Coro’s Blog: On Purpose

Social Sustainability Roadmap 3rd Stop – Community Relations – Giving

Published on March 24, 2013

A series on CSR as a poverty reduction strategy & social innovation tool

In my last post I discussed two focus areas to build positive community relations – social hiring and accessibility. Now I’ll talk about a more familiar focus area for many companies – community contributions. But just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it’s static. Leading companies practise a progressive range of programs. Here is a taste of different types of donation programs that generate contributions from others:

  • Enabled employee donations (e.g. payroll giving) and customer, public or supplier donations
  • Matched employee, customer, public or supplier donations
  • Employee volunteer grants (dollars for doers)

LBG Canada, a community investment benchmarking group, refers to this as “leveraged resources” and encourages its member companies to measure and track the contributions leveraged from external sources, including government funding. By leveraging resources from others, your business can catalyze greater community benefits.

These are some of the traditional donation themes found within your typical company donation program:

  • Education
  • Social services
  • Health and wellness
  • Environment
  • Arts and culture
  • Sport and recreation
  • Civic leadership
  • Aboriginal people
  • Children and youth
  • Disaster relief
  • International development

I see emerging interest in donation programs targeted at:

  • CSR leadership
  • Regional & community economic development
  • Social innovation
  • Social enterprise development

In addition, now more companies align their community contributions to their business strategy and core competencies – all positive trends.

Properly designed, your community investment program could have far-reaching impact. When you develop your program, consider taking a “whole enterprise” approach to your community investments. We can learn from leaders such as Vancity Credit Union and Mountain Equipment Co-op. They use a holistic approach that leverages a full suite of contributions. These could include grants, sponsorships, products and services and employee contributions. They also embrace technical support, procurement/patronage, public policy advocacy and ongoing strategic partnerships. As well, they proactively pursue strategic public research, thought leadership, customer and supplier engagement and multi-stakeholder collaborations related to top priority issues for their customers and employees.

If you are inspired by this kind of progressive, holistic and strategic community investment activity, your company might also be interested in the qualities of a Transformational Company I developed for Canadian Business for Social Responsibility. These qualities position a company to contribute solutions to large scale social problems such as poverty, social unrest, obesity, hunger and chronic disease. It sounds daunting but it is possible to embed net positive social benefits into products and services; to have diverse, thriving and equitable workforces; and to expand opportunities for all population groups to become employees, suppliers, distributors or customers.

A community investment program is an excellent launch pad for companies that want to be transformational in the marketplace and in their communities.

For more information see: Community Giving on the Social Sustainability Roadmap.

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