How NOT to do corporate social responsiblity

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Image Credit: zaveqna

I got an email today from a company looking to support nonprofit organizations.

Their first question of me:

Do you have suggestions about how I could go about finding non-profit groups in British Columbia that are looking for new funding sources?

Uh, toss a rock and you’re likely to hit one.

Their (not-so-mindblowing) plan is for nonprofit organizations to promote this companies members, and when the nonprofit’s supporters frequent these businesses, the nonprofit gets 3% of the value of the transaction. However, in order to get the 3%, the supporter would have had to print off and bring in a special form or make a booking with the companies through a special website.

Here was my response to their inquiry. Was it even worth a response?

Hi <name>,

I would say all nonprofit organizations in the province are looking for new funding sources. If there is a nonprofit in your community that you think is worthwhile, ask them.

However, having reviewed your site, I would not recommend this program to nonprofit organizations, as efforts directed to promoting the <member businesses> (which only give a return of $15 per person per year as per your estimates) would not be as valuable as efforts directed to promoting the organization itself, resulting in donations directly to the organization.

While supporting the nonprofit sector could be commended, requiring specific actions like printing a form from the website or booking through a unique website will likely result in people bypassing the fundraising requirements – resulting in business for your members, but not money for the nonprofit. If you want to truly support community organizations, don’t add strings. When you do [add strings], it’s a very thinly disguised effort to just make money for your own company.

Trina

$50,000 in creative services on offer for Vancouver/Calgary nonprofits

Near the end of my time at YWCA Vancouver, the organization was undergoing rebranding. A very expensive and time intensive endeavour. YW had most of the services donated, but it was still not cheap. And it was a bit of a pain (and I wasn’t even in the thick of it), but the results seemed pretty nice in the end.

One of the things I learned from the process is that it is VERY important for your creative company to “get” you. While they have experience and knowledge with marketing/branding, etc., your organization has experience with and knowledge of your organization, its clients and supporters. Don’t forget that.

So, if you organization could help further its mission through some donated creative services, read more below. I touched base with the previous two Vancouver recipients and they each seemed incredibly pleased with the process, though each year the recipients obviously go through some media training by Karo and stick to key messages (yawn).

Deadline: November 30, 2009 5pm

Forwarded message:

Karo Group, a branding agency with offices in Vancouver and Calgary, is giving away $100,000 in creative services to two non-profit organizations  – one based in Vancouver and another in Calgary ($50,000 each). This is the third consecutive year that the company has donated the services as part of its initiative, Karo Kaus.

Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) won Vancouver’s 2009 Karo Kaus grant. The rebranding transformed the company’s logo, website and communications materials while creating a unified brand that previously had not existed. Without the $50,000 grant, TUTS could not have afforded to do such a makeover. The 2008 Vancouver Karo Kaus recipient was Potluck Café and Catering.

For full details, visit http://www.karo.com/about/kaus.

James Cronk, TUTS ED was so excited about the experience he used all capitals.

WE RECEIVED MANY COMMENTS FROM OUR GUESTS AND SUPPORTERS THAT THEY HAD NEVER SEEN SO MUCH TUTS MARKETING – BUT THE FACT IS THAT WE DID THE SAME AS PREVIOUS YEARS – IT WAS JUST NOTICED MORE!

Granting timeline

  • Deadline: November 30, 2009, 5pm
  • Shortlist made by Karo employee committee: Early December, 2009
  • Shortlisted candidates present to the Karo committee: January 12, 2010
  • Winning recipients notified: January 21, 2010
  • Creative work complete: End of 2010