3 Ways to Start Engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility

Every day, businesses are making a difference in the world by partnering with nonprofits, schools, advocacy groups, and other charitable organizations dedicated to public good. Reports from 2021 show that corporate social responsibility (CSR) has only increased with the median total corporate gifts having increased by 41% over last year. 

For businesses interested in launching their own CSR program, there are multiple methods to explore, allowing organizations to choose an approach that best fits their business’s philanthropic goals. To help your organization find a CSR method that aligns with your interests, resources, and business model, this article will explore three approaches to CSR:

  1. Philanthropy 
  2. Volunteerism 
  3. Activism 

There is also no need to choose just one of these methods. In fact, sometimes different CSR approaches can overlap. For example, your business might choose to sponsor a nonprofit that then runs an advocacy campaign, resulting in your organization simultaneously participating in philanthropy and activism. 

1. Philanthropy

Corporate philanthropy is one of the most well-known types of CSR due to the relatively straightforward nature of monetary donations. However, there are a few different ways organizations can leverage philanthropy to make donations, such as:

  • In-kind donations: Rather than donating a set amount of money, your business can donate physical objects and resources to your nonprofit of choice. For example, a graphic design firm might donate their services and create a nonprofit’s logo for free.  
  • Sponsorships: Your business can donate to a nonprofit at any time as a general gift, or you can choose to sponsor specific events and activities. Certain sponsorships can also provide your business with a little extra publicity as the nonprofit you are supporting promotes your brand. For example, event sponsors often have their logo featured on relevant event banners and programs. 
  • Employee matching gift programs: You can encourage your employees to join your philanthropic efforts by setting up a matching gift program. Instead of your business directly donating to a nonprofit, you will match your employees’ contributions. This ensures that you are supporting the specific causes your employees care about. 
  • Scholarships: If you’re interested in supporting a school or youth-centered organization, consider offering a scholarship. You can choose to add requirements to your scholarship, such as an essay or competition, or create more general guidelines like providing modest support to every applicant with a certain GPA level or above. 

As mentioned, there is no need to choose just one method of corporate philanthropy. For example, a business could set up a scholarship program for a local high school and donate surplus products to be used in the classroom and after-school activities. 

2. Volunteerism 

Rather than providing resources to another organization, some businesses opt to go out and make a difference themselves with corporate volunteerism. Corporate volunteer programs organize employees to go out and volunteer in their community together, often with the backing or guidance of a nonprofit. 

To support a corporate volunteer program, businesses can partner with a variety of charitable organizations, from nonprofits to schools. Consider surveying your employees to discover what causes they’re most interested in supporting. 

While it might seem counterintuitive, taking time out of the work day to have employees volunteer can actually be beneficial for businesses in the long run. According to Double the Donation’s guide to employee engagement, CSR programs like corporate volunteerism lead to more engaged employees, which in turn has been shown to increase profits by approximately 22% over businesses without similar programs. 

3. Activism 

Corporate activism is a rapidly evolving type of CSR, as brands and organizations are increasingly expected by their customers to share their stance on important social issues. 

Specifically, social media has become a major part of many organizations’ digital marketing and communication strategies. Your business can participate in social media advocacy by taking small actions such as making supportive statements to recognize ongoing social movements or important dates. For example, your organization might share a few words about your commitment to diversity and equality on February 1st to celebrate the start of Black History Month. Be mindful that the public stances your organization takes should reflect its internal values. Today’s consumers can easily spot the difference between meaningful advocacy and a hollow PR stunt.

Your organization can also use social media to take more direct, impactful actions as well. For example, if you donate to an advocacy group or ongoing campaign, you might make a post on social media sharing why, and then share posts from that group to help promote their efforts. 

How should community investment fit into your CSR strategy?

Check out our guide to find out.

CSR is an investment in your business’s community and long-term success that also has the potential to make a tangible difference for the better. Consider which approach to CSR makes sense for your business’s current operations, and know that expanding your CSR program is always an option as your organization grows and evolves.