CSR Program Tips to Build Business & Nonprofit Relationships

Did you know that 87% of American consumers would purchase a product just because the business advocated for a cause? As waves of social activism arise and the news becomes more accessible to anyone at any time, corporate philanthropy has become more critical than ever for businesses to undertake. 

After all, from older consumers to Millenials and Gen Z, the average customer is hyperaware of what businesses stand for and how their buying habits can affect social change. And what better way is there to prove your dedication to social good than working with the nonprofit missions your consumers are so passionate about in their communities?

To make the most of your corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs and the nonprofit relationships they create, explore these key tips:

  1. Establish your priorities to pick the right CSR program.
  2. Choose partners that align with your values and goals.
  3. Communicate openly and honestly with your partners.
  4. Invest in win-win fundraising initiatives. 

From carefully picking out the best nonprofit partners to selecting the right nonprofit fundraising ideas, many factors can make or break the performance of your corporate philanthropy programs.

Ready to revamp your approach to CSR? Let’s dive in!

1. Establish your priorities to pick the right CSR program

While all types of CSR will endear you to nonprofit partners, how these relationships take shape can vary quite a bit depending on the program you choose.

So, before you start building out your CSR initiatives, closely examine your business’s goals and the resources at your disposal. For example, take a look at the benefits of these popular CSR programs and how the resulting nonprofit partnerships might shake out:

  • Matching gifts. Matching gift programs are straightforward to create and maintain once you’ve made a match submission form. However, keep in mind that because you’re giving a little bit of money to many organizations, you won’t form an especially strong relationship to any particular nonprofit that you can readily promote to the public.
  • In-kind donations. These are non-monetary gifts, goods, services, or experiences—like products for an auction basket. While this program is slightly more involved, it’s a great way to move extra company inventory or samples to nonprofits in a public way.
  • Volunteer grants. These are funds companies donate to charities where employees regularly volunteer. According to 360MatchPro’s corporate giving statistics, over 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer volunteer grants, making it an incredibly popular program to boost employee engagement and support your employees’ favorite charities.

One of the most important goals for many businesses is to increase customer brand loyalty and awareness through cause marketing. This means that programs suited for larger community events, like event sponsorship or in-kind donations, can be especially effective.

2. Choose partners that align with your values and goals

It’s easy for businesses to be persuaded to choose nonprofit partners based solely on their public recognition. After all, you want customers to recognize the organizations you’re throwing your support behind!

That being said, it’s also vital to choose nonprofits that share your views, values, and objectives. For example, are they a part of the same industry or sector? Does their audience intersect with your own? Do you have mutually-respectful perspectives on how you’re operating within your communities?

Let’s consider how a local clothing retailer trying to increase brand awareness might choose a good nonprofit partner and structure its corporate giving program. As a small business with strong ties to the community and a target audience of many families and parents, one strong option for a retailer’s charitable partner might be a local school. 

Also, you could take a close look at the Funds2Orgs school fundraising ideas guide and its evaluation of earning potential, cost, and event compatibility. A shoe drive fundraiser could be effective for these two partners. This type of fundraiser is a highly-marketable, public campaign where community members and the business can easily donate gently worn, new and used shoes. This perfectly aligns with both partners’ goals, brands, and values.

Build equity into your CSR program

Learn how in our webinar with three CSR leaders at WarnerMedia.

3. Communicate openly and honestly with your partners

Like any personal or professional relationship, communication is key to the success of your nonprofit partnerships. You may have different reasons for entering the alliance, but once you’ve knuckled down to create a mutually beneficial philanthropic relationship, you must maintain strong lines of communication. 

Maintain absolute transparency with your partners about the performance of your giving programs. One way to do so is to share important metrics regularly. In particular, you’ll want to:

  • Conduct community needs assessments and share the results to ascertain the best course of action for local outreach.
  • Set and communicate KPIs that track the performance of your specific CSR programs.
  • Measure social impact following milestones in your CSR programs, such as events.

You have everything to lose by not working closely with your partners to regularly evaluate goals, assess your program activities, and check in on the satisfaction of the nonprofit. By taking these steps to create an open dialogue with your partners, you’ll be in a far better position to strengthen your CSR program and make a meaningful impact.

4. Invest in win-win fundraising initiatives

Remember that a business-nonprofit partnership is a continual give-and-take between the needs and desires of your two unique organizations. While you should fight for your own goals, you should also be receptive to the objectives of your nonprofit partners. 

This is especially important for community marketing and fundraising events and public-facing nonprofit partnership activities that take a considerable amount of investment. 

When it comes time to choose your unique fundraising programs, collaborate closely with your nonprofit partners to figure out how you can both derive maximum value from the program. 

Let’s take another look at the example of a shoe drive fundraiser. 

Your nonprofit partner’s goals are to raise awareness for their cause and bring in as many donations as possible. So, to help them reach their goals, you may encourage employees to donate shoes, incentivize employee volunteers to set up donation boxes, and use your marketing channels to promote the event. 

At the same time, your company’s goals are to increase customer loyalty and boost brand awareness. To achieve this, your nonprofit partner can thank you for your support in their campaign marketing, publicize your impact, and even include your logo—recognizing you as a major campaign sponsor—in their branded event merchandise.

At times, it can be challenging to juggle the relationships between your business and the nonprofits, charities, and fundraising organizations on the receiving end of your philanthropy. 

However, with these strategies in hand, you should be far better equipped to navigate the challenges of these partnerships and create philanthropic campaigns that are as successful as possible for you both. Good luck, and happy fundraising!

Guest Author