According to a Harvard Business School article, it’s never been more important for businesses to be strong community members. 70 percent of Americans believe it’s somewhat or very important for companies to make the world a better place, and 77 percent are motivated to buy from businesses that are good corporate citizens. The importance of corporate responsibility is even higher for Millennial and Gen Z consumers.

For franchisors and franchisees, creating programs that support the community are a great way to foster brand awareness and good will for the business. For an emerging brand or a new franchise location it’s a strong and cost-effective marketing tactic.

How to Start a Corporate Social Responsibility Program

For businesses wanting to get more involved in giving back, there are some proven steps to help implement a corporate social responsibility program (CSR) that is a good fit for your company and your community.

Evaluate Your Core Competencies

CSR programs that work best play to the strengths of the business. For example, a franchise restaurant brand naturally fits with nonprofits that offset hunger in the community. Food Network star and owner of Duff’s CakeMix, Duff Goldman, partners personally with No Kid Left Hungry and Ike’s Love & Sandwich works to feed homeless youth. Founder Ike Shehadeh understands the issue personally, after he found himself homeless after a former business failed. Celebrity chef Fabio Viviani’s newest concept, JARS, donates a meal for someone in need through Feeding America and other Chicago food banks for each dessert sold. For electronics retailer PayMore its commitment to sustainability is even built into the business model, as they offer consumers a way to get paid for their unwanted electronics, rather than having them end up in a landfill.

Recognize What Issues Matter to Your Customers

People gravitate towards any business that gives back, but if your company gives back to a cause near and dear to your customer’s hearts it’s a bigger win. For example, nomoo is a plant-based restaurant. Both its founder, George Montagu Brown and many of its customers are animal lovers so nomoo donating 10 percent of proceeds to Mercy for Animals is a perfect partnership.

For franchisees, programs that are hyperlocal and give back to the community carry weight with customers. This could be anything from donating meals or gift cards to local schools and nonprofits like Curry Up Now does, to arranging special events for an organization like Duffs CakeMix does. Organizations simply register and recruit people to come decorate a cake on a specific day. When guests mention they are there for the charity, 20 percent of that sale goes to the organization.

Know What Your Employees Care About

Over 75 percent of Millennials evaluate how the company gives back before taking a job and 88 percent say their job is more fulfilling if they have opportunities to give back. During the pandemic, Stratis Morfogen, owner of Brooklyn Chop House and Brooklyn Dumpling Shop shifted focus to off-premise dining to keep his employees working. During that time the team also delivered meals to front-line workers. In total they served 8,000 meals in 16 hospitals and to first responders. Or create a program like PayMore where organizations can request volunteer help from PayMore management and staff for local fundraising activities.

Expand the CSR Definition

Being a good community member is more than annual giving and charitable marketing activities. According to a Cone Communications CSR study, people also consider how you treat employees to be part of a CSR program. In addition to supporting children’s charities, Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken also has a robust employee-centric culture that puts a premium on strong wages, work/life balance and perks like gym memberships. One of Taffer’s Tavern’s Pillars of Giving is a commitment to hire a minimum of 10 percent of Veterans into management positions.

Measure ROI

There are many different ways to quantify the success of a CSR program. A business needs to know the goal of the program in order to measure success. How much did your outreach impact the organizations you supported? Did it help build brand awareness? Drive traffic? Help recruit or retain employees? Any and all of these are reasonable KPIs for a CSR program.

With giving back being so important to customers, employees and the community, having a strong philanthropy program as part of a bigger marketing strategy is smart strategy for any franchise brand and franchisee.

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