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8 steps to developing a strategically aligned CSR platform

ARTICLE  | 

A strategic CSR program is important to organizations of all sizes today, but getting started can be challenging. No matter which of these steps you follow, it is important to begin with the end in mind. Envision what a successful CSR platform for your organization will look like and then chart the course to get there.

Here are eight steps that might help:

                                                                                                                                                                                                             

DETERMINE WHERE YOU SHOULD FOCUS YOUR EFFORTS

A focused CSR program will yield greater benefits for your organization than spreading your efforts across many causes that are not aligned. Some ways to help determine your focus include:

  • Assess your vision, mission and values to determine what organizations or causes would be the strongest fit
  • Survey your stakeholders (employees, customers, shareholders or others important to your company) to identify what matters most to them and where they think your company should focus
  • Review where your competitors are focused and determine if there is a way to differentiate your company from what they are doing

BUILD A STRONG MISSION

Your mission will be your north star, and you will use it to assess giving ideas and opportunities. It is important to ensure it is narrow enough that you aren’t trying to be everything to everyone, yet broad enough to allow for unique opportunities that might come your way. Some ideas for formulating your mission include:

  • Engage an outside organization that helps companies develop CSR strategies to ensure your mission is strong
  • Create a group of passionate stakeholders and lead them through a visioning exercise to help you determine your mission

IDENTIFY YOUR FUNDING SOURCES

As you build your strategy, it is important to understand where your funding will come from. Some questions to ask include:

  • Do you want to set aside a certain percentage of profits each year for CSR?
  • Do you want to raise funds from employees to support your CSR efforts?
  • Do you want to raise funds from clients, the public or other parties to support your CSR platform?
  • Do you want to engage in cause marketing where you partner with a nonprofit organization that will receive a percentage of funds from the sale of certain products?

IDENTIFY INITIAL SET OF PROGRAMS YOU WILL RUN

It is prudent to begin with a manageable number of programs to ensure your efforts stay focused and strategic. Some important questions and options include:

  • To what degree do you want to fund programs your employees are passionate about?
  • How will you allocate funds to causes your clients or customers care about?
  • Do you want to have one, big signature program to rally all of your stakeholders around?
  • When tragedy strikes, how will you support disaster relief in your communities and for your employees?

DETERMINE HOW YOU WILL STRUCTURE YOUR GIVING

Companies often assume that they will need a foundation in order to give. That may or may not be the case, and you should consult your tax advisor and legal counsel to determine the best structure for your organization based on your goals. Some options may include:

  • Giving directly from your company to specific organizations or causes
  • Creating a private foundation or a public charity to support your mission, which will require formulating a 501(c)(3) organization with organizing documents, bylaws, governance

IDENTIFY YOUR CHARITABLE PARTNERS

Once you have determined your strategy and structure, it is important to identify a set of charitable partners that will help you achieve your mission. The partners may be large national or global organizations, small local organizations or a mix of both depending on the programs that you have in place. Regardless, you should have a process to ensure the organizations you are supporting are 501(c)(3) organizations that are aligned with your mission.

SET METRICS AND MEASURE WHAT MATTERS TO YOU

As with any business imperative, it is important to ensure that you have a solid set of metrics to apply to your CSR program. Some possible metrics include:

  • Funds raised and funds granted
  • Participation by employees, clients and other stakeholders in CSR programs
  • Impact metrics created with charitable partners
  • ESG measures to show the full social impact of your organization

COMMUNICATE YOUR SUCCESS

Make sure that your stakeholders know about your CSR programs by building a strong communications plan across various channels. Some ideas include:

  • Regularly promote your CSR activities and programs in your communications to employees
  • Leverage your social media platforms to share stories of how your company is a good corporate citizen
  • Include CSR as a component of your client communications
  • Look for opportunities to engage media with your CSR strategy and stories
  • Include CSR and ESG measures and success stories in your annual report and other shareholder communications

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