Business leaders are typically on the lookout for fresh ideas to engage customers and improve their public image. From investing in pricey branding campaigns to rolling out customer rewards programs, nothing is off the table to keep your target audience coming back for years to come.
That’s where corporate social responsibility (CSR) comes into play.
TV commercials and ads splashed across social media can only do so much to elevate your brand’s image. But by making a positive social change through CSR, you can establish a socially-conscious identity that people will flock to.
From in-kind donation programs to volunteering, here are some top CSR ideas to impress customers and cement their long-lasting loyalty.
But first, let’s get back to the basics: what exactly is CSR?
What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
Corporate social responsibility, or corporate philanthropy, includes programs that businesses carry out to support charitable causes and positively impact society.
For example, Six Flags North America runs a ticket donation program that supports many nonprofits in their local communities. Similarly, PRP Wine International donates wine sampling events and gift cards to nonprofit partners for fundraising purposes, while TOMS donates shoes to developing nations for every pair they sell.
These are all great examples of exceptional CSR programs, but there are lots of other ways to show CSR, too. According to DonationMatch’s guide to corporate philanthropy, these programs usually fall into one of these main categories:
- Direct monetary donations. These are financial gifts, which can range anywhere from a one-time gift to recurring giving programs.
- In-kind donations. These include donations of your company’s goods, services, experiences, and any other type of gift—as long as it’s not just money!
- Volunteer grants. These are donations made to nonprofits where your employees have volunteered before, championing the cause they care about.
- Matching gifts. This involves businesses matching employee donations to certified nonprofits.
- Sponsorships. These programs involve businesses supporting a nonprofit during a specific event or campaign, like supplying snacks for a charity 5K, paying for catering for a luncheon, or donating swag bags for a conference.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an amusement park manager, a wine distributor, a footwear tycoon, a local entrepreneur, or a niche brand. Every business can commit to its own unique form of CSR and reap the benefits.
How can CSR boost brand loyalty?
CSR doesn’t just leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling and make the world a nicer place to live in. Done right, it can also benefit your business in ways like higher employee satisfaction, tax deductions, and cause marketing.
Cause marketing is the positive publicity your business receives when you participate in charitable activities. Essentially, when customers see your business helping others without immediate financial gain, they trust and respect your organization.
This makes them more likely to stick by your brand and advocate on your behalf. In fact, did you know that 77% of consumers are motivated to buy from companies that are working to make the world a better place?
Cause marketing is an important part of the rewards cycle of CSR. The more good your business does in the world, the more customers will want to support you, leading to more resources to do even more good and so on.
When your business partners with a nonprofit, your customers usually take notice and get inspired to keep supporting your business. They’ll often promote you even more to their friends and family.
This results in more revenue and publicity for both your business and the nonprofit, giving you more resources to fund future CSR campaigns.
Top CSR events & programs for businesses
At this point, you may be eager to sink your teeth into CSR opportunities for your own business. Here are a handful of CSR ideas (outside of just writing a check) that you can work into your company calendar.
In-Kind Donation Programs
Think back to our earlier example of Six Flags and PRP Wine International. Instead of just writing checks to charities, these businesses donate their products and experiences.
These in-kind donation programs are not only more memorable than financial gifts, but they can be more convenient and cost-effective for your business. For instance, you can donate product samples or even extra inventory.
For best results, corporate giving software can help you find opportunities with nonprofits whose audiences and supporters match your business’ target markets. Many nonprofits will jump at the chance for donations, especially from companies they respect, and the right platform will help you find giving opportunities that your target customer base will be inspired by.
Find a nice venue, lay out the bid sheets, and make way for this timeless fundraiser. Fundraising auctions are a classic event to engage your community and raise money for causes in a very public way.
You can help a nonprofit organize an auction and either financially sponsor it or donate products to be used as auction prizes. For example, an aquarium might donate tickets and branded merchandise, while a clothing retailer could offer gift cards.
Then, when attendees head home after a long day of bidding, they will have your company’s products to try for themselves and remember the event by, boosting brand awareness.
Finally, consider creating a social media hashtag around your auction and offer other engagement opportunities like quizzes, live event polls, and fundraising leaderboards. Event gamification strategies like this can increase attendee engagement and maximize the auction’s cause marketing potential at the same time.
Conferences for a Cause
If you’re on the hunt for a CSR idea that integrates seamlessly into your corporate event calendar, consider hosting a CSR-focused gathering or conference with other local businesses.
This familiar event style invites your employees and other professionals to network and discuss CSR in your industry and possibly even meet potential partners. Business associations and groups are especially suited for this.
You might also incorporate mini-fundraisers into the event—like auctions or co-sponsored merchandise sales—and donate a portion of the proceeds to your nonprofit partners.
Additionally, be sure to choose a conference venue that’s well-suited to your needs. After all, conferences tend to be longer, more professional events that require plenty of room for attendees to roam and mingle with the exhibits.
With careful planning and insightful discussions about CSR in your industry, this socially-conscious conference can strengthen your public image and create a great team-building experience to boost employee loyalty.
Not all CSR programs have to be formal events with appetizers and guest speakers. If you want to shake things up with an event that gets right down to work to make a tangible impact, then experiment with company service days.
Service days involve inviting staff members to commit time together to volunteer at a charitable event or program. For instance, you and a team of employee volunteers could sign up to volunteer at a local 5K that your company is sponsoring.
Book your Event Venues
To incentivize participation and put the cherry on top of your charitable activities, you could incorporate employees into the decision process for the events and offer volunteer grants.
As Double the Donation’s resource on volunteer grants explains, these grants are donations to nonprofits where your employees regularly volunteer—boosting volunteerism, employee engagement, and your company’s public image.
The Bottom Line
With each passing year, it can feel harder than ever to win in the court of public opinion. Throwing money at ads no longer works the way it used to. As a business, the world shines a spotlight on you to not just provide great products, services, or experiences, but to also give back to the world and do your part to remain socially responsible.
With these CSR events and programs in your corporate toolbelt, you should be on the right track to gaining your customers’ trust, respect, and long-time loyalty.