drive brand engagement, engage existing and new consumers, enter new markets, launch new products, increase sales, and recruit and retain talent.

Substance over form. Make that leap in your CSR program and see how far it can take you toward your business goals. Chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

They're checking you out

Americans want to work for good companies. In fact, 88% of Millennials want to work for a company that cares about how the company impacts and contributes to society. That's according to USA Today.

How about some advice for employees? Here are three ideas to get you started.

1. Start by checking out the website. Does the company highlight employee giving campaigns? Matching gifts programs? Community service days? How about recycling programs, holiday food drives, event sponsorships, and giving to charity? If information like this is lacking, you might begin to question whether "doing good' is a priority.

2. Ask questions. "Doing good" is an important topic during an interview. Find out how the company engages its employees in a positive workplace culture through philanthropy and giving back. If you are already an employee, ask your colleagues or your manager. Does the company have a formal program? Is there a calendar of events and opportunities to participate? Does the employer support employee-driven fundraisers--collecting used clothing, dropping coins in a jar to signal support for finding a cure for a disease, or offering employees a way to lend a helping hand to each other?

3. Look for evidence of celebration. Does the company celebrate doing good, or are "doing good" activities buried in the clutter of the day-to-day? Savvy companies are beginning to capture all of their "doing good" activities in one place--on a poster or in a booklet or online--so that the employees' collective social impact is woven into a positive workplace culture.

 

From the inside out

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What counts as doing good? Especially against a backdrop of increasing market pressures in philanthropy, corporate sustainability, regulatory guidelines and governance standards? Social responsibility is based on a complicated subject matter. Determining the totality of CSR activities within a company is difficult without a strong working knowledge of the CSR space.

Getting started the right way is essential to create authentic brand engagement. That’s why savvy companies often approach social responsibility from the inside, beginning with their people. Often the jumping off point is achieved by conducting an inventory of a company's and its employees' current social responsibility activities. An inventory is a great way to form the basis for identifying gaps and opportunities within an existing CSR program, no matter how large or small the existing program may be. An inventory can be accomplished through employee surveys, document review, and interviews.

When a company bases its inventory research and review process on best practices and the work of the most forward-thinking thought leaders in the industry, a company can produce a compelling report summarizing its overall CSR footprint. In turn, the company can articulate its CSR strategy because it will have a solid baseline of raw content. After that, the marketing team can produce high quality material to begin to legitimately publicize the company’s CSR commitment.

And then the fun starts. Brand engagement, especially through CSR, is often strongest when it begins internally. In fact, a CSR strategy can be difficult to get off the ground to drive corporate growth if CSR is viewed only as an externally-driven project. An excellent example of a highly successful CSR program where internal participation drives external perception is the community involvement approach at Lockton in Kansas City, Missouri. Lockton is the world's largest privately owned, independent insurance brokerage firm, with 61 offices and more than 4,000 associates around the globe. Lockton's culture of success is based on doing the right things for the company's customers and associates. This includes participating in the communities where the company does business. Here's how Lockton describes its community involvement philosophy:

"Supporting our communities is more than just a necessity— it is a privilege. For more than 40 years, Lockton Associates have given back to their local communities, not because they have to, but because they want to. Together, we believe this commitment to social responsibility builds stronger families, better professional relationships and more committed Associates. It is simply the right thing to do."

True to its values-based approach, the "Community Involvement" page of Lockton's website lists dozens of organizations supported by Lockton associates.

An emerging trend in "inside out" CSR is a grant making initiative launched through an event called an "employee CSR summit." Under this model, a company sets aside a day to spend with a group of 50 employees (appointed and/or volunteers), divided into three teams. Each team learns about several community causes that are aligned with the company’s core values. By the end of the day, the three teams will have selected three organizations to “micro grants” to foster innovation and community engagement. An internal communications plan following the summit helps to focus employee-driven CSR activities, harnessing the energy of employee-led fundraising and volunteering efforts (bake sales, 5Ks, food and clothing drives). An internal role definition plan following the summit maps out internal positions to identify appropriate departments and team members whose participation and collaboration is essential for the success of the company’s CSR strategy.

A strong CSR program can be built from the inside, out. CSR is important. And the market pressures on companies to do good are certainly rising. CSR is a critical component to any business striving to keep its growth trajectory right side up.

 

 

And the letters are stacking up

Are you getting more and more letters and emails asking your company to support worthy causes? Do invitations to charity events land in your inbox almost every day? Do some of these requests come from important clients and customers? Do some even come from employees in your own company? How do you know which causes are worth supporting?

You are not alone! The number of nonprofit organizations is increasing steadily, at the rate of nearly 30,000 new organizations each year. The total number of nonprofit organizations in America now tops over 1.5 million! No wonder your inbox is filling up. Your inbox isn’t likely to be empty anytime soon. The socially responsible lifestyle is here to stay. At home, and in the workplace.

Indeed, 83 percent of consumers are willing to change their consumption habits if it can help make tomorrow’s world a better place to live. But that doesn’t mean you can’t regain control. Optimizing your corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget is a great place to start. By streamlining your company’s employee engagement and CSR activities, you’ll be better able to meet your budget goals and improve employee and brand engagement at the same time.

If you're an entrepreneur, the challenge is even more interesting. Your company is new. Your company is small. But it's growing. And you're committed to CSR because sustainability and giving back are baked into the company's values. Which, of course, are your values. Entrepreneurs are some of the most socially responsible and generous folks around. And just because your company's budget for giving back is small doesn't mean you can't make a big impact. Consider the strategy at Optima Worldwide. Optima offers nonprofit organizations the opportunity to apply for free website construction. That's a smart way to do good, especially because pro bono work creates immediate, positive impact for a charitable organization. "Usually the limiting factor for charity websites is budget," writes Kyle Claypool, Optima's founder. Optima gives back by "selecting a charity every few months to build a brand new website." And not just any website, but a website that's search engine optimized, integrated with social media and capable of being easily managed and maintained in house by the nonprofit organization's own staff. Very smart. And very generous.

Sure, the requests will keep coming. But writing checks isn't the only way to do good. Giving your company's time and talent counts, too. In fact, it often counts even more than the dollars.

Still happy?

You know your company is full of great people. But are you empowering them to do their best work and stay satisfied? And are you attracting and retaining the best people? It takes talent to meet aggressive revenue goals. And finding and retaining talent is one of an executive's most important responsibilities.

But it's not as easy as it sounds, especially in industries where the competition for top talent is fierce. If you're struggling to identify internal talent, acquire talent from the outside, or retain that talent, maybe your corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan could use a little brushing up. After all, 88 percent of new job seekers choose employers based on strong corporate social responsibility values. And the numbers are on the upswing. In 2006, a study of 20- and 30-year-olds indicated that 56 percent of employees in this age group would consider leaving an employer if that employer didn’t share the employees’ commitment to social responsibility. In 2012, that figure had jumped to an astounding 86 percent in a similar study. Those statistics were just a few of the compelling findings in the 2006 Millennial Cause Study conducted by Cone Inc. in collaboration with AMP Agency and a 2012 study called “Managing Tomorrow’s People” conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopersLLP.

Employees want to work for executives who offer them opportunities to embrace and lead a philanthropic lifestyle, at home and in the workplace. They want to give money to their favorite charities. And volunteer time to a favorite cause. And recycle, helping to keep the environment sustainable. And serve in leadership roles, like nonprofit boards and committees at kids’ schools, and in the company, too. They want to buy products that support a cause. And care for people in need. And care for themselves and their families. Working for good companies–and doing business with good companies–is a must-have for today's top talent.

 

 

Why so happy?

Do you look forward to shopping for baby gifts? Maybe you get a little rush when you pick up a bouquet of flowers for a friend on the way to meet her for lunch. Or you seem to have more energy when you are raking leaves at a family gathering, volunteering at your children's school, or walking a 5K with your whole family to support children with genetic disabilities.

Or perhaps you feel cheerful as you wrap your kids' birthday presents or help them set up a lemonade stand to raise money for an animal shelter. And you get an extra spring in your step when you mail a donation to your favorite charity.

If things like this happen to you, you are not alone! In fact, research shows that you have every reason to feel good. Because doing good does feel good, scientifically speaking.

According to studies at the University of California, people categorized as “grateful” reported feeling 25 percent more happiness and energy—and 20 percent less envy and resentment—than ungrateful people. And a study released earlier this month tells us that "prosocial spending"--spending money to benefit others--shows positive signs of increasing happiness. Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and Harvard Business School recently found evidence that "how people spend their money" plays a role in happiness; specifically, those who "spend money on others report more happiness." It's true of adults around the world, and both physical and mental benefits are observed. The "warm glow of giving" can even be seen in toddlers!

What kind of giving boosts happiness the most? That, according to researchers, would be the categories of "doing good" that are most closely related to satisfying the basic human needs of "relatedness, competence, and autonomy." Donating to a charity of your choice, helping a neighbor, learning a few new recycling protocols, participating in a community event, purchasing a product that helps support a cause that has touched your family, serving on a committee to share your talent. It's all good, and good for you, too.

So, next time you need a mood booster (instead of reaching for that big slice of cake?), try doing a little good.

SourceProsocial Spending and Happiness: Using Money to Benefit Others Pays Off, Elizabeth W. DunnLara B. AkninMichael I. Norton Current Directions in Psychological Science, February 2014 vol. 23 no. 141-47.

You've got talent, but do you know it?

You know your company is full of great people. But are they doing their best work? More specifically, are you empowering them to do their best work? What a wonderful opportunity--and responsibility--to find the strengths of the people in the company and align those strengths with corporate goals. That's one of the top jobs of an executive.

But it's not as easy as it sounds. How can a leader give a talented employee the opportunity to shine through new responsibilities, but delay making big staffing changes until the talented employee proves herself? The answer might be as easy as 123, as in CSR. Corporate Social Responsibility. If you're struggling to identify internal talent, acquire talent from the outside, and retain that talent, maybe it’s because your CSR plan could use a little brushing up. After all, 88 percent of new job seekers choose employers based on strong corporate social responsibility values. And 86 percent of these employees would consider leaving if the company’s corporate social responsibility values no longer met their expectations. Offering a rising talent within your company a leadership opportunity within the CSR program is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to developing skills and offer an employee the chance to demonstrate those skills at the same time. Without restructuring, promoting or realigning existing staff responsibilities within the business operations until you and the employee are ready.

Empowering talent is a terrific example of generosity in the workplace, driving corporate growth through a commitment to ideals. And isn't that the whole point behind CSR in the first place? David Wine, president and CEO of MAX Insurance Agency, Inc., a global provider of wholeness-based insurance products, said it so well in a recent communication to MAX employees.

"If we live for ourselves only, if we close ourselves off from others, if we live only for this world and the things it offers, we become like the Dead Sea. We get toxic, our life-giving energy is sapped, we become lifeless, and we offer little to others and to ourselves. On the other hand, if we give to others and give to our world, if we share our gifts and talents, if we open up to the possibilities life gives us, we become more and more energized and full of life.  You see, we need an outlet or we die. We were made to share, to give, to affirm the interconnectedness of our lives."

Employees want to work for executives who offer them opportunities to embrace and lead a socially responsible lifestyle, at home and in the workplace. They want to give money to favorite charities. And volunteer time to a favorite cause. And recycle, helping to keep the environment sustainable. And serve in leadership roles, like nonprofit boards and committees at kids’ schools, and in the company, too. They want to buy products that support a cause. And care for people in need. And care for themselves and their families. Working for good companies–doing business with good companies–is a must-have in any socially responsible lifestyle.

Mystery foundation?

"Where did this foundation come from?"

It happens. Someone in the office is cleaning out a filing cabinet, recycling old papers, creating space, decreasing the carbon footprint. All good! And that someone stumbles on an important-looking file. A file that doesn’t appear to have been touched for a while. As in a few years. “Do we have a corporate foundation?” that someone asks. “I’ve never heard of it.”

Where did that foundation come from? Perhaps it got lost in the shuffle of the merger. Or maybe the person in charge of the foundation retired last year and it’s just never been reassigned. Or maybe a handful of people know all about it, but the everyone else is in the dark. It happens! And it’s okay. Because something can be done. Build an action plan for your corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, including activities, program structure, timeline, budget considerations and roles and responsibilities to create an effective socially responsible lifestyle for your company. Make sure your roadmap reflects best practices in CSR. And that includes mission alignment with the company’s business, strategic selection of causes, efficient program structure, employee engagement, measuring progress and communicating success.

Corporate foundations are easy to manage if you have a plan. But they’re not so fun if you don’t have a plan.

To brag, or not to brag?

Your company is doing a lot! You sponsor charity and civic events. You give employees time off to volunteer. You donate to your customers’ favorite causes. Your recycling program was up and running long before recycling was popular. Every member of your executive team serves on at least one community board or committee. Your pro bono work and product donations increase every single year. But should you talk about it? Is it too self-serving to celebrate all of that doing good by mentioning it in your public relations and marketing communications?

If that’s your question, good for you! Humility is a good thing! But what if you could stay humble and share your stories, too? Impossible? No way! Not if you’ve aligned your corporate social responsibility program (CSR) with the company’s mission. When it comes to CSR, figuring out the best mission–for the company, its employees, its customers, and the community–is a best practice, practically guaranteed to give you the ability to do good, stay humble, and spread the word. All at the same time.

How popular is your program, really?

Got a matching gifts program at the company? Lots of good companies do! A matching gifts program can be a terrific part of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program.

Why is it, then, that the average participation in employee matching gifts programs is only 7 percent? Especially considering that 88 percent of new job seekers choose employers based on strong corporate social responsibility values. The truth is that employee matching gifts programs often aren’t structured the way employees wish they were. Is the program a genuine employee benefit, designed to celebrate the causes that are most important to the employees? Or is the purpose of the program to direct employees to give to the company’s favorite causes? Either purpose can work. The trouble is that most companies don’t know which purpose is best for the company. So there’s just no clarity, for anyone.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A CSR program framework can help determine which elements your CSR program should include and how to divide the roles and responsibilities for the program in your company. The right structure for your CSR program will increase employee participation, improving employee and brand engagement and fostering the socially responsible lifestyle in your company, a priority for today’s employees and customers.

Is your director of recycling self-appointed?

Who's in charge of going green at your company? Do you know? Is there such a person? Maybe it's nobody. Maybe it's even you!

In lots of companies, employees are doing everything they can to create a socially responsible lifestyle in the workplace to match the socially responsible lifestyle they lead outside of work. And that includes respecting the environment. It’s not uncommon for leadership to emerge from within the employee base, with two or three employees making sustainability their personal mission, sending out email reminders to turn off lights, ensuring that every desk has a recycling bin right next to it, even replacing plastic forks and knives in the breakroom with real silverware to cut down on waste.

In light of the fact that 86 percent of young employees would consider leaving an employer if the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) values no longer met their expectations, self-appointed employee leadership can be a very good thing in a company. But how can an employer encourage employee leadership and still keep the business humming along, optimizing human resources toward the company’s bottom line? That is the question!

Social impact + content marketing = power for your brand

Stories of social impact offer compelling content platforms for employee and consumer engagement, especially online. Lining up your social impact strategy with your content marketing strategy is a smart move.

But why content marketing? Consider a few statistics:

  • In 2014, 58% of businesses plan to increase their content marketing budget. Content Marketing Institute
  • Nearly 93% of B2B organizations rely on content marketing for brand building and demand generation. Content Marketing Institute
  • 78% of CMOs think custom content (articles, white papers, blogs, etc.) is the future of marketing. 73% of B2B content marketers are producing more content than they did one year ago. And B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t. Webdamsolutions.com
  • 63% of readers are more likely to be influenced by blogs than magazines when deciding on a purchase. Marketing Query
  • More than 3 out of 4 (77%) B2B marketers use a blog as part of their content marketing mix. Social Media Today
  • Blogs convert readers into buyers In fact, 42% of consumers look to blogs for information about potential purchases; 52% say blogs have impacted their purchase decisions; and 57% of marketers have acquired new customers with their blogs. LeadersWest Digital Marketing Journal
  • 87% of buyers say online content has a major or moderate impact on vendor preference and selection, especially if it is authentic. B2B Marketing Insider

Generosity empowers the giver

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Our team continues to follow two terrific stories about doing good. Specifically, how a single person is making a really big difference, giving back and helping others--and doing so precisely the way he wants to do it.

Consider Ariel Nessel, a Dallas real-estate developer who decided to start giving away $1000 a day, directly to individuals. A decision he made after years spent writing checks to charities--more than $700,000 in total. But he wanted a different sort of philanthropic experience. And that desire led to a new, highly personal approach to giving. For example, Ariel recently gave $1000 to a filmmaker to produce short videos about respecting the environment. An article by Michelle Gienow in the Chronicle of Philanthropy quotes Ariel explaining his strategy: "power is no longer with organizations as much as it is with people."

It's working at work, too. Matt Monge, chief culture officer at Mazuma Credit Union in Kansas City, Missouri, wrote a terrific post about creating a conscious corporate culture. "People don’t leave their humanness at the back door when they come to work," writes Matt. In fact, he says, people helping people is good for business, and creating a culture of social responsibility inspires and motivates the people in the company which in turn drives corporate growth.

Stories like this really shouldn't come as a surprise. The social consciousness of America is growing, rapidly. For example, six years ago, a study of 20 and 30-year-olds indicated that 56 percent of employees in this age group would consider leaving an employer if that employer didn’t share the employees’ commitment to social responsibility. By 2012, that figure had jumped to an astounding 86 percent.

Much opportunity lies in how we respond to--and encourage--this important emerging market trend. The opportunity to create an entrepreneurial framework for social responsibility, redefining “good.”

And it's not just philanthropy that's changing the landscape; other disciplines are influencing the new definition of doing good, including corporate sustainability and resiliency, talent development, governance, regulatory influences and consumer-centric marketing. These best practices play out in the community in civic and corporate arenas, and even in Americans' personal lives, inspiring, affirming and celebrating the social causes that are most important to each individual.

Doing good means more than giving money to favorite charities. Activities such as volunteering, serving on boards or committees, recycling, purchasing products supporting a cause and attending community events are playing a bigger role in the donor experience. Even wellness and caring for others is part of the wide net cast around the notion of social responsibility.

It's an exciting trend, well-worth watching. After all, doing good is best when it's self-defined. And that is precisely what drives so much of the benefit involved in philanthropy, however you choose define it, both at home and in the workplace.

Generosity empowers the giver.