Discover What Company CSR Executives are Thinking

Over the years, I’ve actually heard nonprofit managers and development professionals say:

“[That company] should give more.”

“I can’t believe [that company] is not giving. They certainly can afford to.”

“Corporations should do more to support their local communities.”

“Corporations should give back!”

The last one is my personal favorite because it’s complete nonsense. A corporation exists to produce a product or service and generate a profit for its shareholders. That’s it.

CSR Boat by Jack Temple via FlickrAs for “giving back,” corporations do so everyday even if they never donate a dime to charity or sponsor a charity program or event. Corporations meet a public need or desire by producing products or services. They employ people. They buy or rent from other businesses. They pay taxes. Their employees pay taxes and buy or rent things, which further stimulates the economy.

In a previous post, I wrote, “There’s No Such Thing as Corporate Philanthropy!” I explained, “Corporate Philanthropy does not, or at least should not exist. While corporations may give to charitable causes, it is not or should not be out of an altruistic sense of Corporate Social Responsibility.”

If corporations make donations, those grants should enhance shareholder value in some way. A contribution might have a direct impact on profitability or the effect might be indirect. Either way, the donation or sponsorship should strengthen the corporation, say many corporate executives.

Marc Gunther, a senior writer for Fortune Magazine, wrote, “I’m not a big fan of corporate philanthropy. Too often, it’s a feel-good exercise, generating little value for a company’s shareholders. At its worst, it allows CEOs to use other people’s money to glorify themselves.”

As corporate philanthropy, as a term if not a practice, began to fall out of favor, it was replaced with Corporate Social Responsibility. But, what is CSR?

Harvard University defines CSR strategically:

Corporate Social Responsibility encompasses not only what companies do with their profits, but also how they make them. It goes beyond philanthropy and compliance and addresses how companies manage their economic, social, and environmental impacts, as well as their relationships in all key spheres of influence: the workplace, the marketplace, the supply chain, the community, and the public policy realm.”

Nancy Racette, CFRE, Principal and COO of DRI Consulting, says, “Frequently there is a perception that companies should give because of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility,’ but do fundraisers really understand what Corporate Social Responsibility means to the corporations? Many corporations have staff that focus on CSR, but this doesn’t mean that they are focused on giving money away. They are concerned about the environment, human rights and profitability all at the same time.”

So, what are considered best practices in CSR? Does a CSR program bolster a company’s reputation? How does the company know one way or the other? How do companies keep on top of tracking, measuring and reporting impact? What is the future of CSR? What will the implications be for both corporations and the nonprofit sector?

These, and other questions, will be addressed in the session “Understanding CSR from the Corporate Perspective” at the AFP International Fundraising Conference (Baltimore, March 29-31, 2015).

Racette will ask the questions as she moderates a panel that includes:

  • Timothy J. McClimon, President at the American Express Foundation and Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at American Express
  • Diane Solinger, Manager of Employee Social Responsibility at Google
  • James Temple, Corporate Responsibility Leader at PwC Canada

You can gain valuable insights into how corporations view their CSR programs by attending this session at the AFP Conference or by purchasing the session recording following the Conference.

By the way, I’m planning to attend the Conference. Let me know if you’ll be going. I hope to see you there.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

7 Responses to “Discover What Company CSR Executives are Thinking”

  1. Michael, I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on corporations and philanthropy. I have long thought that most corporate give-back programs are a way for the CEO to purchase goodwill for the CEO. People purchase a product because they obtain a benefit from the product. The phrases at the beginning of this article upset me whenever I hear them. There is a group of people who work in the nonprofit sector that believe just because they are employed by a nonprofit that they are morally superior to anyone who works in the for-profit sector. That feeling of moral superiority is at the root of those above statements.

    • Wendell, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I, too, have heard the tone of moral superiority coming from some in the nonprofit sector. Such a tone is certainly not consistent with donor-centered fundraising. Just as being donor centered is appropriate and important when approaching individuals, it’s just as appropriate and important when approaching corporations.

  2. Thanks for this, Michael. Glad to know you are feeling well enough to go to Baltimore. I’ll look for you there.

    • Patti, thank you for your kind message. While I’m doing much better now, I’m still far from 100 percent. But, every week, things are a bit better. I’m thinking of the AFP Conference as the beginning of my “Back to Life, Back to Reality” Tour. 🙂 I’ll be at the #FRTweetup on Monday, 6:15 PM, at Leinenkugel’s Beer Garden. I hope to see you there!

  3. Michael, I can see the hackles on the necks of many of your readers at they peruse this post. I agree that corporate responsibility is far more than supporting nonprofits in their communities, but many in our sector do not seem to understand that. They see things through a tunnel vision, thinking only how and why businesses should support them financially, whether there is any reality to their thinking. If they think that businesses should support them, then they must develop a good case for their cause, and then they must communicate that case effectively to persuade the companies and their shareholders to get them to act.

    This presentation at the AFP Conference sounds like it will be quite interesting. I wish I was attending.

    • Richard, thank you for commenting. Whether a fundraiser is approaching an individual or a corporation, s/he must make a strong case for support and must answer the question: “What’s in it for the prospect?” Just as we need to understand what motivates individuals, we also need to understand what motivates corporations to give. Corporate giving programs will be much more effective if we do.

      I’m sorry you won’t be able to make it to the AFP Conference. It would have been great to see you over a nice adult beverage. Ah, one of these days.


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