10 Steps to Launching a Successful CSR Program

corporate social responsibilityGood corporate citizenship is no longer a differentiator but is instead a requirement to remain competitive in almost any industry. Yet, many organizations have very little budget to support their CSR mission.

But a lack of funds doesn't have to mean a lack of a CSR mission. Empowering your employees to be your CSR ambassadors will help them to develop a stronger attachment to your company while giving back to their communities and working to make your operations more sustainable.

Here are 10 steps to consider in launching an employee volunteer program that supports your corporate citizenship, courtesy of Faith Welling, VP and director of corporate responsibility for ICF International and contributor to PR News' CSR & Green PR Guidebook Vol. 6:

  1. Define your CSR mission. Communicate it broadly and often. Introduce the CSR mission during employee orientation. Publish it on your website. Reference the mission statement in CSR stories in your company newsletter or blog. Take pride that your firm cares about being a good corporate citizen.
  2. Identify your employees’ passions and skills. Ask employees about the issues or causes that motivate them—such as addressing poverty, equity in education, environmental protection, etc. Keep in mind that what staff is already doing should carry more weight than their responses to a survey about what motivates them or how they would like to serve.
  3. Note the intersection of passion and mission. With the right nonprofit partner and some ingenuity, any compelling interest can be channeled for a philanthropic purpose. The most enjoyable and impactful volunteer experiences are those that engage employees’ passion in service to the community.
  4. Ensure senior executive commitment. Your volunteer program needs executive buy-in to ensure the best chance for success. If the C-suite supports the program and frequently discusses the volunteers’ accomplishments, they send a message that the volunteers’ work is important to the firm and to the leadership.
  5. Provide a framework. Bring together those with a common interest. Create a charter and set guidelines for the volunteer program. If your employees are based in multiple locations, consider connecting them across all offices. Help them share information, best practices as well as lessons learned.
  6. Let employees lead. Reserve the leadership roles for the volunteers, rather than management staff. Employee leaders will likely be more attuned to the interests and concerns of the other volunteers than would an executive leader. Allow the employees to set the agenda for the organization.
  7. Set goals and measure results. Create a forum to receive and evaluate employees’ ideas for projects or other activities. Consider weighing recommendations based upon group interest, ease of implementation, likely impact, and resources required. Measure your progress and report your achievements—even if you don’t meet your goals.
  8. Provide support. Consider how your company can support the volunteers to make their efforts most effective. At a minimum, it’s important that the firm pays for whatever expense is associated with the volunteer activities.
  9. Recognize and reward employees’ accomplishments. Your executives should talk about the volunteers’ accomplishments at every opportunity. Create an employee awards program and recognize volunteers for leadership, hours served, or impact of their contributions. Consider incorporating volunteerism into employee evaluations.
  10. Trumpet your volunteers’ success. Following a volunteer event, capture and report the details of the event, such as the number of volunteers, the hours worked and the impact of the event. Collect summaries of all your volunteer projects—the data will tell a powerful story of a company and its employees who invest in their community.

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene