Corporate responsibility has long been the subject of much debate in the business world. Some argue that businesses fulfill their responsibilities to society simply by supplying their customers with a good or service (i.e., the law of supply and demand). Others know that corporate responsibility is about more than only that.
In fact, corporate responsibility encompasses all aspects of a business’s philanthropic nature—often by participating in social change and encouraging their employees and consumers to do the same.
As an added bonus, corporate responsibility practices have the potential to improve any business’s reputation. Your small business values the relationships that you create with your customers. You rely on their support, and they trust you to provide the products and services they need and to improve the world in one way or another.
Having a company mission that appears unrelated to the product or service you provide may seem distracting or extraneous. However, survey evidence shows that customers want the businesses they frequent to express their values on cultural, environmental, and political topics.
So how can your small business practice corporate responsibility in these capacities? We’ll discuss four fantastic ideas that businesses like yours can leverage immediately:
- Partner with local nonprofits in your community.
- Share your positions and values with your customers.
- Promote corporate giving programs to your staff.
- Protect your customers’ private information.
Now, are you ready to learn more about partaking in corporate responsibility practices as a small business and what you can do to make the world a better place? Let’s dive in.
1. Partner with local nonprofits in your community.
One of the most impactful ways for small businesses to partake in corporate responsibility is by partnering with local nonprofit organizations that already do good work in the community.
As a bonus, these partnerships can also provide unique marketing opportunities, such as spreading brand awareness at fundraising events like charity auctions and galas. Here are three of the main ways that businesses can support nonprofit efforts:
- Financial contributions: This is probably what you think of when you hear the term “nonprofit partnership.” That’s because monetary gifts can make a huge impact on advancing a nonprofit’s mission. Donations can be made either as a traditional grant or as part of an employee corporate giving program (which we’ll discuss in more detail later).
- In-kind donations: In-kind donations are any non-monetary gift donated to a nonprofit. For example, take a look at Snowball’s list of top auction items—is there something that you could reasonably afford to donate to a nonprofit in your community? Alternatively, a restaurant or grocery store might be able to donate excess food to a food bank or similar organization.
- Volunteer hours: Another unique way for businesses to support nonprofits is by promoting volunteerism among your staff. To do so, you might encourage a group of employees to volunteer together at a local nonprofit on a day off, or offer volunteer grants to nonprofits at which your staff members already give their time.
Regardless of the method you choose, nonprofit partnerships are fantastic for corporate responsibility. You’ll be glad to see your impact on your community, and the nonprofit will surely appreciate the support.
2. Share your positions and values with your customers.
Your customers want to connect with your business on the causes that matter to them. You may assume that stating your business’s positions will distract or even drive away some customers. However, expressing your ideas and values regarding certain social, political, and environmental causes opens up the potential to attract new supporters and strengthen relationships with current ones. In fact, it’s actually a well-established PR strategy!
If this is something you choose to enact, you should dedicate sections of your website to this information so that your customers are aware of your positions. Your values are a central component of your business’s story, and you’re likely aware that an engaging narrative is an important part of your website. Include information on your business’s origins, your mission, and the causes that you support.
If the product or service you provide is relevant to your activism or advocacy, include documentation of the items or services in use.
Additionally, if your business is closely connected with a particular cause, you may even consider using online advocacy software to communicate with supporters and encourage them to join you in activist efforts. By engaging with your customers outside of sales transactions and demonstrating your commitment to the causes that matter to them, you can build stronger, long-term customer relationships.
3. Promote corporate giving programs to your staff.
Offering a matching gift program to your employees is a great way to kick off your corporate responsibility and give back to your community while encouraging your employees to support the causes they’re passionate about.
Here’s a basic overview of the way matching gift programs work:
- An employee makes a donation to an eligible nonprofit organization.
- The employee submits a request for their donation to be matched.
- You verify their donation with the nonprofit.
- You submit a matching donation to the organization (generally at a 1:1 ratio).
According to Double the Donation’s corporate giving statistics, more than 18 million people are employed by companies with matching gift programs. However, many of these individuals are unaware of the programs in place, meaning millions of dollars in corporate funding goes unclaimed each year.
As a result, many nonprofits have taken the responsibility of promoting these corporate giving programs to donors themselves through matching gift databases. This way, when donors enter their employer information in an online donation form, the software can automatically determine whether their gift is eligible for a match. If you’re interested in learning more about matching gift software (such as, is your business included in top databases?), check out this useful guide.
However, if you want to promote corporate responsibility within your business and support local nonprofits in one fell swoop, you can start by making sure your employees are aware of your corporate giving programs.
And if you don’t already host a corporate giving program, we definitely suggest starting one as soon as possible. It’s a fantastic first step into corporate responsibility. This way, you know you’re supporting the causes that your employees care about, which goes to show authentic leadership and increases employee engagement.
4. Protect your customers’ private information.
Another aspect of corporate responsibility is the importance of protecting your customers’ data. That said, it’s important to demonstrate how much you value your customers’ security by implementing practices that keep their information safe.
Data privacy is one of the most important components of corporate responsibility because it is the one that might have the most direct impact on your customers. However, it’s often overlooked because it’s not as flashy as some of the other ideas included in this list.
When businesses are not careful, security breaches can put customers’ information, including payment and personal data, at risk of theft and misuse. Your customers trust your business to keep their important data safe, which you can do by investing the time and effort into carefully securing your site.
If you created your business’s site with a widely-used website builder, consider investing in top-tier security plugins. These are designed to protect customers’ data and prevent unauthorized access to your website. Their costs and features vary, however, so do some research to ensure that your business chooses the right WordPress plugin (or equivalent) for your needs.
Taking extra steps to protect your customers’ data doesn’t have to mean sacrificing innovative ways of interacting with them. To practice corporate responsibility, however, it’s essential that your business prioritize security in relation to your customers’ information and transparency in relation to your activism.
Customers are more likely to develop lasting relationships with businesses that they feel have their best interests in mind, whether by keeping their information safe or supporting the causes they care about. Practice corporate responsibility by connecting with important causes, protecting your customers, and communicating your values openly.
As Giving Tuesday approaches, you’ll have a ton of fantastic opportunities to partner with philanthropic organizations in your area and give back to the community you live and work in. Good luck!
Author: John Killoran
John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations.
Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.