CSR Inspiration from the Commit! Forum 2011

by Kate_NFG on ‎09-30-2011 5:00 AM, EDT

‘Doing well by doing good’ can result in not just profitability, but also shareholder value.  In fact, according to Paul Herman (founder & CEO  of HIP Investor), companies can experience lower profitability and higher valuation because investors see CSR as a path to future earnings.  That’s just one takeaway from the  CR Commit! Forum , which I attended earlier this week in New York. 



The two-day event showcased a variety of case studies and best practices in CSR and inspired lively conversation, including an Oxford style debate on whether or not CSR destroys economic value.  The debate included none other than University of Michigan professor Dr. Aneel Karnani, who sparked much reaction in the media and blogosphere with his comments in the Wall Street Journal


Here are a few more nuggets:

CSR can be as simple or as hard as you make it.  – Bart Alexander, CRO, Molson Coors


Make your CSR efforts organic and true to your brand – Felicia Hill, Manager of Brand Experiences, Virgin Mobile


The ‘shared value’ approach to CSR (profits & social good) tells us the why, but not the how. – Martin Reeves, Senior Partner & Managing Director, The Boston  Consulting Group

Activists and investors now have equal influence on corporate strategy – Oliver Phillips, Partner & CSR Lead, Brunswick Group


Evaluate the ROI of your CSR program, not the individual projects under that umbrella.  – Curtis Ravanel, Global Head Sustainability Group, Bloomberg


CSR is moving beyond compliance and risk management to a full strategic element.  It’s no longer just a cost center, but also drives ROI and should be factored into decisions and processes at all levels (R&D, marketing, distribution etc…) – John Cusack, President, Gifford Park Associates


Employee engagement means seeing your work as your cause. – Tim Mohin, Director of Corporate Responsibility, AMD

Why Every Community Investment Program Needs a Brand (and How to Create One) – Part I

by Kate_NFG on ‎09-28-2011 11:49 AM, EDT - last edited on ‎01-14-2013 9:42 AM, EST by Network for Good Specialist

Daw_WED_2131_110.jpgThe following is a guest post by Jocelyne Daw, a leading expert, author and consultant on building powerful business-community partnerships and on the integration of branding, corporate citizenship and social purpose.  She is author of Cause Marketing for Nonprofits: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits (Wiley, 2006) and co-author of Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding: Seven Principles to Power Extraordinary Results (Wiley, 2010). 


Recently a community investment professional in my city confided that her company had so much going on it was difficult for her program to stand out and get attention.   It’s a common concern, especially if a CI program is viewed as peripheral to the core business.


I am a passion advocate for the need for nonprofits to strategically build and manage their brands.    But community investment professionals must also embrace a brand mindset.  They need to communicate and demonstrate that they are delivering value – for both the company and the community.


Embracing a brand mindset

A focused compelling brand defines who you are and what you stand for.  It compels attention.  It demonstrates your unique value and expresses it in a relevant and differentiated way.  Done well, it tells a story that drives engagement and impact.  It maximizes the trust and loyalty required to secure the continuing flow of resources necessary to fulfill your company’s social purpose.


What is YOUR CI brand?

The fact is, your community investment program has brand –whether you manage it or not.   A brand is more than a logo or communication tool.  It’s what people say about your program when you’re not in the room.  It’s your reputation, identity and goodwill with internal stakeholders and in the community, formed by every action, communication and interaction.


Ask yourself - what are the perceptions of the community investment program?

  • Can people clearly describe what you stand for or is it invisible?  
  • Is it known for creating value or giving out money?
  • Is it seen as a central part of the company’s work or as an “add-on” to the “real work” of the company?
  • Is it an integral part of your company’s brand, strategy and culture or is siloed?

Your answers will determine if your community investment has a brand that makes it an easy target for tough economy cutbacks or one that breaks through as a valued asset and even a strategic competitive advantage.


community team work.jpg 


From traditional to a CI brand that breaks through

A breakthrough CI brand has a discernible difference in the way it walks and talks, a palpable shift away from traditional community investment positioning to a focused, strategic approach:


1. From giving out money to standing for something

In traditional CI money is handed out to many organizations based on a company’s pillars.  In many cases the pillars are not clearly defined with a specific focus and clear outcomes.  As such almost any application can fit, leading to an array of disjointed program support.   Leading CI programs have clearly defined who they are and what they stand for based on their company’s strengths.  They focus each pillars around a cause and the outcomes they seek.  They select organizations that bring their shared commitments to life.  Stand out CI programs have a sense of purpose and clarity around what they want be known for.  


2. From supporting nonprofits to driving impact

A traditional CI brand focuses it support on nonprofits.  A standout brand focuses on making a credible impact.  It puts its efforts on critical community issues where the company can make the maximum impact. It finds the right organizations, acts as a partner to leverage internal resources and brings like organizations together to advance even higher impact and increase credibility and capacity.


3. From communicating activities to selling benefits

There is an old saying that activities tell and benefits sell.  Rather than just reporting on activities and programs being supported, a breakthrough CI brand focuses its communications on the benefits and outcomes that deliver value for the company and the community.


4. From organizational silo to integration

In traditional approaches, the CI team is singularly responsible for the program.   While they are critical in shaping it, all-out efforts are made to ensure the program aligns with the company’s brand and business strategy. The best outcomes are delivered by aligning with a company’s core competencies and business strengths.  This ensures cohesion and operational effectiveness.  Leading CI brands make a concerted effort to break down internal silos and bring the organization together around shared needs, values and commitments.


5. From being well-known to well-owned

Being better known does not equate to being better understood or valued.  Awareness is helpful, but does not necessarily lead to support and even less surely commitment.  A stand out CI brand spends as much time engaging internal communities around what they stand for.  They believe in the power of many and involve their internal community in a way that creates pride and a sense of ownership.  Meaningful two-way engagement accomplishes far more than any controlled messages ever could. 


How-to advice

Building a focused, compelling CI brand starts from the inside and moves out.  It takes deep introspection and careful research to understand and define what your CI program stands for.  It takes courage and commitment to focus efforts, align resources and drive true impact.


But it’s worth the effort.  A stand out CI brand wins mindshare, loyalty and resources by authentically conveying relevance, by demonstrating value and identifying ways to drive engagement.   It thrives by appealing to the head, heart and hand.   Watch for my next blog on a  “how-to” process to create a stand out CI brand.

Breaking Compromises for Social Change

by Kate_NFG on ‎09-26-2011 9:51 AM, EDT - last edited on ‎01-14-2013 9:34 AM, EST by Network for Good Specialist

Robert Egger, founder of DC Central Kitchen, wants us all to break the compromises inherent in ‘traditional’ business models and find new ways to reallocate or combine existing resources to solve social problems.  That’s just what he did when he created the DC Central Kitchen model back in 1989. 


I had the pleasure of hearing Robert keynote at the Idaho Nonprofit Conference last week and am inspired by his market-driven and creative approach to tackling the hard issues of hunger, poverty and homelessness. 


Robert opened the talk by saying, “Hello, my name is Robert, and I’m a recovering hypocrite.”  He never intended to become a beacon for social change – no, back in the 1980s, Robert was an aspiring night club owner in DC.  One night, he was guilted into helping serve meals to the homeless  with a local meals-on-wheels program.  And that was the start of a lifelong commitment to the cause.


“It’s right and just to feed someone, but that’s just the beginning.”


Robert began to catalog all the existing resources in DC: kitchen space, leftover restaurant food, agencies purchasing food for hunger programs, chefs who could give people jobs and train them in useful culinary skills, volunteers to help with programs, hungry people in need of a hand up.  He thought the solution was obvious: rearrange those elements to create a sustainable cycle to feed people and give them opportunities to eventually be able to feed themselves.  But the answer was not so obvious to everyone else.  In the end, Robert had to build the business himself to prove to the skeptics that it could work.


DC Central Kitchenturns leftover food into millions of meals for thousands of at-risk individuals while offering nationally recognized culinary job training to once homeless and hungry adults.  The organization even has its own catering company that provides a source of earned revenue to support other programs.


Now, the graduates of the DC Central Kitchen training program earn a collective $2 million per year – money that is pumped back into the DC economy through rent, food etc… Not only that, the payroll taxes on those salaries return $200,000 to the DC government, proving the program's value to the city and giving DC Central Kitchen a seat at the table to influence policy.  Robert made the business case to compliment the emotional appeal of helping the hungry to ensure that his program became indelibly entrenched in the community.


Robert urges all social businesses and nonprofits to focus on three things:

  1. Know your impact on the economy – prove the business case and claim your seat at the table.
  2. Get in the marketers mindset to communicate your value in compelling ways.
  3. Merge ideas, best practices, business models, organizations.  Don’t be afraid to rearrange the resources to do more with less.


Five Tips For Cause Marketing Success

by Kate_NFG on ‎09-21-2011 5:00 AM, EDT - last edited on ‎12-19-2012 6:05 PM, EST by Network for Good Specialist

The following is a guest post from Joe Waters. Joe Waters shows organizations how to use cause marketing and social media to establish, grow and deepen relationships with donors and consumers. He is co-author of Cause Marketing for Dummies and the blogger behind the cause marketing blog, http://selfishgiving.com/.  He tweets at @joewaters.


Businesses are abuzz about cause marketing, and rightfully so. It's a powerful marketing strategy that connects cause to commerce to raise money for nonprofits and drive sales for businesses.


Developing and executing a cause marketing program is challenging, but it doesn't have to be hard or complicated. If it is, your interest will quickly wane. Here are five tips to make sure your next cause marketing program isn't your last.


1. Keep your program simple. Choose one that is closely connected with your business and aligned to what your consumers and employees care about.  Here are a few ideas:


  • Can you incorporate cause marketing into your existing social media outreach strategy?  Think: Levi’s Water>Less campaign or Target’s Bullseye Gives program
  • Can you reward consumers with a charitable gift with purchase?  Think: Clinique’s ‘Happy to Give’ campaign or Legal Seafood holiday gift card program, which donates a portion of sales Boston’s Children’s Hospital
  • Can you ask consumers to join you in supporting a cause?  Think: UNICEF’s Tap Project  that asks diners to include an extra dollar two in their check to support a good cause.

2. Lead with emotion. Regardless of what type of cause marketing program you choose, lead with a strong emotional message that grabs people's attention and tugs at their heart strings. An emotional lead is your vanguard – your best force that will lead your company forward. Slicing through consumer apathy and indecision, it turns the former into interest and latter into resolve.


A great example of a nonprofit spearheading with emotion is The Jimmy Fund, the fundraising arm of Boston’s famed Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While the mission of The Jimmy Fund is to raise money to fight adult and pediatric cancers, their cause marketing campaigns lead with emotion: sick kids with cancer.  The campaigns work because they focus our attention on one child - giving a face to the disease - and frame a call to action that is tangible and relevant to us as individuals. Emotional appeals speak to one person and illustrate the challenge ahead without overwhelming us with statistics and facts – they are personal.


For many years The Jimmy Fund has had a successful cause marketing partnership with movie theaters in the northeast. In 2010 alone, the program raised over half a million dollars.  Here’s how it works. Ushers or volunteers collect the change and bills in canisters after moviegoers watch a short trailer on The Jimmy Fund’s mission and services. These trailers are moving and persuasive because they feature the children the institute helps. Watch one my favorites, Strong as Iron, and you’ll see why leading with emotion steals the show.


3. Have FLW. Famous last words are what you want the shopper - and potential donor - to notice and remember above all else. If you choose a point-of-sale program, for example, limit your ask to one sentence. “Would you like to donate a dollar to make sure our kids have parks and playgrounds to play in.” Drive your ask home with a simple, powerful and memorable sentence.


But don’t stop there. Make sure the donor isn’t so swept up in the ask they miss or forget the cause their supporting. Give them a takeaway with all the key details about the program. (Here are a few suggestions on what you should include.) You can also use a QR code, as Whole Food recently did, to link donors to information and to even answer their questions.


4. Strive for a program that feels natural. Naturalness may seem like a strange thing to expect of a cause marketing program. But it’s not when you're like me and have seen so many programs that are forced and unnatural. That’s why it’s important to pick a cause that resonates with you, your employees and customers. Your cause partner is an extension of your brand and makes the inclination to promote and support it, well, natural


5. Choose a cause that’s unselfish. This sounds strange coming from a guy that writes the Selfish Giving blog. But most causes are so focused on themselves, their mission and fundraising that they’ll never stop to think about your business, your welfare or how a cause marketing program can benefit you. The only hand they’ll ever extend is the one to take a check.


Choose a cause that’s committed to your interests right from the start and treats your business like a real partner. The nonprofit to choose is the one that wants you BOTH to succeed and has a plan to succeed.


Beware the selfish nonprofit. Partners need to be committed to mutual success. “Together wing to wing and oar to oar.” You’ll be amazed how far and fast you can go when you pull together.


Linking CSR Values To Brand

by Kate_NFG on ‎09-19-2011 12:01 PM, EDT - last edited on ‎12-19-2012 6:28 PM, EST by Network for Good Specialist

The following 7-stage process was featured on Mashable and written by Simon Mainwaring, the author of a new book, We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World (Palgrave Macmillan). He blogs at simonmainwaring.com and tweets @simonmainwaring.


Regardless of where your company falls in the ongoing CSR debate sparked by University of Michigan business school professor Aneel Karnani in the Wall Street Journal, it’s clear that consumers and employees care about the social responsibility of the corporations they support.  Research from Cone, Edelman and others demonstrates that consumers increasingly look for products and brands that support a cause or make a social impact.  Likewise, research shows that employees overwhelmingly prefer to work for a company that is socially responsible and helps them do good in their communities. 


If your company is ready to engage with consumers and employees through thoughtful, strategic and bottom-line driven CSR initiatives, but doesn’t know where to start, the following orientation will help.  The 7-stage evolutionary process defined by Simon Mainwaring serves as a guidepost to know where you are on the CSR spectrum and help you decide where you want to be (given your leadership’s commitment and available resources).  Moving from one level to the next will take time, buy-in from leadership and coordination across your company.  Don’t be afraid to start slow, but do get started!  Remember that how you talk about your CSR efforts – and champion the contributions of your consumers and employees – will go a long way to galvanizing support and reinforcing your own CSR evolution.


The 7-Stage Evolution of a Socially Responsible Brand


The process of becoming a brand leader in the next decades will be an evolutionary one involving at least seven stages. Each stage is defined by its unique leadership style, brand vision, social media commitment and level of engagement with the brand’s customer base:


  • Unsustainable corporate self-interest: This is where most organizations sit today. They donate to philanthropy or practice some type of cause marketing but they largely define their success in terms of monetary returns for shareholders.
  • Self-directed engagement: A growing number of organizations are moving up to this stage, recognizing that changing their social responsibility profile can earn benefits. But most of their outreach efforts at this stage are still done for image management in the public eye. They are still motivated mostly by self-interest and the desire to avoid bad publicity.
  • C-suite reflection: In this stage, the corporate leaders of the brand begin to reflect deeply on their vision for the brand. A few leaders among them will put together a proposal for the company’s future based on fulfilling greater social responsibility benchmarks.
  • Consumer facing self-interest: At this stage, the brand begins moving toward an authentic commitment to socially responsible behavior. However, it still fails to make all of its consumer-facing outreach consistent. As a result, consumers (and employees) often experience a disconnection between what the company says it stands for and its actions, including its supply chain and the products and services it offers.
  • Self-directed reform: Here, a brand examines the details of its mandate — its core values, purpose and consistency of its messaging. It starts making serious changes such as changing suppliers, imposing strict ethical standards and hiring new leadership to reformulate its vision. These changes are mostly unseen by the public.
  • Brand leader: At this stage, the corporation embraces the need to share stewardship of their brand with their consumers. It recognizes the need to be transparent, accountable, and authentic. The brand endeavors to become a pacesetter for others in its socially responsible behavior. Its employees rank it as a great place to work, watchdog groups give it high marks as a responsible company, and consumers hold it up as a leading purveyor of positive social impact, by talking about the brand in their blog posts, tweets, and across their social networks.
  • Brand visionary: In this final stage, the brand is well respected for carrying a strong, long-term vision of a better world that it seeks to bring to fruition. It quiets shareholders who clamor only for short-term profits. It conducts a regular dialogue with its consumers, who willingly co-create the brand’s story, while being loyal fans of the brand and driving its profits. In achieving this brand visionary status, its customers form a global synaptic network that is always in support not just of its products but also the core values of the brand, which become meaningful in their lives.


You can read the full Mashable post here.



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Companies for Good shares insights on cause marketing and corporate social responsibility topics to inform your charitable engagement with consumers and employees. Network for Good empowers corporate partners to unleash generosity and advance good causes. The blog celebrates that work and provides expertise and resources to help you do well and do good. Learn more

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