A new approach to corporate citizenship has moved up the agenda over the last few years. Increasingly companies recognize how important it is to move beyond traditional philanthropy to a new way of contributing to the greater good. The driving issue today is how to ensure that good corporate intentions translate into effective action that generates both societal benefit and business returns.
Here, based on our decade of experience at the leading edge of corporate cause and social marketing, are seven features of programs that work:
1. A champion: Every program, not matter how small, needs to have a champion to sell and promote it internally. Without a champion, your program will surely lose priority and momentum.
2. The right cause: Finding the right cause, one that resonates with internal and external markets is part art, part science. While there is a discipline to finding the company’s place in a crowded cause marketplace there is also an art in staking out the right territory and ensuring that the cause will be invested with corporate brand qualities.
3. Adequate resources: There is no way around it: Corporate citizenship programs take money and time. Allocating sufficient financial and human resources will ensure that it is best positioned to deliver on your expectations.
4. A place to call home: The program needs to have a department in which to live and a single person or group accountable for its success or failure. Most often Public Affairs or Marketing take the lead. In some instances it is HR. Without ownership and accountability the program will not be able to achieve results. Without priority within that department it will not get the attention and commitment it needs to succeed.
5. Perceived benefit among key departments and senior execs: Because senior decision-makers are key to establishing credibility and profiles for your program, it’s important that they see its merits, that it becomes integral to their thinking and that they demonstrate commitment to the principles of the program through visible initiatives both inside and outside the company. Market the program to them. Sell up, down and across.
6. The right fit with the company’s objectives: If your corporate citizenship program does not help employees meet their goals, then it will remain a marginalized effort, both in your own department and throughout the company. The idea is to do well as a business by doing good in the world. That double win doesn’t happen on its own. It must be built into the program’s design from the outset.
7. The right measurements: When measurements are not appropriate, the result is that the program is evaluated based on the wrong criteria. Three things to keep in mind: evaluate the right things at the right time, count whatever is countable, and don’t compare apples to oranges.
Make sure that when planning your corporate citizenship program you have all the above in place. Doing so helps increase the chance of success dramatically.