More and more, companies are aligning with community causes, certainly because they’re interested in making a difference, but also because it’s proven to be good for business. In fact, a poll of more than 25,000 citizens across 23 countries on six continents revealed that public perceptions of companies are shaped more by corporate citizenship than either product quality or business fundamentals (Reputation Institute, 2007).
So how do companies decide what matters most? With hundreds of thousands of charitable enterprises, and an infinite number of causes to support, how does Joe CEO decide where he’s going to direct his company’s charitable efforts?
There are essentially two approaches to take. One would reflect the more personal and intimate community priorities of the business’s leadership. What do Board members care about? Are there causes that have personally touched the CEO or other senior executives? What causes are meaningful to employees? This approach would ensure that a company’s community investment would be sincere, passionate, and borne from a true sense of caring.
The second approach really puts business interests first. What does the company stand for? What are its target markets, and what do people in those markets care about? What kind of reputation does the company have, and how could a cause alignment be leveraged to enhance that reputation. It’s no small coincidence that tobacco companies often publicly support programs that teach youngsters about the dangers of smoking.
In a best case scenario what matters to a company marries both of these two approaches. A strong cause alignment is sincere and heartfelt; it engages employees and executives in a meaningful way; it enhances a company’s reputation and resonates with customers, and it drives bottom line business interests.
- Identify a cause that genuinely resonates with your target markets, your leadership and your stakeholders.
- Align with that cause strategically so that it aligns with your core business interests.
- Use your cause alignment to your best advantage – to engage employees, drive sales, enhance reputation and develop consumer loyalty.