We thank our colleague Kim Patton for permission to re-post this piece, which appeared originally in Philanthropy Front and Center-Washington, DC.
Recently I had the privilege of traveling to Lagos, Nigeria, to conduct a training for a group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). (That's me in the middle of the photo, with some of the training participants.) As we near the end of our Funding for International Programs month here at the Foundation Center, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and observations from my experience there, particularly as it relates to corporate social responsibility (CSR) both domestically and internationally.
Many people still think of Africa as a poor, underdeveloped country. But while poverty, famine, and disease still afflict many of its nations, Africa has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. According to an article titled Cracking the Next Growth Market: Africa in Harvard Business Review (May 2011), Africans spent $860 billion on goods and services in 2008. The article goes on to say that Africa will continue to profit from the rising global demand for its reserves of oil, natural gas, minerals, and other natural resources. As a result, many corporations are trying to tap into that economic market. With that in mind, CSR was a big topic of interest during my training in Nigeria.
CSR is the concept that a for-profit business has obligations to look out for the welfare of its employees, the community, and society as a whole while making a profit. Companies display their commitment to corporate responsibility in many ways -- some give to charities, others organize community events, sponsor causes, or make a commitment to be more ecologically friendly. While some people view corporate responsibility as a genuine effort by businesses to reach out to the community and look beyond profit-driven motives, others are wary that some use corporate responsibility as a public relations or marketing tool.
What's in it for us?
In terms of corporate giving, many corporations will ask the question, "What's in it for us?" While many corporations view CSR as a way of giving back to the communities in which their employees and customers live and work, they also know that it can help increase their company's image and visibility as a socially responsible corporation. It has been proven that a company's reputation has a lot to do with whether or not we as consumers will choose to buy its products or services, which ultimately affects its bottom line.
Making your case
So when making your case for support to a corporation, always keep the three P's in mind:
- People – how does this help them reach more people or benefit their employees?
- Products – how does this help them move more products?
- Profits – how does it help them increase their profits or brand image?
Let them know upfront exactly what's in it for them! For more insider tips on how to develop effective corporate partnerships, our free class Introduction to Corporate Giving is definitely worth checking out.
What do you think?
On a final note, there's a new book related to this topic called Brand Aid: Shopping Well to Save the World. [Please note: The Foundation Center's New York library has just acquired this book for our collection.] The authors say cause-related marketing, a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a nonprofit organization for mutual benefit, inspires only shopping, not real social change. The authors use as an example the Product Red campaign, for which they argue consumers were asked to buy something that wasn't produced in Africa by Africans but was designed to help them. What's your opinion? Do efforts such as these do more harm than good? Please share your comments below.
In my next post Radical Retail, coming up in June, find out how some retailers are taking CSR to the next level, and learn more about building better corporate partnerships.
-- Kim Patton, Training Coordinator, Foundation Center-Washington, DC