Six ways start-ups can do corporate social responsibility

Traditionally, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been seen as the obligation of large corporations. But as consumers become far savvier about the brands they are buying into, it is becoming more important for small businesses to think about their corporate image. But how can start-ups launch a viable cost-effective CSR strategy that makes a different without breaking the bank balance?

1. Get everyone involved

Consider introducing a company-wide pitching process where staff members can propose a charity and the rest of the organisation has to vote for the one to proceed with. Involving staff in the decision making process and achieving a consensus for the charity to support will increase their propensity to get involved with fundraising activities.

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Though your business may have the best intentions for supporting great causes, it is important to set realistic CSR objectives.

Select one charity partner to work with each year as this ensures all your fundraising efforts are channelled into one place and your business will be able to reach its targets much quicker. Having several projects and charities running simultaneously will make it extremely difficult to see any one of them through to completion.  

3. Appoint a committee

With limited funds available it is important for your business to have a thorough plan for what you are trying to achieve, with measurable objectives. In order to draw up a comprehensive CSR strategy you will need to appoint a dedicated team who are willing to donate a little bit of extra time outside of working hours.

There are several personal benefits for staff members who join extra-curricular staff organisations. Being part of the CSR committee is a great opportunity for your staff to demonstrate leadership and management skills outside of their role. Allocate a person or small team for each function – chairman, treasurer, publicity, secretary – and always have a pool of willing volunteers on standby. This will ensure actions are delegated fairly and the organising of key events does not become a burden on very few members of staff.

4. It doesn’t have to be expensive

While every charity needs money, human resource is often needed just as much. Most charities are in desperate need of man-power to help with anything from volunteering at events to shaking a bucket on the high street.

Sharing your employees’ professional skills to a charity or its end users is another easy, cost-efficient way of giving back. For example if your chosen charity has a limited online presence, consider lending your web developers for a day to help re-vamp their website and establish a basic social media schedule. This partnership means the charity becomes more self-sufficient and better equipped to make use of their existing resources so it can make a real difference.

5. Think local

It is likely that there are a lot of local community initiatives around your business that are in desperate need of funds or your time, so scout around before you immediately start looking at bigger national charities. Local charities often have much smaller financial budgets to spend on big marketing campaigns to recruit volunteers or raise money and as such often get overlooked.

Launching a partnership with a local community initiative can help build great long-term support for your organisation from those within your immediate vicinity. One of the best advantages of supporting a local charity is that the results of your time or fundraising efforts are immediately noticeable.

6. Keep fundraisers realistic

You don’t need to host huge fundraising dinners for your charity. In fact, hosting several small scale fundraisers is a great way of ensuring you have a continuous stream of donations coming in and it means you can plan CSR events more effectively. Organising internal social events instils a greater sense of community within your organisation and will increase your employee’s propensity to participate and donate.

There are several fundraising events that are cost-efficient and require minimal organisation but can yield significant amounts of money for your chosen charity. Company quiz nights, bake-offs, sponsored hikes or bike rides all encourage a healthy sense of competition for a great cause and will guarantee high attendance.

"Having all hands on deck is essential for any small business that wants to establish a comprehensive CSR program," Jared Keleher, chairman of the CSR Committee at Expert Market says. "This year Expert Market recruited 16 staff members into its CSR committee which has resulted in more charity socials and volunteer sign-ups than ever before. Having a large committee means we can maintain a steady stream of fresh ideas whilst ensuring there are always people around to turn the ideas into a reality."

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

Jessica works for Expert Market.

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