Here are ten simple steps to take when planning an CSR program.
1. Identify potential stakeholders and meet with each to explore their interest in helping plan and implement the CSR program. Think about synergies: If your cause is the environment, who benefits from having natural resources in their backyard? Partner sectors might include hospitality and tourism, cultural and historical attractions, restaurants and retail, and outfitters and guides. Think about their supplier/vendor relationships.
2. Bring all the potential stakeholder organizations together and hold a “brain trust” conversation about purpose, process and payoff. Set out your vision and invite their help shaping it—that builds ownership and buy in. Find the win-win for every potential partner. Use this strategic conversation to articulate a shared vision, define success, and examine potential challenges, solutions and breakthrough opportunities.
3. Determine how you want the initiative to be perceived and received—the branding, positioning, identity and distinctive niche it will fill or problem it will solve. Articulate how each party benefits, and what is the greater good.
4. Plan the implementation. Think about your marketing campaign from your stakeholders’ perspectives. How should you best present the opportunity; what collateral will you need to help market and implement your program? Appear organized, strategic and professional, and you’ll be received that way.
5. Practice makes perfect; try your presentation on a prospect that is not your biggest and best. Begin with a potential partner who could be an asset, but not your highest potential partner.
6. Meet with your prospect. Be a positive advocate for your program. Include individuals who can make the decision.
7. Don’t be afraid of rejection. All new ideas meet resistance along the way. Be prepared for difficult questions by thinking through responses in advance. Build a reservoir of Frequently Asked Questions that anticipates concerns. Be open to suggestions, refinements and improvements. If people have a criticism, ask them to suggest a better idea, approach or solution.
8. Follow through on every prospect. Often prospects need time to think about your idea and share it with their executive team or board of directors. Determine the proper timeframe for following up. Keep in touch with gentle overtures until you get a definite “yes” or “no” decision.
9. Remember: “no” may not mean “no.” It may mean “not now” or “we just had a management transition” or “we don’t want to be the lead, so we will reconsider when others sign on.” Dig deeper to find out the barriers to signing up, assess the veracity and try again at a more opportune time. When you attract other partners, your early prospects may reconsider; they’d rather not let their competition have the market advantage.
10. Plan for the future. Once your initial partnership is in place, consider how to expand into new areas and reach out to new audiences.
These tips were written by Janet R. Reingold, president of the Washington, DC-based Reingold, Inc.