It seems every brand out there is rushing to align themselves – however tenuously – with whatever good cause they can slap their branding on these days. Case in point, it’s Pride season, and everyone from Barclays to Listerine have been rushing to stamp a rainbow flag on their logo without making much in the way of meaningful contribution to the LGBT+ community.

Because this is what we have to do now, right? We’re meant to shout about topical things on Twitter and have a cake sale for charity twice a year so that we can say we’re doing good for our community and that’s just the price you pay for doing business.

Enough already.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives are not just warm and fuzzy nice-to-haves that you have to do so you’ve got something to fill a blog post with once a month and you can add something nice into an award entry. Done right, it’s not about writing off money – it’s about investing money, in this case in a good cause, so you can make loads more back.

CSR makes you money

Wait, what? I can make money from charity partnerships? That doesn’t sound right. Charities take my money – the whole point of doing something good is not to get anything in return. Well sit down somewhere comfortable, because I’m about to blow your mind.

Think of your CSR activities as another marketing channel – if you invest carefully in them, not just randomly throwing money at the wall, but with a real strategy in place, then you will reap substantial rewards:

Reaching a new audience

Working with a charity, a non-profit or a community group puts you right in front of all that organisation’s supporters and/or members. The fact that you’re working with them at all demonstrates your organisational values, and the way you work with them can make clear what you do and the quality of your product or service, if you’re smart about it. If you’ve selected your partner appropriately, you’ve now got access to a whole load of potential customers.

Building relationships

This isn’t just an advert popping up on someone’s screen or a flyer through the door that’s instantly forgotten and resigned to the recycling bin (digital or literal). Creating a long-term partnership means your access to this wide pool of people considering giving you their money is regular, ongoing and claiming sustained periods of their focused attention.

Recruitment and retention

If you’re contributing to your community (not just the people stumbling around your local area but the actual people who buy what you’re selling – new mums, older people, recent graduates, whoever it might be) then you’re making the people who already work for you feel more positive about their jobs. That means increased productivity, higher retention rates and lower levels of absence – all of which means more cash in your pocket. Not only that, but if you’re out there amongst the community you serve showing how you live your values, recruiting for new roles will be a lot cheaper as the people you need to reach are already at your fingertips and already think you’re awesome.

Do this right

When you’re embarking on a CSR partnership, however, it’s important to take time to think it through properly. Trying to think up names of ingredients that start with the letters L, G, B and T just so you can throw together a badly conceived sandwich is not creative marketing. Ask yourself:

  • What organisations align with my business values?
  • What organisations are supported by my target customers?
  • How can my business contribute to these organisations in a genuine way that relates to what we do?
  • How can my business contribute to the community in a way that supports my target customers?
  • What meaningful actions will we undertake as part of this partnership and how often can we commit to doing this?
  • What marketing activity will we do to maximise the impact of this partnership and what involvement will we have in our partner’s marketing activities?

Above all else, commit. Do the groundwork properly, choose the partner and the activity carefully, then embrace this as a long-term strategy.

If you want help making sure your CSR partnership will deliver meaningful results – for you, your partner and your community – then get in touch and let’s do it together.

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