February 18, 2022

3 Ways to Engage Stakeholders in Your CSR Programs

Just because you create an amazing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, doesn’t mean your customers or employees are on the sidelines cheering, let alone jumping in to get involved. So, how do you engage these stakeholders to increase your social impact? 

That is what we wanted to learn when we chatted last month with our client, Sarah Costello from the Tampa Bay Lightning, in an Engage for Good webinar, “How to Engage Your Stakeholders in Your CSR Initiatives”. The program Sarah manages, The Lightning Community Hero Program, honors local volunteers at each home game and awards a $50,000 gift to the nonprofit of their choice. They’ve found a way to engage fans, the community, and their players and coaches. We listened with an ear for what other companies could learn to better engage their stakeholders. 

Here are our 3 top tips:

1. Generate Excitement at the Point of Sale

One of the hallmarks of the Community Hero program is that at every home game the Lightning shares a video on a Community Hero, the nonprofits they support, and the work they do to improve the community. In addition to honoring this work, the video generates excitement among the players, coaches, staff, and 19,000+ fans in attendance. “It’s a standing ovation moment,” Sarah shared. 

While most businesses don’t have the captive attention of thousands of customers in one place at one time, there is likely some point of customer flow – be it online or in person. For example, how might you create a moment of excitement for your CSR programs at your point of sale? One way might be to have beneficiaries of your programs create their own videos showing the impact of your donation and then loop these on a monitor in your stores to spark discussion about your program. Or, if yours is an online business, you could create a photo library of your programs and promote it on your purchase page to let your customers know they are a part of your community impact. Explain it with something like: “Your purchase today helps us do good in the community. Take a look at our impact so far.” (And link to photo library.)

2. Foster Community Connection through Existing Communications Channels

Alongside the videos at home games, the Lightning issues a press release and shares information about the Community Hero and nonprofit on both the team and Foundation social media channels, which have nearly 750,000 followers. When possible, they tag the organization receiving the donation, so that fans and community members can connect with the nonprofit and learn more about their work. This has even resulted in donations directly to some of the nonprofits.

Are you using your communication channels to provide ways for your audience to get involved with your CSR initiatives? Even though most businesses don’t garner the media attention and social media audience of a professional sports team, you can still facilitate similar engagement through your existing communications channels. Each platform is another opportunity: social handles, blog, newsletter, partner communications, and employee portals and communications. Set a goal to share your social impact on each channel at least once a month to keep your audience engaged and inspired to participate.

3. Update Programs to Stay Fresh and Improve Engagement

The 2022 season is the 11th year of the Community Hero program, and the third major iteration of it. This season, the Lightning will allow nonprofits to apply directly to the program and nominate one of their volunteers to receive the award. The Lightning also began inviting players and coaches to nominate organizations, increasing their engagement over previous seasons.

Regularly adapting and innovating your program keeps your stakeholders from getting bored and can optimize your impact. Any company can adopt this ethos by periodically re-evaluating their CSR programs and approaches. Even if yours works well, consider mapping out internal and external stakeholders, how your program currently engages them, and what you could do to engage in different ways. “You don’t want a program to get stale,” Sarah explained.

The Bottom Line

By generating excitement, fostering community and connection, and making strategic program updates, the Tampa Bay Lightning has created a dynamic, engaging CSR program that is relevant to their community and inspiration in their industry. As a result of their work, other professional sports teams have requested guidance from the Lightning in order to create their own programs. And, your business can replicate Tampa Bay’s success by adapting their approach to your specific context.


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