Gone are the days when corporate social responsibility (CSR) was considered going “above and beyond”. These days, more and more consumers — especially millennial and Gen Z consumers — see CSR as a point-of-entry for the businesses they support.

According to a recent public relations study, a company without a CSR plan could stand to lose as much as 39% of its potential customer base. Additionally, 83% of professional investors indicated they are, “More inclined to invest in stock of a company well-known for its social responsibility, viewing such initiatives as an indicator of greater transparency and honesty,” according to research by The Holmes Report.

The good news is that incorporating a social giveback into your business doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming. While many companies have risen to fame with their 1-for-1 models — Toms Shoes and Warby Parker for example — CRS doesn’t have to mean “1 for 1.” In fact, it can be as simple as getting your employees involved in local community events. You could also donate a portion of your overstock merchandise to a local organization in need.

 

Here are three tips for enhancing your small business’s social giving:

1. Find out what your employees care about

Unless your employees are personally invested in your social giving, you don’t have a program. You essentially have a tax-deductible charitable donation. To get employee buy in, ask employees about the causes they care about most. After an open discussion, decide on one or more charities to support. You may choose a local partner, like a food bank or women’s shelter, or a national cause, like human trafficking. When employees are part of the decision-making process, they can rally behind the collective good you’re doing.

2. Find out what your customers care about

Your employees aren’t the only people who could help make this decision: your customers have opinions too. Find out what causes are most important to your customers before choosing a partner to align with. Depending on the size of your business, you can do informal surveys at the register (“We’re looking for a new charitable partner to support. Are there any causes that are especially important to you?”), send out an email blast asking for feedback, or even include a survey on your social media pages. Some businesses, like UncommonGoods, support multiple causes and give each customer the option of which charity will benefit from a purchase.

3. Decide how — and how much — you’ll give back

Not all givebacks have to be financial in nature, although many are. Talk to your senior leadership team and decide how and when you’ll give back. You may decide to give .05% of your net profits at the end of each year to a charitable partner. Or, you may dedicate one weekend during the year in which 10% of your proceeds benefit said partner. In that case, the charity might help promote the event ahead of time to drive customers. There’s no one right answer; it’s all about what works best for you.

Non-financial give back options could include giving all of your employees one or more paid days off per year to volunteer at a charity of their choice. This can be done on an individual basis (each employee chooses his/her cause), or in a team setting (the entire company partners to build a Habitat For Humanity house, for example).

Although recognition should never be the goal of a CRS program, it’s a nice bonus. Don’t be shy about capturing photos of your team giving back to share on your social accounts or display in your store. Your customers will appreciate knowing that your team is giving back. And they just might discover their next favorite charity in the process.

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As part of Strategic Funding’s corporate social responsibility initiative, we have chosen to support the Foundation Fighting Blindness. We will match up to $20,000 in donations made. To donate, please go to https://www.crowdrise.com/sfs-ffb .

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