CSR Partners Need Help Getting Better At It

When you’re talking about cause related marketing (CRM) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) you’re really talking about three things — data, impact and return on investment (ROI). And, foundational trends aren’t really trends. They are foundational elements now expected to be a structural part of all CSR campaigns and activities.

These have to be core to your activities. The core elements were discussed during a session at the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) annual conference earlier this year in San Antonio, Texas. The panelists were Julie Breckenkamp, managing director, corporate partnerships at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals; Chris Perry, managing director, corporate partners, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and Maureen Carlson, president and co-founder of the agency Catalist.

Access to data has changed everything in terms of CSR, according to the panelists. Company leaders are deciding which nonprofits to partner with, not because the CEO likes a nonprofit but through detailed data that illustrates the value of the partnership on employees, brand, consumers and the public.

Defining the impact of a cause and corporate partnership is fundamental, they told the audience. For a company to capitalize on the positive effect their donation of time, talent and resources has on a cause, managers need to actively communicate this to employees and market impact to their consumers.

Return on the corporate partner’s investment with a nonprofit partner has to be defined by the nonprofit, according to the panelists. Nonprofit leaders should be measuring and reporting back tangible metrics around cause impact, new and traditional marketing and media value, public sentiment and more.

According to Carlson, 86 percent of Americans think it’s important to understand the specific impact a brand is making on a social issue, results of a Catalist study showed. She cited Suzanne Quigley, director, community affairs at QVC, as saying: “We’ll continue to see relationships become deeper and longer lasting — with companies focusing on a select group of cause issues – so that they can communicate a more defined impact.”

The panelists also cited a 2018 “Benevity Engagement Study” that turnover dropped 57 percent in employee groups most deeply connected to their companies’ giving and volunteering efforts.

The panelists provided several CSR tips for the assembled nonprofit executives to provide to their partners. They included:

  • As you move to fewer partners providing more impact, it’s important to land on the right causes that resonate with your consumers, can provide you brand differentiation and appeal to your employees.
  • CSR, marketing and communications professionals can work together to aid their CEO in actively participating in social impact work and inspiring the loyalty of their staff along the way.
  • Most of the time, a simple conversation with your executive counterparts can lead to a more integrated and focused plan on how your CSR efforts can be integrated into their strategies to help them achieve their departmental goals.
  • Engaging employees and consumers in who and how you partner with nonprofits can have an exponential impact on employee and consumer satisfaction.
  • One deliberate step you can take to weave giving successfully into the very essence of the company is to create a committee of employees tasked with creating an effective plan.
  • Working alongside human resource professionals, CSR executives can aid HR counterparts by integrating CSR activities into recruiting and employee satisfaction plans.