Understanding corporate social responsibility (CSR) – Reflections from IAFP 2015

publication date: Apr 7, 2015
author/source: James Temple

James TempleWe all understand the importance of training talented people, keeping the lights on and making an impact on the community, but are there innovative ways that fundraisers can best match purpose, values and capabilities to deepen the effectiveness of relationships they build with corporations?   As the world changes around us, so do the opportunities related to how to better steward time, talent and treasure across sectors.   

It was that kind of thinking that helped to drive this year’s ‘Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)’ plenary at the International Association of Fundraising Professionals conference in Baltimore. I had the opportunity to sit on this panel alongside leading companies like Google and American Express.  Here are three powerful insights that I took away from the conversation that can help you energize your relationship management skills:

1.   Understand how the world is changing and what continues to make your organization relevant

At PwC, we talk about five key mega trends impacting the world around us:  Technological breakthroughs; Rapid urbanization; Demographic and social change; Shifts in economic power; and Climate Change and resource scarcity.  These issues impact all people and all sectors.  That’s why CSR encompasses all of these considerations when reflecting on how a business integrates social, environmental and economic integrity into its operations. Values like building trust, data security, and solving important problems impacting the world are on the minds of corporate leaders today.  Building your case for support around your social mission in the context of worldwide change is critical.  This subtle nuance can be a make-it-or-break-it. 

2.  Be prepared to articulate your organization’s mission and strategy alongside your case for support

Understanding how your not-for-profit’s mission and values are integrated within your organizational strategy is critical. It will also help you created a shared language across sectors, and relate your work to a broader CSR agenda.  It provides you with an opportunity to find new avenues to discuss how your work complements a business’s human capital, supply chain, or procurement portfolios by example.  It can also support you in connecting-the-dots between how your nonprofit might create mutually beneficial opportunities related to the technical capabilities of a business’s operations.  Can you help train up new employees through skilled volunteer experiences that enhance recruitment and retention priorities and create a win-win?   This goes well beyond a traditional philanthropic pitch and can support you in coming from a place of great strength to help level any potential power dynamics.     

3.  Remember the basics of good relationship management

Relationships drive value creation. It is important to look for ways to develop meaningful, trust based relationships with people inside a business and to be respectful of their processes and politics.  Make sure to formulate strong, open ended questions when speaking with key decision makers, and listen to them with an ear to understanding (make sure you don’t listen to respond).  These approaches will help to open doors, and combined with the other key insights above, can support you in meeting new people within a business that lead other areas within the supply chain.  These conversations can go well beyond dollars and cents.  Most importantly, if there isn’t a fit between your organizations, you’ll know immediately and save precious time and resources. 

As basic as these insights may seem, they can make big difference in helping fundraisers formulate stronger and more effective relationships across sectors.  Sometimes we forget the simple things in lieu of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  It’s easy to overlook the small stuff when we’re bogged down with extra work of the day to day. But from my point of view, it comes back down to always refreshing our skills and looking for new ways to augment our understanding about the world around us and how businesses are changing.  This is a critical insight that will define what leadership in the fundraising field looks like in the future. 

You can tweet me @CSRJames to share your thoughts, or read more about how PwC Canada looks at CSR and the many ways we support the professional development of leadership teams at Canadian Charities by visiting our website.

James Temple is the Chief corporate responsibility officer for PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada and director of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada Foundation. He oversees a team responsible for integrating good social, environmental and economic values into PwC's decision-making processes.  Contact him at 416-815-5224, james.temple@ca.pwc.com

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