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What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and what it means for charities

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In today’s socially conscious business landscape, the odds of partnering with companies that actively practice Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are higher than ever. For charities, this presents an incredible opportunity to harness the power of such partnerships. But what exactly can you do to make their cause more appealing to businesses dedicated to CSR? Let’s explore actionable strategies that you can employ not only to attract but also to nurture relationships with socially responsible businesses.

What is CSR and its Significance?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a form of self-regulation in business that seeks to enhance social accountability and positively impact society. CSR involves businesses voluntarily taking steps to address their environmental and social responsibilities in addition to their economic ones.

Over the past decade, there has been a remarkable surge in businesses actively embracing CSR. An impressive 90% of companies on the S&P 500 index published CSR reports, a substantial increase from a mere 20% in 2011. This striking shift reflects a growing awareness among businesses of their broader role in society. They are now integrating CSR frameworks into their operations with the goal of contributing to a better world.

Consumers, too, are playing a pivotal role in driving this transformation. A whopping 88% of consumers now expect companies to do more. They demand that businesses acknowledge their environmental impact, and they actively seek evidence that the brands they support are committed to making a positive difference for the planet, people, and their local communities.

How Can Your Charity Benefit from CSR?

As part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), businesses actively seek ways to enact positive change and make a meaningful impact. Your charity, driven by a distinct vision and mission, can significantly benefit from collaborating with businesses with the same values.

Here are some ways businesses are already supporting charities through their CSR efforts:

1. Fundraising Events and Initiatives: CSR-minded businesses often organise or sponsor fundraising events and initiatives, providing a valuable source of income for your charity.

2. Volunteer Engagement: Businesses encourage employees to volunteer their time and skills to support charitable activities, helping your charity run more efficiently.

3. Donating Money: Financial contributions from businesses can bolster your charity’s resources and enable you to carry out your mission more effectively.

4. Sponsorships: Sponsorships from CSR-focused companies can enhance the visibility and reach of your charity’s programs and events.

5. Giving Schemes: These schemes, often part of CSR initiatives, offer financial support and resources that charities can leverage to fulfil their objectives.

6. Resource Sharing: One frequently overlooked benefit is access to these businesses’ extensive networks. They can introduce your charity to potential supporters or recommend cost-saving solutions, such as suggesting new suppliers or lending storage or meeting space.

Two people high-five during a fundraiser event for Community of Purpose.

How this helps your charity:

Diversifying Income: One of the charities’ most significant challenges is achieving sustainability and maintaining diverse income sources. CSR-focused businesses can help address this challenge through fundraising initiatives, donations, sponsorships, and giving schemes.

Resource Sharing: Businesses are in an excellent position to introduce your charity to new opportunities and connections. They can recommend people willing to get involved with your charity or suggest cost-saving measures, such as introducing you to potential suppliers. Additionally, they may have surplus space that you can use for storage or meetings.

Exposure and Awareness: Collaborating with CSR-focused businesses can amplify your charity’s visibility and support your cause. Their engagement on social media platforms can significantly expand your reach, drawing new eyes to your charity and potentially increasing engagement.

Support for Charity Activities: Businesses that value CSR often organise volunteer days or support specific charity activities, helping your charity maintain its operations and facilities.

Reliable Source of Support: Long-term partnerships with businesses committed to CSR can provide your charity with a reliable and consistent source of support, making achieving a more significant impact easier.

Trust and Credibility: You can leverage the trust and credibility associated with CSR-focused businesses, enhancing your charity’s reputation and credibility. Additionally, your partnership enhances the credibility of the CSR-focused businesses, creating a mutually beneficial and effective alignment of values.

Two young people play football outside in a youth club with artwork in the background showing Young Bristol's partnership with Natwest and Marcus Rashford's thrive programme.
Two young people play football outside in a youth club with artwork in the background showing Young Bristol’s partnership with Natwest and Marcus Rashford’s thrive programme.

How can you make your cause more appealing to businesses dedicated to CSR?

Here are some steps you can take to attract businesses:

Have an offering

Offer various ways for businesses to get involved, such as employee volunteer programs, cause-related marketing campaigns, or event sponsorships. The more engagement options you provide, the more likely companies will find a fit with their CSR objectives. Highlight specific ways in which the partnership can benefit both parties. Emphasise the positive impact the collaboration will have on the community or cause. It is even better to demonstrate what you have achieved with the partnership directly.

Clearly define your mission and impact

Clearly articulate your charity’s mission and its positive impact on the community or cause. Businesses will want to get a good sense of what you are doing and buy into the cause. 

Build a Strong Online Presence

Make sure people know about you and the great work that you are doing. Maintain an updated website and be active on social media platforms. Share success stories, impact metrics and information about your programs. Demonstrating impact will help businesses understand the tangible outcomes of their potential partnership.

A graphic showcasing different web designs for We Care designed by Made for Impact
A screen at an award ceremony showcasing logos of partners
Celebrate successful partnerships

Highlight successful partnerships and projects your charity has undertaken in the past. Create case studies and testimonials from existing partnerships. You can use these case studies to improve your relationship with partners and have them share them to improve visibility by reaching more businesses through their network.

Build relations with partners

Partners join because they want to be a part of your mission. Lean on their expertise when needed, and get them as involved as they wish. Celebrate your impact with them. One great way to do this is to hold an annual celebration of impact where you invite partners and other stakeholders. You can demonstrate your impact, discuss plans, and request support. It’s also an excellent way for other businesses to connect.

It may be worth investing in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool to keep on top of contacting and listing potential and existing partners and even service users. Some popular ones we see charities using are Salesforce for nonprofits, Hubspot and our favourite, for nonprofits, with grants available from Digital Lift.

A researcher collects feedback
Identify Businesses with Aligned Values

Research and target businesses that have values aligned with your charity’s mission. Look for companies that have demonstrated a commitment to CSR in the past, as they may be more open to forming partnerships. As mentioned above, if you are using a CRM, be sure to add potentials and keep it current.

It can be hard if a potential partner decides not to join you on a mission, but take it as a learning opportunity and ask them for their feedback and if you can reach out to them in the future. This way, you can create a database to gather feedback and have potential people to contact for future market research.

Offer recognition and visibility

Offer recognition through your marketing channels, events and publications. Show how the partnership will enhance the business’s reputation as a socially responsible organisation.

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Remember to keep existing and potential partners engaged, and continuously evaluate your partnerships and how you provide value. Hence, they continue to commit to your charity’s mission.

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