5 Ways to Support a Cause While Growing Your Business
Celebrities are no longer relying on accolades to define them. When Oscar winner Patricia Arquette made her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress, she didn’t offer her thanks and exit the stage. She used the platform to champion wage equality, winning a standing ovation from the star-studded crowd.
Philanthropy has become a marker of a good celebrity. Angelina Jolie has created a personal brand around her connection to causes she’s passionate about; other artists have joined Artists for Peace and Justice. Fans respond eagerly to these personal agendas because they’re authentic and passion-driven.
Consumers now expect the same benevolence from the businesses and brands they support. In fact, according to recent research, 87 percent of consumers say they consider a company’s corporate social responsibility very important when deciding where to buy.
Both celebrity and corporate giving face the same core challenges: establishing a brand message and aligning that with a relevant cause. Taking a social stance can provide a competitive advantage that goes much deeper than a flashy product or an Oscar. It shapes consumer perceptions, creates a trajectory of positive word of mouth, and influences share value and investor engagement.
87 percent of consumers say they consider a company’s corporate social responsibility very important when deciding where to buy.
You don’t need celebrity status to rally support around your cause. Here are five ways to make a positive impact on both your business and the cause it supports:
1. Decide Who You Want to Be
Before creating a strategy oriented around social action, you need to determine what reputation you want to develop. Sit down with your team and ask, “What do we want to be known for in the future? What will make the most positive impact on our brand and provide the best outcome for all stakeholders?” Once you uncover those qualities, make sure they tie into your core values.
However, don’t align your company with a charitable cause purely to increase revenue and establish a brand reputation. Your connection must be authentic to resonate with your audience and gain traction.
2. Focus on Fixing Problems
Rather than find an opportunity to give back, work to fix an existing problem or develop a solution through your philanthropic efforts. Environmental issues and other areas once confined to the public sector now welcome and desperately need corporate support to solve problems. For example, the pressure on water and energy resources has made the issue fair game for everyone to collaborate on and solve. Match your philanthropic energy with a problem that your team is uniquely qualified to help solve. Your change-focused mentality will naturally draw attention and support.
3. Structure Your Business for Good
Philanthropy isn’t simply a tax break at the end of the year or a sentence in your brand statement; you can structure your company to give back and achieve your business objectives at the same time.
Take New Belgium Brewing Company, for example. Kim Jordan co-founded this craft brewery and constructed the brand around her passions for sustaining the environment and empowering workforces. The brewery pays extra utility charges so its power supply can come from a clean source, uses energy-efficient kettles, and has been 100 percent employee-owned since 2013 through its Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Don’t be hesitant to invest in your cause; the brand support you gain will pay dividends.
Taking a social stance can provide a competitive advantage that goes much deeper than a flashy product.
4. Align Your Cause With What You Do Well
To make a meaningful social impact while running your business, align your philanthropic activities with the areas you already excel in. This way, your generosity will strengthen your brand and further your business goals, rather than confuse them.
Say you run a food business, for example. Your philanthropy could focus on supporting sustainable farming projects or providing food to low-income families in your neighborhood. Stick to your core mission, and your cause and business can work hand in hand.
5. Sponsor a Cause as a Team
By engaging your employees and shareholders in a proactive social strategy, you can make a deeper imprint on the causes you’re passionate about.
Match your philanthropic energy with a problem that your team is uniquely qualified to help solve.
Start by engaging your team in a discussion and sharing your thoughts and actions on social media to generate buzz around your community efforts. Sponsor causes as a unit or do community work or fundraising activities together. You’ll not only promote a tighter team bond, but you’ll also draw attention to what your company is up to.
Just as Patricia Arquette’s speech motivated other celebrities to support causes they’re passionate about, championing social action as a business has a similar multiplying effect on your peers and competitors. Your generosity might not get hundreds of movie stars on their feet cheering your name, but your customers and community won’t forget it.
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