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03/06/2012

You Get What You Give Back

By Holly Mason

Whether you�re a global powerhouse or a local non-profit, it can never hurt to give. Here�s why building a philanthropic brand is ultimately good for business.

Over the past four years, a study by Edelman has consistently shown that corporate social responsibility (CSR) strengthens consumer perceptions about brands. What�s more, the numbers even suggest a connection between that good-will and the bottomline. Last year�s results, for example, indicated more than 70% of U.S. consumers are willing to buy from brands that support good causes, and 65% worldwide say they trust socially responsible brands more than others.

While the obvious value of philanthropy is found in doing good for others, the business advantages are becoming increasingly tangible. By investing in social responsibility, brands are positioning themselves to win loyal followers � and in turn, to drive their financial objectives. It seems what goes around actually does come around.

Of course, launching a meaningful CSR program in any organization takes careful thought and planning. Here are a few of the perks � along with the potential pitfalls:

Keep It Real

It�s not enough for a business to simply declare its good intentions. Brands must become actively involved in making their communities and society better. Consumers can sniff out lip service and window dressing, and they aren�t shy about blasting brands that come off as insincere. At the very least, they�ll simply choose to take their business elsewhere.

True advocacy happens at the nexus of integrity and inspiration. Business leaders stand to gain the most when they choose causes that not only support their corporate mission, but also mirror their customers� values.

Serve Yourself

Community service and other initiatives can foster employee retention by building camaraderie and boosting morale. And when it comes to recruiting, there�s no better place to find like-minded (i.e., equally selfless) candidates.

Networking 101

Volunteering gives businesspeople a rare opportunity to meet other community leaders in a less formal setting � including potential vendors, employees, mentors, clients, strategic partners and even investors.

Instant Karma

When businesses connect with their communities, people see them in a new light. Suddenly, business leaders are seen as authentic, concerned members of society. Corporations become more human, even to the people who work there. And ultimately, it helps foster trust among employees, customers and prospects.

(Almost) Instant Gratification

One of the purest benefits to organized philanthropy is that it just feels good. This can be especially true for businesses that don�t always see the fruits of their labor. And while stacking cans at a food bank or running a 5K might not seem as impactful as serving food at a soup kitchen, it all provides a sense of accomplishment. Plus it all makes a difference in the long run.

From Tory Burch to McDonald�s to Target, the greatest brands create staying power by adopting and promoting a cause. In leveraging their influence to serve the greater good, these companies endure in the hearts and minds of customers.

Today, smart businesses and their leaders are building brand equity by acting on their conscience. And in giving back, they�re realizing much more significant returns.



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