Localize your efforts and make sure to describe what’s actually being accomplished.
Our EcoPulse ’13 study shows that a third of of consumers are swayed in their purchase decisions by a company’s nonprofit partnerships and donations.
When asked which corporate philanthropic activities would most positively influence them, 35 percent of respondents pointed to local community activities they could see, with 27 percent saying they are most influenced by programs to support local initiatives like stocking food pantries or promoting recycling, while another 8 percent say they most value companies sponsoring local employee-volunteer programs.
Far fewer (twenty percent) are influenced by national philanthropy initiatives, such as donations to health and human service nonprofits like the American Cancer Society (16%) or environmental organizations like the Sierra Club (3%).
A comparable number (nineteen percent) are most influenced by international donations or partnerships with health and human services nonprofits like UNICEF (10%) or international environmental organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (9%).
Align efforts with brand identity and localize, if possible
Obviously, whatever philanthropic activity you pick must align with your business and your target audience. If you are a company that makes personal care products, it makes great sense to direct your efforts to health and human services programs; if you make children’s products – towards education or child welfare initiatives. If your target audience is made up of outdoor enthusiasts, focus on environmental preservation efforts.
But the key take-away is to make your efforts visible at the local level, if at all possible. Sponsor local walks, clean-ups, etc. and involve your employees as brand ambassadors in the communities where they live. People care about what’s in it for me/my community and your efforts will be more salient if they can be seen with your customers own eyes.
Describe the impacts, not just what you are doing
These findings also underline the importance of publicizing your CSR initiatives through advertising; on-pack labeling and corporate sustainability reports for building your sustainability reputation and influencing purchase decisions.
And finally, to get the most impact, remember that people are more impressed by the actual impacts of an initiative than your investment totals. For example, readers are more influenced by the fact that infant deaths dropped by 50% in a region of Africa than they are hearing that you spent $100,000 on water-purification systems.