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How to Run Great CSR Programs: CSR Expert Interview with Kendra Fogarty

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Joel Pollick • Founder & CEO

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is on the rise with businesses of all sizes, and a majority of our customers are small-to-medium-sized businesses (50-1000 employees) that are looking to either launch their 1st corporate philanthropy program or enhance an existing “DIY-CSR” program. 

These businesses need a solution that is both customizable and affordable. They also need expertise, insights, and best practices because most of these businesses ask an individual employee (VP of People, HR Manager, Office Manager) or team of employee do-gooders (Cares Team, Culture Committee) to run great CSR programs. And that is on top of all their other roles and responsibilities! 

If you are someone responsible for a corporate philanthropy program or at a company looking to launch its first, then keep reading to learn all of Kendra’s expert advice from a recent interview with me (Joel Pollick, CEO at Percent Pledge).

How to run great corporate philanthropy programs

If it's hard, you're doing it right - it should be hard.

When someone is tasking you with this work, your first question needs to be ‘how do you plan to resource me doing this work properly?'

If you are tasked (aka “voluntold”) with managing your company’s CSR program, then make sure you have the resources and budget to make it successful! It might be a tough conversation, but if these programs are important to your business (as they most often are), then you need to make sure they set you up for success!

You need to understand what your boss wants from this program. What is their ‘Why?’

Also, after you ask this, Kendra shared some of what you might hear back: 

For some people, it's retention, talent attraction, brand, PR, or for public companies, investor relations. Now, a good program does it all, but you need to start with that understanding of why.

Stakeholder with EVERYONE.

A successful corporate philanthropy program brings in all stakeholders. So, once understanding the ‘why’ and the resources provided for the CSR program, it is critical to help teams within your company know how they will benefit from your corporate philanthropy program. Conduct a needs assessment:

  • Ask each business function: “What goals do you have for the year?”
  • Explain to each business function: “Let me tell you how this program will benefit you.”  
  • (note: you can use these Percent Pledge suggested starting points) 
    • Marketing – 9 out of 10 consumers would switch brands to one associated with social causes (B2C example) 
    • Sales – the majority of request for proposals (RFPs) now include sections on CSR (B2B example) 
    • Engineering – engineers are expensive, and CSR can reduce turnover up to 57%
    • Finance – per The CARES Act, we can deduct up to 25% of revenue with donations

Make sure that they know that you're not coming to take their budget. You're not coming to take their people. You're there to understand what problems they have that you might be able to solve. Some of them you can't solve, some you can. Find out what their problems and goals are.

The industry best practice is to give 1% of revenue and spend 10% of that on program operation.

To break down the industry-standard Kendra describes above, take this example of Company A:

  • $10,000,000 is their annual revenue
  • $100,000 is their minimum annual give (1% of revenue)
  • $10,000 is their minimum annual spend (10% of give) 

In this example, Company A’s minimum annual CSR budget would be $110,000, which includes both their give (e.g. donations, volunteer hours, etc.) and their spend (e.g. salaries, software, etc.).

To clarify, the annual corporate philanthropy budget is “if you’re giving $100K, you need another $10K to run it for a total program budget of $110K.” 

What gets measured gets managed.

To start or run a successful and effective CSR program, it must be measurable. If you can’t measure your success, you can’t manage, market, or leverage your social responsibility. 

When someone asks you to either improve or start something, you ask them ‘Why? What do you hope to get out of it?’ Whatever they hope to get out of it, you're going to have to show them they got it, right? ‘So, if you want me to improve employee engagement. How do I measure that?’

And, if measured, then you can easily show the success on the ‘why’ of your workplace giving program, whether it’s engagement, retention, talent attraction, brand, PR, or investor relations.

When you think about a broader corporate philanthropy program, it has to have an identity and your identity. If it's a corporate CSR program, it has to align with your corporation.

Corporate philanthropy programs need to have a story to tell. They need to make a positive impact to market it to your internal and external stakeholders. This means cause-themes for your CSR program do not all have to be brand-aligned, but they have to be brand-aligned first and foremost. 

And when you think about CSR, it's not just dollars. We used to say time, talent, and treasure. But we also say ties, meaning your network, your connections, who are your suppliers, and how do you bring them into your CSR program?

A successful workplace philanthropy program brings in all stakeholders while staying brand-aligned. For example, Kraft Heinz does a lot of CSR work for childhood obesity and food scarcity. 


You have to align your CSR to your brand identity. It has to be a fit, or you lose that reputation boost. You lose the ‘why’ because it doesn't line up.

You are the expert on your CSR program. Every CSR program is - and has to be - unique to that company.

Last but not least, many people want to add their input, but no one can set this CSR program but you. So, read more articles on tips and tricks to launch or run your corporate philanthropy program, but remember, this is your program, and only you know what is best.

*Disclaimer these opinions and ideas are Kendra's not UScellular's*

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