This article is written for small to medium business owners and consultants who are, or maybe, donating to charities on an adhoc basis and/or sponsoring community events. It explains how adopting a philanthropic mindset can be fun and will build your brand if thought through systemically, and I also share valuable lessons I have learned from launching our own community group.
Why bother with CSR?
“Corporate Social Responsibility” is rather a mouthful and doesn’t sound that sexy. “Not more responsibility” I hear you groan! This may be why most startups and SMEs I meet are not excited by it and may view CSR as expensive and time consuming. However, CSR has been proven to significantly grow brands and is a powerful marketing tool. CSR brings many financial and wellbeing benefits for business brands if you choose the right solution for your business.
I personally think CSR should be rebranded to Creative, Savvy & Revitalising and here are five reasons why:
- CSR creates wellbeing for you, your team and the community you enrich: Research shows that compassion, care, love and trust create biochemical changes in our brains and bodies such as lowering blood pressure, increasing immunity, enhanced cognitive function. This reduces sick days and boosts productivity.
- CSR enhances trust in your brand: Apart from the obvious sponsorship opportunities available, being part of an innovative CSR scheme provides opportunities for collaboration and partnership marketing. CSR also provides an opportunity to boost your content marketing and makes your brand more interesting.
- CSR offers free training and development: Being part of a a CSR scheme provides members of your team with an opportunity to use and develop different skills e.g. communication skills.
- CSR protects your brand: We are human and occasionally make errors. If your business is seen to be good most of the time, then you are more easily forgiven if you make a mistake.
- CSR appeals to Generation Z: The youngsters of today demand transparency and good practice, CSR will help you tap into and build trust with the younger generation.
All sounds good? But ….In turbulent times, with the B word in the forefront of our minds, it seems natural to focus on generating return for shareholders and building resources for turbulent times. Even with 125 million small to medium sized businesses generating trillions of pounds, hardly any of this money is trickling down to those in most need.
How to choose the best CSR project to grow your brand
Being socially responsible should be fun and align with your values. That way, when you are busy and the financial pressures are on, committing to CSR is far easier. There are many ways to build CSR into your business brand including sponsoring (or donating to) a local community or charity. A more interesting venture is offering employee time for volunteering at various initiatives. Or you can go the whole hog and launch a community group like I did!
Here are my 5 important tips for choosing a CSR project, and below that, the 5 most important lessons I have learned.
- Do you have an inner desire to fix something? When you watch or read the news, what gets you agitated? Is there a cause or issue that you feel compelled to support, whether it’s the homeless, narrowing the poverty gap or providing clean water? If you need inspiration, visit https://www.globalgoals.org. It is important you choose a cause that matters to you and your team.
- Does it align with your company values? Both Talent Within You® and The Brand Surgery® have similar values which are close to my heart. If you core values are part of your culture, then your employees will naturally be as excited as you. This is also a fantastic opportunity for co-creation within your business.
- Does the cause align with your company strengths or do you want to develop a new skill? Talent Within You has enabled me to strengthen my partnership marketing, volunteer management and youth marketing skills.
- Does it compliment your business? Does your business have a natural connection? For example, The Brand Surgery® creates strong business brands through identifying marketing niches and creative design. Talent Wtihin You® enables teenagers to grow their personal brand and nurture their niche, so there is a natural synergy.
- How much time and resources can you commit to? Whether you choose to support financially or become further involved is down to you and your time constraints.
CSR Case study – The Brand Surgery® and Talent Within You®
I launched Talent Within You (TWY) to unleash the niche in teenagers in Worthing age 13-16. I had an inner desire to do this because my grandmother had been mugged 20 years ago by a ‘bored’ 15 year old, and my vision ever since, has been to make street crime history. The idea behind TWY is that all volunteers use and develop their strengths to unleash the niche of our members aged 13-16.
I’ve used my graphic design, marketing, branding and coaching skillsto create a seven month programme of workshops for a members. We have been offered a minimum of two exciting internships and / or work experience from McLaren Automotive and a scholarship from Glendale Theatre Arts. Each monthly workshop focuses on a different topic and spells out the word TALENT; Talent, Attitude, Leadership, Effort, Nurturing and Trust. Each workshop has it’s own workbook which must be completed by our members as evidence to apply for work experience and internships.
Our volunteers are all DBS checked and have experience of working or parenting teenagers and/or coaching and/or teaching. One of our volunteers is a horticulturalist and scientist and runs related workshops. Our Youth Engagement Officer is a county council youth worker and has been sharing his engagement skills which are crucial to achieving our vision. Please see the Talent Within You website or further information.
The SIX most important things I have learned since relaunching Talent Within You.
- I am still taken aback just by how kind people and businesses have been in donating their time which has enabled me to reach out to more teenagers and move towards achieving our vision.
- My passion for Talent Within You enables me to tell a compelling story which has assisted me in attracting amazing sponsors like McLaren Automotive and Glendale Theatre Arts, inspirational speakers and a team of loyal volunteers known as #teamtalent.
- Dividing my time between The Brand Surgery® and Talent Within You® has been interesting. The result being, little R&R time. Having said that, I really enjoy everything I do and empowering our clients and members to be the best they can be, therefore, my work feels more like a hobby.
- Founding Talent Within You has taught me how important shared values are in collaborating for societal change. If you and a partner organisation both have the same sense of purpose, it is easy, effortless and fun to work together.
- Building trust with parents and their teenage children has taken far longer than I originally anticipated. Building interest from the schools has not been easy. Teachers are overstretched and even though we don’t require input from them, there was initially resistance. We have a few on board now.
- Stepping outside my comfort zone has made me think more creatively. Originally I was offering coaching and mentoring through The Brand Surgery®, however, while working on a Talent Within You workshop, I had one of those AHA moments and we are now in the process of building The Niche Nurturer® website.
If you would like help choosing a CSR initiative which best matches your business, call Vicky Vaughan FCIM FInstLM, Chartered Marketer and Coach on 07909 693172. You don’t have to go as far as creating your own community initiative like me! I can help you with creating values and matching you to a project that will fit and grow your business.