Today we have a guest post from Tom Oxley from Ethicomm, a CSR consultancy.

Corporate giving programmes can be a great way of engaging your business and its employees with your community in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Can be.

Too many are poorly planned, poorly executed and a poor excuse for a true corporate responsibility programme.  And I know this because I’m currently working on both sides of this debate.

It’s nothing short of crying shame that money is wasted by companies with inherently inappropriate, non-strategic and unsatisfying projects.  However, there is no shortage of organisations who need your support and can offer the right returns for your business.

Here’s some guidance to help you get into the right ones for you.

A charity partnership is only one part of a corporate responsibility programme.

It might be a big part, and it certainly needs to be meaningful, but don’t take your eye off the other aspects – environmental, anti-corruption, suppliers, equality, diversity and well-being.  Mess up on one of those and you’ll be famous for that in a flash, no matter how much you give away. Corporate social responsibility needs to have a balance of activities to be effective.  I’ve assumed here that you are getting your products and customer services right. Philanthropy is also no defence.

Align your partnership to a core business goal

Is it for recruitment?  A cause for which you have a technological solution? Does it affect your customer demographic ? Does it support your brand messages? This type of focus will lead to a more sustainable and fulfilling relationship on both sides. The reason being that you know it’s worthwhile, not just worthy.  Employees will engage more easily and customers will understand the narrative of why you’re in that space.

It’s not all about the money

Think wider. Think laterally. Think gifts in kind. Think time, skills, training, space, connections… Think Finance, HR, Marketing, IT… Talk to the charities, what do they need. Volunteering is a powerful mechanism for supporting a charity and developing your staff.  If this is the sort of thing you want to encourage then legitimise it with a community policy or similar – and get senior staff to participate alongside more junior ones.

Okay, it might be partly about the money.

Charities need cash and that ought to be an element of it.  If so, think about enabling fundraising, payroll giving, events at your offices, messages alongside your sales literature. And if you are to make a donation, discuss how it can be represented somehow to give a focus for the funds. A person, a room, an open day, a piece of kit. Charities can make money go a long way – but be reasonable about what you can ask for in return if your donation is modest. On the flip side, if you are handing over a whacking great sum then help the charity plan for this.

Take it seriously and have fun

If all you do is write a cheque then you’ll have the equivalent warm glow of a cup of tea and it will last about as long. Plan, feedback, evaluate and communicate properly and your efforts will come to life, be more fulfilling for both sides and more fun.  Have someone lead this work with a line to the board.  Or get an expert in.  But fun is allowed (and ought to be one of your measures.)

Tom Oxley – tom@ethicomm.co.uk is MD at CSR Consultancy Ethicomm. www.ethicomm.co.uk

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