For many nonprofits and companies, you may not yet have an existing corporate social responsibility program or a relationship with companies that have a CSR program. Starting a new CSR program can be intimidating, but your company should have a strategy in place for how to effectively launch a CSR program that will support the causes you care about and make a positive impact on your company’s reputation in your community. For nonprofits, understanding how CSR programs work at your corporate partners can help you build deeper partnerships with for-profit supporters. This guide to launching a CSR program can help you plan out your CSR efforts and leverage the key partnerships your organization already has in place.
Planning for a new CSR program at your company can be complicated. It’s important to make key decisions in advance and make sure that your team is all on the same page as you plan to create and launch a CSR program.
When you start a new CSR program, it’s important to decide what’s important to your company. You should work with internal stakeholders including leaders and employees to identify what is most important to your employees and your company as a whole. Maybe your company has a connection to a certain cause because of where your headquarters are located, an experience of one of your long-term leaders, or the purpose of your company. These can be great ways to start focusing your CSR program on specific causes or areas that you’d like to fund. It’s important that your corporate purpose is clear and your CSR program supports that purpose effectively.
Make sure your new CSR program connects directly to your company’s mission and vision. If you exist to help people plan for the future, invest in causes that are focused on long-term solutions and long-term payouts like education or environmental research. If you are a compassionate, caring company, you can target human services that relieve suffering now. For technological companies, consider finding ways to support and equip causes to scale up their solutions by using technology for good.
All of these are examples of how you can connect your CSR program to your corporate purpose. By thinking through how your corporate giving connections to your company mission, you can make it easier to promote and communicate about your CSR program.
One of the most important tasks before you start a CSR program is implementing the right systems to handle your CSR program. Think through the various logistics of donating funds or items, as well as any approval and review process. Make sure that your CSR program team has a way to track the ways your company is giving back in concrete ways.
In order to create effective systems for your new CSR program, find the right software tools to effectively manage your CSR program. CSR management software like DonationXchange can help with grant management, in-kind donation management, sponsorship and event management, and so much more. Research the options you have to make sure your CSR management software will help you automate tasks, especially approvals and distributing funds to your nonprofit partners. Tools like DonationXchange can help you streamline your CSR program from the start.
Measuring your CSR program effectively requires knowing what is important to measure and planning ahead of time. Find qualitative and quantitative measures for your CSR program and make sure that the nonprofits you support have clear requirements for what they report back to you and when they share that information. If you build reporting requirements into your CSR program from the beginning, you can easily share out the results of your CSR program at the end of the year. It’s important to add in asks for both numbers that showcase your impact as well as stories of individuals who have benefited from your company’s support. Any time you can get other assets like photos and videos will also make your reporting easier and help you show the general public how your company is giving back.
After you’ve gone through all the necessary planning for your new CSR program, deciding how to launch the CSR program at your company is an important step. Think through your team and community partners to decide what the most effective way to kick off your CSR program will be. There are a variety of options to launch your CSR program effectively.
One effective way to launch your CSR program is with a kick-off event. Host a company picnic, social hour with your nonprofit partners, or other special event and announce the new direction of your CSR program. This is a great way to get your employees excited and drive interest with external stakeholders, including the media and nonprofit community. Make sure you connect the launch of your CSR program to your corporate purpose, tangible impact in the community, and commitment to your employees. Consider having a nonprofit partner speak at the launch event as well to drive home the message of community investment.
Another great way to launch your CSR program is by running a fundraiser. Challenge your leaders and your employees to raise money for a cause to help launch your corporate giving efforts. Consider offering a company match or a competition where the top-voted organizations receive a significant donation from your company. By giving your team ways to participate in the process, you’ll drive interest in your CSR program as it begins.
If you’ve started to work on planning for your CSR program, another option can be to move up your timeline to launch your corporate giving program in response to a major event. Perhaps an area where you do a lot of business suffered a natural disaster or a well-loved employee is facing a medical crisis—these can be great opportunities to move up the date of your CSR program launch to show how your company is responsive to the needs in your community. Make sure that your contribution does make a serious impact so that your response doesn’t look opportunistic.
When you are planning and launching a new CSR program, or even just refreshing an old strategy, there are a few common mistakes you should avoid. Many companies fall into these pitfalls with their CSR programs, but you can avoid negative backlash and other challenges by planning ahead with your corporate giving program.
Make sure you involve your employees in your CSR program. It can be especially helpful to give employees a chance to give feedback and help shape your CSR program. Consider sending out a survey to your employees or inviting a few employees to serve on a committee that helps plan the creation and launch of your CSR program. By getting employee input on your corporate giving, you can generate buy-in early on in the process and get important feedback before the CSR program formally launches.
Even if this is the first time you’ve had a formal CSR program, your company likely has some relationships with nonprofit organizations. Even if it’s relationships with several leaders, make sure that those existing partners receive communication about your CSR program. Your company can solicit their input, invite them to apply for new grant or sponsorship opportunities, or fund them to launch your CSR program. Make sure that they feel supported and involved as you launch your CSR program to preserve those partnerships and goodwill.
When launching your CSR program, it’s important to set up ways to collect data for your CSR reporting. You’ll want to ask any nonprofits you support to share qualitative and quantitative data that showcases how your contribution made a positive impact in your community. Numbers that showcase the scale of your impact are important, as are individual stories you can share to humanize your support. Photos or videos are helpful as you work to build a CSR report after your first year of corporate giving, too. By putting these systems in place when you launch your program, you’ll set your team up for success.
In order to create an effective, purpose-driven CSR program, make sure you plan ahead and leverage the key partnerships inside and outside of your company. You can build a meaningful CSR program and launch your CSR program successfully by thinking through these key steps—setting your company up to make a real difference in your community.
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