Do you know the six types of corporate social initiatives?

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Companies across Canada and around the world, from “Mom & Pop” shops to multinationals, are making serious efforts blend profit and purpose. Whether it’s called ‘corporate citizenship’ or ‘cause marketing’, a huge amount of jargon has emerged around the concept of integrating cause and commerce.

The 2012 book Good Works! written by Companies & Causes Canada founder David Hessekiel, professor of marketing Phillip Kotler, and social marketing expert Nancy Lee offers a comprehensive way to categorize the many ways companies do well by doing good. Understanding these categories can help nonprofits lead a richer discussion with current and potential corporate partners, enabling a more thorough exploration of all potential opportunities.

The six types of corporate social initiatives are as follows.

Cause Promotion leverages corporate funds, in-kind contributions, or other resources to increase awareness and concern about a social cause or to support fundraising, participation, or volunteer recruitment for a cause. Well-conceived and executed cause promotions can improve attitudes toward a company; generate consumer traffic, sales and increased loyalty; and motivate employees and trade partners.

Example: In Spring of 2016, Pet Valu asked shoppers to donate $2, $5 or $10 and receive a Pet Valu PAW paper icon symbolizing their support of animal welfare and rescue. This and other in-store and social media efforts raised $2.0 million for animal charities across Canada.

Cause-Related Marketing links monetary or in-kind donations to product sales or other consumer action. What most distinguishes cause-related marketing is the way it links a corporation’s level of giving to consumer action. Because of that linkage, cause-related marketing initiatives often require more detailed agreements and a higher level of coordination with nonprofit partners involving important activities such as establishing specific promotional offers, developing co-branded advertisements, abiding by state regulations and industry guidelines, and tracking consumer purchases and activities.

Example: Each year on Camp Day, Tim Hortons donates all proceeds from coffee sales to send children in need on summer camp experiences. In 2016, the effort raised $12.6 million — enough to send 19,000 kids to camp.

Corporate Social Marketing uses business resources to develop and/or implement a behavior change campaign intended to improve public health, safety, the environment, or community well-being. Behavior change is always the focus and the intended outcome.

Example: Samsung Canada’s Look at Me App, developed in partnership with Autism Speaks Canada, helps to develop gesture-based communication and eye-contact capabilities for children living with autism.

Corporate Philanthropy involves a corporation making a direct contribution to a charity or cause, most often in the form of cash grants, donations, and/or in-kind services.

Example: Indigo Books & Music Inc. founded the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation in 2004 to address the underfunding of public schools, their libraries and the resulting literacy crisis. Through its Literacy Fund grant, the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation has committed more than $23 million to transform over 2,600 elementary school libraries across the country to rebuild their libraries with new books and education resources.

Employee Engagement activities support and encourage employees to engage with nonprofit organizations and causes. These efforts may include employees volunteering their expertise, talents, ideas and/or physical labor. Corporate support may involve providing paid time off from work, matching services to help employees find volunteer opportunities of interest, recognition for service, and organizing teams to support specific causes the corporation has targeted. Done right, these efforts fully integrate into existing corporate social initiatives and connect the employee activities to business goals.

Example: The Home Depot associates are encouraged and empowered to take a leadership role in the community through a program called Team Depot. From updating a youth shelter with a fresh coat of paint to improving storage solutions at a local transitional home to enhancing outdoor spaces, associates work with local charities to improve the homes and lives of thousands of deserving Canadians in need. Annually, The Home Depot associates contribute more than 60,000 volunteer hours to community projects across Canada.

Socially Responsible Business Practices are discretionary business practices that a corporation adopts and conducts to support social causes, to improve community well-being, and/or to protect the environment. Key distinctions include a focus on activities that are discretionary, not those mandated by laws or regulatory agencies.

Example: In 2016, Unilever, the world’s second-biggest advertiser and owner of more than 400 brands including Dove and Becel, has pledged to drop all sexist stereotypes from its advertising. The company has unveiled a global strategy to “unstereotype” its advertising and eradicate outdated portrayals of gender.

Having a solid understanding of the many ways in which a corporation might leverage its business assets to further a social issue allows potential nonprofit partners to widen the scope of conversation with current and potential partners. Digging into each of these areas can potentially open doors to new opportunities or budget line items when explored comprehensively.

David Hessekiel is the Founder and President of Companies & Causes Canada and Peer to Peer Fundraising Canada, both with upcoming Toronto-based conferences in November.

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