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  • Writer's pictureJaya Koilpillai Bohlmann

Causes and You

Updated: Oct 24, 2018

A few short weeks into this new year, and corporate crises already have started to make news. PR pundits are analyzing the Carnival Cruise crash in Italy, criticizing the CEO’s lack of presence in the situation among other areas deemed poorly handled. The Penn State scandal took on a sadder tone with the passing of Joe Paterno this past weekend – the university communication team nearly overwhelmed by the situation last fall and, many said, fell down on handling that crisis.

Chances are, this year as every other (and this an election year!) will see more scandals and crises. How are companies going to handle them? I believe you have to prepare, prepare, prepare. And… have a solid corporate social responsibility (CSR) program in place – BEFORE you need it.

By now, almost everyone realizes that customers, employees and other key stakeholders – internal and external-demand they treat people fairly, are transparent with their finances, help the earth, keep their products safe, buy locally, partner with other business responsibly and respond immediately to their concerns, needs and opinions. A survey conducted by Cone Communication in 2011 found that:

  • 81% of consumers say companies have a responsibility to address key social and environmental issues beyond their local communities;

  • 93% of consumers say companies must go beyond legal compliance to operate responsibly; and,

  • 94% of consumers say companies must analyze and evolve their business practices to make their impact as positive as possible

CSR has been linked to brand loyalty, increased consumer base and a wider recruitment pool. This is a crucial, reputation-building, positive foundation to have when a crisis hits. (Not “if”… “when” – none of us is immune to crisis.)

One key aspect of CSR is cause-related sponsorships and marketing partnerships with nonprofit organizations. Of all the many worthy organizations doing good things in this world, finding the rights ones for your alignment is crucial. The best CSR sponsorships and programs make sense for your business (like cosmetics and breast cancer or heart disease organizations; or sports apparel and game sponsorships… or even Paula Deen and diabetes! Whatever disconnect there seems to be between her sweet, fried recipes and diabetes, she now has an opportunity to inspire a different way of eating and cooking, if she chooses, among her fans.) 

Effective sponsor partners are:

  • Respected and established

  • Board of Directors and Executive teams are experts, have a track record in the cause and organization

  • Financials are stable

  • Have a donor and supporter base

  • Are able to attract funds and additional supporters

  • Share your corporate values

  • Provide access to desired markets and audiences

  • Are sponsor-savvy and friendly

  • Are desirably located (among your key audiences and business geographies)

If you choose wisely, your partner organization can offer you the following benefits:

  •  Credibility of the organization enhances your credibility

  • Provide opportunities to learn from the experts about your cause

  • Build a network within that cause area

  • Events create visibility opportunities

  • Increases your effectiveness on behalf of the cause – CSR impact is key

  • Offer CSR and cause-related executive visibility opportunities

  • Engage your employees around events and the cause, especially via social media

  • Enhance your company’s brand, overall, if managed well

Do you know any nonprofits that fit the bill? Any that you’ve worked with successfully? Tell us about it. And remember…

People know your CSR for its IMPACT, business ALIGNMENT, stakeholder ENGAGEMENT around it and your COMMUNICATION about it.

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