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While multinational companies such as IBM, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Salesforce.com and others have sophisticated corporate social responsibility initiatives, there is a huge opportunity for midsize and smaller businesses to make their own mark with community initiatives and programs.
If you're considering a corporate philanthropy or community engagement program at your own organization, here are a few things to think about as you approach the endeavor.
NO. 1: SIZE DOESN'T MATTER
Yes, large organizations have the resources and the dollars to make substantive positive change, but that shouldn't discourage a smaller organization from thinking big.
"Midsize companies have a bigger opportunity to speak to their employees and ask them what is important to them. Many of these initiatives start at the top down, and why not from the bottom up?" said Susan Spector McPherson, senior vice president and director of global brand for Fenton, a company that develops public interest campaigns for clients.
"The first step is to simply put out the question, identify stakeholders and give them tools to do so. It is not rocket science. Put a value on it and make it a part of their performance," said McPherson.
NO. 2: BE STRATEGIC WITH YOUR PHILANTHROPY OR COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT EFFORTS
"Companies need to align their business strategies with their community engagement. By doing so, it forces them to be more purposeful in their efforts," said Dan McQuaid, CEO of One OC, a training and volunteering organization in California.
When creating a corporate social responsibility strategy, an organization needs to ask itself a few questions. What is the purpose of getting involved? Do you want to position yourself in the market because of customers? Do you want it to help with employee engagement and recruitment?
Once you define the purpose, then what is the vision? And what is your goal? Once you answer these questions, you can develop an effective strategy, said McQuaid.
NO. 3: PARTNER WITH ORGANIZATIONS WHERE YOU CAN HAVE THE MOST IMPACT
As you head into the new year, bring in local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to teach you about an issue. "I am not suggesting that the American Cancer Society or the American Red Cross are not good organizations, but the experience is more intimate if you are in the location and involved with a local nonprofit," said McPherson.
By partnering with a local organization you can see the true impact of your efforts.
"You are going to get more bang for your buck, be a large fish in a small pond and there is nothing wrong with that," said McPherson.
"Experiences within our own communities build empathy and it enables a business to be better able to serve a market," said Jackie Norris, executive director, the Points of Light Corporate Institute. "If I have gone out to my community and to my potential customers, I may gain a better understanding of what their needs might be."