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CSR Study: What every CSR Manager should be doing, but isn't

Ashland Stansbury

Overview: After talking to more than 50 companies across the country who give back, we were shocked to learn these findings. We compiled them for you to give you two tips that are being missed by most CSR managers. Hint: they have to do with measuring the actual business impact of your charitable initiatives.

We’ve been chatting with more than 50 companies across the country who are all doing some form of giving back. In all different industries and company sizes (but mostly spanning 1000-10000 employees).

And this is what we’ve learned:

First, we asked these CSR managers if they think they have a clear CSR strategy.

60% of them said they believe they have a clearly defined CSR or giving back strategy. And the rest all said they at least do some type of “here and there” volunteering or donating.

Then we asked the question that is quite difficult to answer...


Why do you do it?

The first answer is always about the social mission. Whether you're reducing your environmental impact, promoting diversity in the workplace, or volunteering in your local community, your mission is the passion that drives your CSR initiatives.

Your social mission is your why. But often, it gets mistaken as your goal.

For many companies, the social mission is the only goal that's being set. So, the amount of resources that can be dedicated to the their Corporate Social Responsibility is always limited by how much "extra" money they have to give.

This is why Corporate Social Responsibility is often not being considered a "key business function" like Marketing or Finance.

But what if it didn't have to be limited? And what if CSR could be proven to be a key business function?

For most non Fortune 500, for profit companies, who don’t have endless amounts of money and resources to expend, your social mission can’t be the only goal.

​After hearing the passionate descriptions of the social impact each company is driving with their CSR, we pried in deeper and finally learned more about another (lofty) goal most businesses are setting in relation to their CSR programs.

75% of businesses admitted they were doing CSR partly for their reputation.

To look good in the community.
Like Beyonce in this GIF 💁‍♀️

To make people love their brand. Both with employees, and customers.

These answers I finally heard in these personal conversations are what no one ever wants to talk about.

Out of all the companies we talked to, only 25% said they’re actually measuring how they're reaching their brand/reputation goal with their CSR.  And even the ones who said they were, still had very lofty ideas of how they were accomplishing these goals. They're often not rooted in metrics.


So, most CSR Managers are setting goals to better their reputation or perception in the community, but they're having trouble actually measuring how they're meeting those goals.

They're missing the ball.

This brings me to the two things every CSR manager should be doing, but isn’t:

#1 Setting clear, concrete business goals.
What we heard from the business goals most CSR managers are setting is that the goals themselves are lofty. I heard statements like these over and over again:

“We want to be the company that our community loves”  Or, “We want our employees to want to work here”

Don’t get me wrong. Those are incredible goals to have. At a high level. But, if you don’t set more concrete milestones like increase brand loyalty by x% or customer attendance at volunteer events by x%, how will you ever achieve those high level goals?

That brings me to the other major part of the equation most CSR managers are missing:

#2 Measuring the clear business ROI.
Most CSR Managers are missing the clear action steps to get there.

Out of all the companies we talked to, I was shocked to hear this finding:

60% of them admitted they’re not regularly marketing their charitable initiatives externally to their customers.

And for those that said they were marketing their CSR to their customers, they admitted they’re having trouble measuring the engagements with their initiatives. And they’re having even more trouble tying those engagements back to business goals.

They admitted the same with their employee engagements.

These findings lead me to this important conclusion:

Most CSR managers have a huge missed opportunity.


Not marketing your CSR initiatives is like keeping the milk in the fridge while you eat warm chocolate chip cookies. It's a huge missed opportunity! Corporate Social Responsibility is the single most authentic and personal way to connect with your community today. With employees, customers, and your greater community.

While most of your competitors are in ‘feature battles” like this one:

"Our 👟 are the most comfortable." "Our🚗 is the fastest."

"Oh and by the way, did you know we're the best 🚗 makers too?"

You have the opportunity to talk about something different. To connect with your community on a deeper level. This feature battle strategy is becoming increasingly ineffective when it comes to igniting a movement of followers to love your brand. Your community expects you to be giving back in unique and authentic ways.

The major reasons for this shift in priorities are:

#1 Millennials expect it...
We now have a massive generation of Millennials, accounting for nearly a third (30 %) of our U.S. population, and spending
$200 billion annually.

84% of millennials make charitable donations and 74 % are more likely to pay attention to a company’s message if it has a deep commitment to a cause.

2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey revealed that “56% of Millennials have ruled out working for a company if their values don’t align with their own. Many value purpose ahead of profit and therefore value businesses that focus on social responsibility as much as revenue” (The Happiness Index).

#2 Employees expect it...
The Cone Communications Employee Engagement
study revealed that 51% of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments and 74% say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work.

#3 And, you guessed it. Customers expect it.
More than
88% of consumers think companies should try to achieve their business goals while improving society and the environment. And 83% of consumers think companies should support charities and nonprofits with financial donations.

​In 2015, Nielson published its annual Global Corporate Sustainability Report. It indicated that, globally, 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand.

So back to the actual business impact of CSR.
Only few studies have been done to prove the actual business impact of CSR, because most companies are shy about releasing this information.

Giving in Numbers, a study published by the CECP that analyzes giving and corporate societal engagement trends, revealed companies that increased giving by at least 10 percent between 2013 and 2015 actually experienced upticks in revenue and pre-tax profit, while all other companies saw a decrease in both.

Some great examples of companies whose brands have been elevated so drastically by their social mission that their products have become secondary, are
Patagonia, Warby Parker, Tom’s, Clif Bar, and Ben and Jerry’s.


Patagonia's CSR Marketing campaign to demonstrate their dedication to environmental issues


Ben and Jerry's social mission product campaign to promote awareness for climate change

​If you’re a CSR Manager, you know you’re driving meaningful business impact like these companies. You can feel it. You hear all the comments from your sales team and your HR team about how much everyone’s loving the work you’re doing. All the positive correlations.

But you just don’t know with concrete data.

This is exactly why we started our Boston based startup Because. Our ultimate mission is to empower all business to be able to make a meaningful social impact, but we recognize that by building a clear business case for giving back, we can not only help more businesses to give, but help businesses like yours to give more.

We’re building a CSR engagement & analytics tool to help you:

1. Engage & track your customer interactions with any campaigns, content, or initiatives related to your philanthropic work, and
2. Measure how those engagements are affecting customer relationships. Using measurement of business KPIs like brand loyalty, NPS, retention, and customer engagement.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Because can help you fill this missing piece of your CSR equation, feel free to reach out to me at or find a time to chat with us below.

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