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If your company is actively pursuing a more invested, authentic approach to corporate social responsibility, or CSR, they’re on the right track.
After all, consumers are more skeptical than ever. According to a 2019 consumer survey, nearly 75% of respondents agreed that “when big corporations donate to charities and help with community projects, they’re doing it more to make themselves look good rather than help people in need.”
That’s a tough perception to overcome. But it’s also a major opportunity. When you approach your social responsibility initiatives with a true commitment to making positive lasting changes, consumers will seek you out and reward you with their business.
You’ll also build stronger bonds with your employees. A recent employee engagement survey shows that 51% of top talent wants to work for a company with strong social or environmental ties. People want more than money; they want purpose.
So, how do you make this shift toward impactful CSR?
Rather than donating to the traditional list of nonprofits each year, many companies are developing competitive grant and scholarship programs that focus on issues relevant to their brand. A strong CSR program seeks to understand and solve pressing social, environmental, or economic issues - or respond quickly to emergencies like COVID-19.
Whether you’re new to grantmaking or want to improve your current process, here are four tips for building a grant program that makes an impact.
Grant focus areas are the issues or problems your company is trying to address. They should align with your mission and have the potential for significant change.
For example, the pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation says, “We promote health equity and seek to improve the health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases. We do this by strengthening healthcare worker capacity, integrating medical care and community-based supportive services, and mobilizing communities in the fight against disease.” Their focus areas are cancer, cardiovascular, hepatitis, HIV, diabetes, and veteran health.
This makes sense. Disease prevention is their company’s mission and they have the expertise and context to know which grant projects would be most effective.
Open Philanthropy offers some great insights into strategic cause selection. They argue that passion for a cause often trumps critical review into which areas the foundation can make the most impact. Spend time talking to nonprofit leaders, employees, and other stakeholders to make sure the grant focus areas are a good match for your company’s strengths and resources.
To create the best outcomes from your grantmaking, you want to make sure you’ve gathered the broadest pool of qualified applicants. Start with publicity for your grant. Instead of just a brief description on your website, write blogs or post on social media. Generate a variety of content to establish your organization as a valuable resource and reinforce your commitment to the cause. Then, make it easy for busy nonprofits to apply. Keep these tips in mind when creating your application:
By making the selection criteria clear and free of bias, you’ll build trust with applicants while also ensuring you choose a nonprofit with the most potential to succeed. Here’s how to do that.
In older models of CSR, once a company sent a donation, that was the end of the process. However, if you want to be an integral part of the solution and see tangible results, there’s more to do.
Building a CSR model that’s genuinely seeking to support and improve the communities it serves is a sustainable and responsible strategy for companies today. By incorporating these four tips, you’ll begin to shift your company’s role from a donor to a true changemaker.