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charity-corporate partnership

Companies Need to First Define Their Purpose. That Will Help Them Build Their Impact

The relationship between a company’s purpose and its values is a tight one, especially when deciding how to build a CSR programme. Companies need to first define what they stand for, then build relationships with the right nonprofits, groups or communities to achieve an impactful charity-corporate partnership. Find below some insights shared at our Annual KindLink Conference: How Social Responsibility Will Define The New Decade on the topic of CSR and long-term, symbiotic partnerships between corporates and charities.

Defining and redefining CSR

The concept of CSR did not exist until the 70s. Before that, there was simply Social Responsibility. Richard Collins from the CSR Accreditation wants to change the definition of ‘CSR’. Narrowing down the meaning of the ‘C’ to ‘corporate’ limits the inclusivity of CSR and by extension, it limits the possibilities of a fruitful charity-corporate partnership. 

“Corporate is where CSR has traditionally been, but we think CSR needs to be more inclusive and needs to be opened up. We defined CSR in a different way”, says Collins. The ‘C’ in ‘CSR’ should differ depending on whom it applies to: for the private sector, it is ‘corporate’ or ‘company’, for the third sector it is ‘charitable’, for the public sector is ‘community’. The ‘C’ becomes ‘consumer’ for the products and services industry and ‘citizen’ for training and education. But ‘CSR’ should go beyond your job, it should encompass everyone so, for us all, the ‘C’ stands for ‘collective’. “Social responsibility is the common denominator”, Collins says. 

He proposes the following ‘matrix’:

  • Large Companies – Corporate Social Responsibility (Private Sector)
  • Sole Traders and SME’s – Company Social Responsibility (Private Sector)
  • Local Authorities, Schools, Hospitals etc – Community Social Responsibility (Public Sector)
  • Charities – Charitable Social Responsibility (Third Sector)
  • Products & Services – Consumer Social Responsibility
  • Training & Workshops – Citizen Social Responsibility
  • All of Us – Collective Social Responsibility

“I think there are two words that really stand out for me, those are purpose and value”, says Arun Sharma from The Fundraising Agency (TFA). Through their values, companies can find their purpose and build a powerful charity-corporate partnership. Increasingly, the economic and social impact becomes the company’s purpose. 

Building the Right Charity-Corporate Partnership

“When you’re developing a CSR program for your business, it’s got to mean something, it can’t be arbitrary. What’s the passion for your business? What do you want to support? How do you want to support your staff?”, says Collins on the importance of letting the values of your company inspire your CSR programme.

Martin Davies from Salesforce and Steve Shutts from ASTRiiD have been working together to find meaningful employment for people living with long-term illness in the UK, and point out the benefits of aligning your company’s values to your CSR agenda. 

“Salesforce has a very strong volunteering program”, says Davies. Salesforce.org creates the environment for their employees to get involved with charities of their choice. “I felt really privileged because we actually get as a Salesforce employee seven paid days a year to volunteer which is fantastic and I really don’t know a lot of organisations that have that sort of commitment to volunteering”, Davies says.

“It’s reinforcing”, Shutts added. Emphasising your business’ values through the charities you support attracts more people to your company who support the same values. It allows the business to develop and increases the visibility of the charity’s story, creating a true charity-corporate partnership. “So you can then tell that story. I know Salesforce does that with our charity, tells that story to their customers, partners and businesses they work with, in order to reinforce that value to their organisation.”

Starting Early is Key 

“One of the things that the founders did from the start is embedded a philanthropy model of 1-1-1 where we give 1% time, 1% equity and 1% product inside the company”, Davies explains. The effect of that commitment is that over 21 years Salesforce.org has given $240 million in grants, 3.5 million hours of community service, and provided product donations for more than 39,000 nonprofits and education institutions, according to their website. “It’s value-based, that’s what it comes down to.” 

“It is about the word ‘inclusive’ and involving everybody at every level of the organisation”, Collins points out. A CSR programme cannot be random, but should fully engage everyone in the company instead.

A lovely little example of that is the Post Office a couple of years ago when they’ve decided to create an engagement program for their 800 staff and they’ve asked their staff ‘What do you want to support, What’s important for you?’. The employees said they wanted to support mental health, that was important to them. As a national organisation, the Post Office chose to support Mind UK. The partnership was not just about the thrill of volunteering, the days the company gave off for free for volunteering, the pro bono, the sponsorship or the money. It was also about the fact that Mind UK sat down with the employees and talked to them about help with mental health issues and how to lobby about it in their workplace. At the end of the first year, there were significant improvements in mental health among the Post Office’s employees. A year later, the Post Office issued a statement saying that it saved £2.2 million pounds by reducing absenteeism because of their work with Mind UK.

Richar Collins, CSR Accreditation

“So what I like about our stories is not just what a business can do to help a charity in its projects, it’s what a charity can do to help a business. It helps businesses deliver that engagement, deliver that retention, deliver that reputation. So I think it’s no longer a case of a charity looking for support and donation, it’s about how those things can work together to create a better society”, Collins added.

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