Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a term that’s quickly gained traction among business owners in recent years. This phrase refers to any policies or management practices that business owners implement to create a positive impact in the community.
As a business owner, you might be interested in starting up a CSR program of your own or incorporating nonprofit partnerships into your business plans. Perhaps there’s an organization that’s dear to your heart that you’d like to help using a virtual fundraiser. Or, maybe you’ve learned about some of the benefits your business can receive from CSR programs, including a positive boost to your public image and better engagement with customers. After all, consumers prefer doing business with responsible organizations that prioritize creating a positive influence within their community.
But at the end of the day, you’re a business owner, not a fundraising professional. You likely need a few tips for infusing philanthropy into your business model. Start with these five best practices:
- Choose a cause that aligns with your business principles.
- Consolidate your online fundraising approach.
- Offer matching gifts and volunteer grants.
- Get your employees and customers involved.
- Launch a merchandise fundraiser.
At Gingr, our main mission is to equip pet care professionals with dog daycare software essentials and other tech tools they need to be successful. This means we also have an inside look at the best philanthropic practices that help pet care businesses thrive, and have seen plenty of businesses successfully incorporate philanthropy into their daily operations to engage their customers and give back to their communities.
We can say confidently that a CSR program can help any business, not just pet care businesses, have a greater impact in the community and earn customer loyalty. Let’s get started!
1. Choose a cause that aligns with your business principles.
If you’re serious about getting your business involved with philanthropic causes, it’s important to seek out nonprofits and other charitable partners that align with your business’s mission and principles. This will lead to a more sustainable relationship because you’re working with a cause you care about.
For example, if you operate a dog daycare business, you are probably naturally drawn to helping animals. You work around them all day and are likely familiar with animal welfare issues. Therefore, you should seek out animal advocacy organizations to partner with as the beneficiaries of your fundraising efforts.
Your nonprofit partner will appreciate your insider understanding of their issue area, and you can even partner with them for specific fundraising events that match your interests. For example, you can use your dog daycare business to sponsor a pet adoption event. At this event, you can share information about your business with a booth and marketing materials like flyers and maybe even attract some new customers in the process. Your nonprofit partner will appreciate your financial support as well as your enthusiastic participation in their event.
Take a look back at your business plan to reconnect with your priorities, and find a charitable organization to partner with that matches your principles.
2. Consolidate your online fundraising approach.
As a business owner, you might not have a ton of knowledge about fundraising, especially considering the multitude of virtual fundraising tools available today. You know how to attract customers to your business and keep a steady stream of revenue flowing but may not be as well-versed in the ins-and-outs of conducting a fundraiser to benefit a nonprofit.
The good news is that there are plenty of resources to help you get started. If you’ve got a fundraiser in mind that you’d like to host, check out Snowball’s guide to online donation platforms. This guide covers the basic channels for virtual fundraising, including:
- Mobile giving. Mobile giving platforms make it simple for donors to give to a cause using their smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices. In particular, text-to-give services enable organizations to solicit donations via text, allowing you to reach donors on a device they constantly use in their daily lives.
- Email giving. Email is another frequently used messaging platform that’s effective for fundraising campaigns. With an email campaign, you can send mass messages to your audience members with a link to an online donation page where they can contribute.
- Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a fundraising tactic where nonprofits and other charitable organizations create fundraising pages that supporters share with their networks of family and friends, typically via social media. To support these campaigns, you can share crowdfunding pages with your network of employees, customers, and supporters to get them directly involved in fundraising.
Look over Snowball’s guide for more information on each fundraising type to find a process that appeals to you.
For example, if you’ve already got a solid email presence with a weekly newsletter full of updates from your business, you can include a link to a nonprofit donation page as a part of your letter to inspire readers to give. On the other hand, if you have a sizeable social media audience on your business’s pages already, a crowdfunding campaign might have the most success and raise the most money for a community organization.
Once you determine your preferred platform, be sure to take a deep dive into Snowball’s online fundraising resource for more information on how to carry out a successful campaign.
3. Offer employee matching gifts and volunteer grants.
Having a comprehensive CSR program isn’t only something that customers expect from your business — employees increasingly seek jobs with companies that offer opportunities to get involved with charitable giving and volunteering. In fact, a study by America’s Charities found that 58% of employees say it’s very important that their company offers a corporate matching gift program, one of the hallmarks of a quality CSR program.
Let’s take a look at corporate matching gifts, as well as volunteer grants, to see how these two programs can boost employee engagement and retention:
Matching gift program
If you were to adopt a matching gift program at your business, your company would match donations made by your employees to eligible nonprofits up to a specific amount. Corporations usually match gifts on a 1:1 ratio, but many also choose to double, triple, or even quadruple the size of employee donations.
According to corporate giving statistics gathered by 360MatchPro, the higher your matching gift cap, the more employees will engage with your program. These statistics show that companies that set a $1,000 maximum gift amount see a 12% employee engagement rate, while maximums between $1,001 and $10,000 have an 18% engagement rate. This shows that the higher the matching gift amount, the higher the engagement will be.
Therefore, by starting a matching gift program, you will not only contribute a major fundraising boost to nonprofits or local charitable organizations but also appeal to employee desires for their employer to facilitate charitable giving.
Millennials, in particular, prioritize working with companies that are committed to fostering positive social change, and this group makes up the greatest share of the workforce right now. By responding to their expectations, you can promote better employee retention and ensure you’re keeping your employees happy.
Volunteer grant programs
Volunteer grant programs are similar to matching gift programs, but instead of matching employee monetary donations, your organization would contribute a donation in exchange for a certain number of hours volunteered by one of your employees. For example, you might choose to offer a donation of $10 for every hour volunteered by your employees for up to 50 hours a year.
This guide to volunteer grants states that 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer volunteer grant programs, meaning that your business would be part of a highly-respected group if you were to adopt a volunteer grant program. These programs help engage employees in local philanthropy and volunteerism, while your business can also receive a reputation boost as a leader in the CSR space.
By incorporating matching gift and volunteer grant programs into your business structure, you can help your employees feel more personally fulfilled and connected to their community, give a nice funding boost to a worthy cause, and boost your reputation as a business owner in the process.
4. Get your employees and customers involved.
Another way to engage not just your employees but your customers and other supporters in charitable giving is by empowering them to become fundraisers themselves.
With a peer-to-peer campaign, you can recruit volunteer fundraisers to create and share their own fundraising pages and encourage their friends and family to donate. Donations are usually collected in a specific period leading up to an event or throughout the event itself. These donations all help contribute to an overarching goal set by your business, and by the end, your business will be able to write a sizeable check to a nonprofit or another community partner.
Check out this page for plenty of peer-to-peer fundraising ideas. Some top ideas for your business might include:
- 5K fundraiser: Invite supporters to register for the event and raise money until race day. Celebrate your fundraising success on race day, and be sure to offer prizes to winners! To adhere to social-distancing restrictions, you can also host a virtual 5K and encourage participants to find a trail or path to run the race remotely.
- Auction: Encourage volunteers to fundraise in the weeks leading up to the event, and ask for item donations from other local businesses (and be sure to contribute several items from your business, too!). Reward top fundraisers at the event and use the time to get your brand name out in the community by placing your logo on all event marketing materials. Alternatively, you can host an online silent auction and allow participants to put in their bids over a longer period, such as a week.
- Festival: This is a great event idea for when the pandemic has passed, and large group activities can safely resume. Ask volunteers to fundraise using their networks, and use the funds to put on the event and make a gift to a nonprofit partner. Incorporate food trucks, live music, and activities for kids to engage the entire community in your fundraising event!
Through peer-to-peer fundraising, you can engage your employees, customers, and the larger community in your charitable projects. Plus, when your fundraising efforts culminate in an exciting community event, you can offer something valuable to community members while getting your business’s name out in the local area.
5. Launch a merchandise fundraiser.
Depending on your business type, you may already offer merchandise to customers in your physical facility or online store. If that’s the case, you can easily put some of your merchandise funds toward a charitable cause or create new items to sell specifically in a merchandise fundraiser.
Gingr’s pet business merchandise overview offers plenty of product ideas, many of which can work for any business, not just pet care businesses. These ideas include:
- T-shirts: Design a t-shirt with your business logo and brand colors. Also, if you have a specific nonprofit partner, you can incorporate their logo into the design as well. Through a t-shirt fundraiser, you can raise funds for a good cause while promoting your business as customers wear your merchandise while out and about.
- Face masks: Face masks are a fact of life for most of us right now, as they’re required in many public places. Take this opportunity to design a custom mask that reflects your fundraiser purpose. For example, if you’re raising money for a local animal shelter, you can create a face mask that has your logo and a cute cartoon dog. People will love the opportunity to help out while sporting an adorable new mask.
- Mugs: Nowadays, there are plenty of caffeine fiends out there, as well as people who like to buy cute, well-designed mugs for their personal collection. Mugs are a merchandise idea that works for any business type — just design your mug with your fundraiser theme (and business logo) in mind.
With a merchandise fundraiser, you can leverage the power of your existing merchandise capabilities and your customer base to raise money for your chosen organization. Be sure to promote your merchandise fundraiser across your social media pages, email newsletters, and website, and let your customers know about your new items whenever they walk in the door.
Ultimately, there are plenty of ways for your business to give back to the community and develop a CSR program that engages employees and customers on a deeper level. Be sure to check out all the resources available to help you solidify your online fundraising approach, develop opportunities for employees and customers to become fundraisers themselves, and leverage the power and influence of your business to reach your fundraising goals. Good luck!
About the Author
Casey Dorman is the Sales Manager at Gingr software. Originally from Indianapolis, he now lives in Colorado with my wife and dog, Dexter. Their hobbies include hiking, skiing, and visiting local breweries.