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Research shows that companies with a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy — those that lead with purpose, create positive work environments, and give back to communities — can reap multiple benefits. They’re more likely to have engaged associates, are appealing to potential employees, and can be more attractive to investors. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed more than 36,000 people in 28 countries and found that 58% of respondents buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values, 60% choose a place to work based on their beliefs and values, and 64% invest based on their beliefs and values. Younger generations, especially, want to know how employers and brands are working to make the world a better place.

Consider these additional statistics:

  • Most employees (93%) today believe now, more than ever before, that companies must lead with purpose; 88% believe it is no longer acceptable for companies just to make money, that they must positively impact society as well.
  • 58% percent of organizations that currently have a strong and clear sense of purpose experienced 10% or more growth during the last three years.
  • 53% of executives who said their company had a strong sense of purpose said it was also successful with innovation and transformation efforts, compared to 31% of those who were trying to articulate a sense of purpose and 19% of those that hadn’t thought about it.

Forging Partnerships for Good 

“In 2022, a company's corporate social responsibility program and purpose aren't ‘nice to haves;’ they're table stakes,” said Alli Murphy, director of program development for Engage for Good, which is a membership group of corporate citizenship, social impact, and cause marketing professionals. “While stakeholders and shareholders alike expect this, it's also good business.” Murphy pointed out that when a company has a strong CSR program and leads with purpose, people are 78% more likely to want to work for that organization and 76% more likely to trust the company. “In the era of the ‘great resignation,’ it’s also important to know that seven in 10 employees expect opportunities for social impact,” she said.

One way that companies are working to bring about positive change in the communities they serve — delivering on the social aspect of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing criteria — is by partnering with nonprofit organizations that have ties in the community. Community-based organizations have unique insights about the specific needs and factors that exist for specific groups of people; working with them can help ensure that philanthropic and volunteer efforts are serving the greatest good.

“There are a variety of obvious benefits to building meaningful nonprofit relationships: increased positive visibility for your company in the community and boosting employee morale. It’s the right thing to do,” said Lance Chrisman, executive director of the Elevance Health Foundation. “Plus, for the employees involved directly in these efforts, it can help build empathy and gain a better understanding of your community needs, improve your health by reducing stress, and make you feel happier.”

Creating Successful Partnerships

Companies that are starting to explore the idea of a nonprofit partnership — or that are evaluating their current partnerships — need to determine what organization(s) would be a good fit for your company. The next steps are deciding what that partnership looks like, and how it will be mutually beneficial for both organizations and the community. Some key takeaways:  

Pick and Stick

  • Know what your company stands for. Find a focus that supports your goals and aligns with your company’s mission, and then find local nonprofits that share that same vision. Keep your focus narrow and don’t try to tackle too many goals. The narrower your focus, the greater your impact will be in the community.

Review and Measure Impact

  • To make sure your partnership is sustainable and beneficial to both your company and your partner, you’ll need to prove its return on investment. Gathering data on your financial impact, the success of your nonprofit partner’s programs, and the effect it’s having on the people you’re helping are just a few ways to measure this. Collecting these data points also provides your company with great storytelling opportunities to show how your company impacts the community. A great way to do this is to ask to see the nonprofit’s Social Return on Investment, which measures its financial and social impact.

Work Together

  • Collaboration is key. Include representatives across different parts of your business, from human resources and sustainability to marketing and communications, diversity and inclusion, and your foundation. Set up a cross-functional committee and include different points of view to make sure you’re looking at your potential partnership from all angles.

Engage Your Employees

  • Make it easy for associates to volunteer and get involved in your community efforts. Working together side-by-side with your employees to achieve one common goal deepens your relationship with them and your nonprofit partner, making your partnership that much more meaningful.

Form a Coalition

  • While partnerships between two organizations can plant the seeds of good, forming coalitions with multiple partners ensures the growth of your impact. We know that working in silos doesn’t work internally in companies, and the same goes for communities.

As subject matter experts in their fields, nonprofit organizations can contribute valuable insights to corporate teams working to make a difference in their communities. “A corporate-cause partnership that leverages both partners' unique assets is a powerful force,” Murphy said. Working together, they can help bring a company’s CSR strategy to life, making a measurable difference in the health of communities and the people who live there.

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