Corporate Social Responsibility and Citizenship – a Public Relations perspective from PRSA on June 19

Lanah K. Hake, panelist for upcoming PRSA meetup

Have you heard of the PRSA Hoosier Chapter’s Fort Wayne Meetups?

The brainchild of Peter Schnellenberger, the meetups are aimed at connecting Fort Wayne’s talented Public Relations professionals. Because the topic hits home for nonprofits, Peter reached out to us about the upcoming June 19 PRSA meetup, “Corporate Citizenship: Fad or Differentiator?” (Register here)

Peter encouraged us to speak with panelist Lanah Hake Tarango, founder of LanahLink Social Impact Solutions, to learn more about the topic and how it applies to you.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Well, there is a range of semantics and vocabulary used to define this growing concept. It includes terms like Social Impact, Social Return on Investment, Triple Bottom Line, Strategic Community investment, and Corporate Citizenship.

A basic definition would be “helping business understand community impact with both internal and external relationships.” These include considering things from where the money goes to where materials come from and more.

We have more official definitions, like the one from the Harvard Kennedy School, but mostly this is what we’re talking about.

Fundamentally, it’s a shift from thinking of business in isolation to seeing the ripple effect of a business’s decisions and relationships in a local community and even globally.

When strategic, [CSR] has an opportunity to maximize both community outcomes, investment and enhance branding, talent attraction, staff engagement and a range of other desirable outcomes for business.

And we’re talking about the full range of businesses doing CSR – from one-person shops to $50 million corporations.

What role can nonprofits play in CSR? 

Nonprofits can continue to shift into more relationship, transformational, and storytelling roles with their business communities. Companies need nonprofits to be clear – to have real clarity around mission impact. This allows a company to weigh their values and goals with CSR and determine where they can best invest.

Nonprofits have an opportunity to build a relationship and when a business engages more strategically through CSR, they have a partner in that storytelling and mission impact – a win win for all.

For both companies and nonprofits CSR starts with clarity?

Yes. And that clarity about mission and performance helps determine the Return on Investment. Of course we’re not just talking about metrics and data – though that’s necessary- we’re really talking about the story. I like to think of it as the two languages nonprofits have to speak – the fiscal, metric language, and the storyline, or compelling narrative.

Through storytelling, nonprofits create the bridge for corporations to move from transactional giving to transformative impact.

So what does CSR look like locally?

I often say we are a community that cares and gives immense time and money, but there is untapped potential to be a community that cares strategically to maximize and leverage both investment and outcomes – this is where CSR comes in. The company telling the story is powerful for their branding AND the impact for nonprofits and community.

For example, if a company is able to say that they helped 1,000 kids graduate from high school who might not have made it without their investment, that’s impact. And it’s more tangible impact than simply saying, “we support the community” or “we support education” ” or simply responding to various calls for community help without any clear goal or giving guidelines. It sends a clear message that demonstrates values and purpose beyond the walls of that business.

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In short, speaking with Lanah, we learned that for business and nonprofit, motivation is key. Improving a company’s marketing and a nonprofit’s budget is one thing, but really investing in community outcomes creates lasting social impact that pays off well beyond the balance sheet.

  • The June 19 PRSA Meetup, “Corporate Citizenship: Fad or Differentiator?” (Register here), will provide an initial introduction to the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and what it means for Fort Wayne as we work to maximize our strategic investments in the community as well as the business bottom line.
  • Join them to gain a basic primer on what CSR and strategic community investment and messaging can do for our community that  already gives immensely, but has yet untapped potential to maximize and sustain that giving towards transformative change.

 

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