Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs are an important way for companies to give back to the communities which support them.  The more that you get involved with your community, the greater the return.  Companies with active CSR programs benefit not only from the good will they generate, but also have the opportunity to generate leads and develop their brand.

Of course, the goal of a CSR program should be the cause you are supporting.  Being a cause “champion” allows your community to get to know your values and brand more personally.  But how do you become the champion of a cause?

The first step is to choose your partner

For some industries, such as Education, Healthcare, and even Energy, finding a logical partner is easy, but for others such as Manufacturing, E-commerce, or Retail can be more difficult.  The key is to find a personal connection to a non-profit or community organization.  Remember, the more personal the connection, the more sincere your efforts will be.

Once you’ve decided on a cause, you must design a strategy.  Simply aligning yourself with a charity or non-profit won’t have the impact you’re looking for.  Here are five ways you can develop your CSR strategy. 

Commit a Percentage of Corporate Profits

In many ways, financial contributions are the most generous but least personal way to develop a social responsibility program.  Corporate donations are extremely important to non-profits; many would not be able to function without them.  Setting aside 1-2% of annual or quarterly profits for charitable giving shows a continuous, sincere desire to give back to the community.  These types of programs are welcomed by many organizations and are fairly easy to setup, though perhaps more difficult to get approved.

If the goal of your CSR campaign is to build brand trust and loyalty, financial contributions combined with other forms of CSR can have maximum effect.

Donate Non-Financial Assets: Space and Resources

Not all donations have to be monetary.  In many ways donating space and other resources can be just as valuable.  For example, renting event space from a hotel can cost upwards of $10,000 for a single day, depending on the type of event.  If your organization has a large enough multi-use space, such as a large conference room, event hall, or even cafeteria, making it available to local organizations can be incredibly helpful.  Additionally, all who attend the event will, literally, be surrounded by your goodwill.

Encourage Employee Volunteering

The key to a CSR program that involves volunteering is establishing and meeting expectations. Many non-profit organizations are desperate for hard-working, committed volunteers.  Having employees volunteer and then back out of commitments can be more damaging than helpful to your community relationship.

If your company establishes a partnership that involves encouraging employees to volunteer, make it clear to your team that they are expected to volunteer and fulfill their commitment.  Sometimes people are wary to draw such a hard line when it comes to volunteering but without it the results can be embarrassing for you and your company.

Sponsor an Event

There are two strategies to sponsoring an event.  The first involves sponsoring a greater number of events with smaller contributions.  The second commits a larger amount to become the major contributor for an event.  The strategy your company chooses is up to your CSR goals.

Personally, I believe larger sponsorships to be more effective.  Many times, events will have varying levels from which your company can choose to back.  My recommendation is to contact the event staff and design a customer package that gives your brand the most exposure.  Which is more memorable: having your company name in the title of an event or your logo printed at the bottom of a flyer?

Contribute Your Services

If you are a service company, you have a unique way to offer value to partners.  Many organizations lack the ability to hire professional service providers and look towards the community for assistance.  Lawyers, accountants, book-keepers, insurance agents, and financial planners are always in demand.

The goal of your CSR program should be to maximize impact while gaining exposure and building brand trust.  How your company believes it can accomplish this goal is up to how you decide to get involved, but the bottom line is to get involved.

Frank Pobutkiewicz is the founder and CEO of College Apprentice,  a high school education company that recruits, trains, and travels with academic teams to international competitions.

Image Credit:

He can be reached directly by email at or followed on Twitter @fpobutkiewicz.  Check out his College Apprentice Campaign to help high school students train and travel to participate in international academic competitions.