March 13

Unlocking Capital: A Double Shot

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3_13 11-AThink you can’t afford to increase your corporate philanthropic involvement and cause marketing?  Maybe you can’t afford not to.  Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is more than just a feel-good trend: it’s a smart business strategy, as well. And these days, there are a variety of tools that can help make your CSR efforts more affordable and more effective – sometimes without costing you a cent – allowing your savings to fuel your giving.

87% of your customers want you to give back.
Giving back to the community is not a new concept for most companies. Altruistic and forward-thinking organizations have been supporting community and non-profit causes for over a century. What is new is the importance of that support to both employees and customers.

Customers want to know you are looking at more than profits when you run your business.  In fact, according to the 2012 Goodpurpose Study by Edelman Inc., 87% of consumers expect companies to give the interests of society equal weight to business concerns. And they will put their money behind that belief: 73% of consumers are willing to switch from one brand to another brand that is about the same in price and quality, if the other brand is associated with a good cause.  Furthermore, 71% are willing to promote a brand associated with a cause they support, and 72% will recommend that brand to others.

It’s not just your customers who want you to do good: your employees are looking for a socially responsible workplace.  According to a 2010 study by the Kenexa Research Institute, employees who see their company investing in a successful CSR campaign are more than three times more likely to positively rate their pride in the organization, willingness to recommend it as a place to work, and overall satisfaction. Since it is these inside stakeholders who can truly create a company that flourishes, a successful CSR campaign will pay for itself in terms of increased productivity, retention, and a positive corporate culture.

CSR can help you outperform competitors.
There is proof that a successfully run CSR campaign translates to your bottom line. The Good Company Index (http://www.goodcompanyindex.com/) ranks the Fortune 100 companies based on each one’s actions with respect to their employers, customers, and as a steward of the community and environment. They each are assigned a Good Company grade, from A to F. “In the 24 months after the index was created, companies that earned a full letter grade or higher than their industry peers on the index – in other words, those that behaved better – outperformed those competitors by an average of 30 percentage points.”  A 30% advantage for doing something that makes everyone feel good is a pretty compelling reason to make sure your CSR program is the best it can be.

Why cause marketing matters.
Championing a cause is just part of the equation. It’s equally important to educate your current and potential customers about your efforts in a clear way.  According to the 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Study,  93% percent of consumers want to know how companies are working to improve the world, but 71% say they are confused by the message companies use to convey their efforts.

Your company may already be running a CSR program through local partnerships, giving campaigns or employee service programs, but unless you are advertising that support in an easily understandable way, consumers may not know about it. When you use your marketing dollars to highlight your patronage of a cause, you aren’t just tooting your own horn.  You are also raising awareness of the cause itself, which is another significant way to support it.

3_13 11-BFinding Savings to Fuel Giving
Of course, all this takes capital, which is precious even when the economy is booming.  Luckily, there are experts out there who can help you find places to save even where you thought you were running as lean as possible.  An audit of your shipping costs may uncover a way to negotiate better rates with your carriers, or a review of insurance costs may point to a more affordable solution for your business.  By hiring an outside consultant to look for hidden capital, you can free up money to spend on CSR and cause marketing.  Most of these consultants work on a contingency basis, taking their fees only from savings they find for you.  In other words, there’s no down side for your company.

Tracking CSR effectiveness
You can also save money by investing in new software tools which allow your employees to easily measure your CSR program’s impact, translating raw data into powerful stories. Are you like most companies, tracking your program and reporting goals using Excel, Access and e-mail? While these were cutting edge technology not long ago, they are now antiquated, cumbersome and time-consuming tools compared to what is available in 2013. New cloud-based technologies that allow ubiquitous access and powerful data organizing capabilities are revolutionizing all areas of company operations. Just as business management solutions for manufacturing or sales have revolutionized the way you make decisions, CSR programs benefit greatly from these efficiencies. Not only will you have clear metrics to gage your CSR efforts, you free your employees from the work of collecting the data from multiple spreadsheets and emails. Instead of crunching the numbers and figuring out what they mean and how to communicate the impact of your CSR efforts, employees can be setting new goals and working towards them.

No excuses
So if it’s going to win you customers, energize your employees, and improve your bottom line, why isn’t your CSR program in high gear?  If your answer has always been that you don’t have the money, that’s no longer good enough.  An effective, efficient CSR program will increase your bottom line, and the tools to make it succeed will provide the savings to accelerate your giving.

Gina Manis-Anderson, owner of Savii Group, uses her cost savings expertise to help companies free up capital to fund the programs that really matter.  Learn more at www.saviigroup.com.

Lisa Lindgren, co-founder of CoffeeCares, helps companies, large and small, optimize the benefits of their CSR program by providing a simple software tool for charitable giving and reporting. Contact her at lisa@tracktheimpact.com.

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