A recent Twitter poll suggested that only 50% of organisations support any kind of charitable or corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR).  Whilst we wouldn’t want to claim that Twitter is the font of all knowledge, it does make the point that supporting a worthy cause isn’t something that all organisations think is a priority.  It often seems to be larger corporates who realise the benefits, while many smaller businesses think they don’t have the time or resources.

If that’s you – read on! 

We want to convince you that even a solopreneur can benefit from CSR.  There are potentially many benefits but we think these are the most important ones for smaller organisations.

Free publicity (who wouldn’t want that?)

Doing something good for charity or the environment can get you talked about, in all the right ways.  Whether it’s your staff posting good things about your business on their personal social media feeds or a press release you have distributed, positive news story can boost staff morale (more on that shortly), give your customers a warm, fuzzy feeling and help differentiate your brand from your competitors.

Even as a solopreneur, doing a sponsored bike ride (or your activity of choice!) gives you something else to talk about in your own publicity that isn’t just a sales message.  It builds your professional personality and your ethical approach – who wouldn’t want to do business with someone like that?

Happy staff (really!)

Happy staff, of course, means a happy workplace.  Employees like to be associated with an organisation that has a positive image; CSR can make a difference to how a company and its Senior Managers are regarded.   It’ll help encourage employees to talk positively about where they work too, leading to new business and new hires (without the usual marketing or recruitment costs)!

Staff often learn new skills from CSR projects, providing cost effective professional development and more confidence to take on new tasks in their role at work.  Setting targets and goals (as you would at work) can give staff a real sense of purpose and what about getting them to choose the charity and/or the activity?

Depending on what you choose, CSR can help form friendships in the workplace.  It is proven that employees who class their workmates as friends are more likely to find it difficult to leave an organisation, meaning greater staff retention.

Save money (yes, you heard right!)

Believe it or not, CSR activities have been shown to have financial benefits for business:

  • Happy staff (see above!) are generally more efficient in their work and more engaged with it, spotting any workplace issues before they become costly problems.
  • As already suggested above, it can help to reduce your recruitment costs.
  • Having a positive reputation will help you retain customers (and we all know that’s easier than getting new ones!).
  • That said, a positive reputation should also attract new customers, and having a positive CSR record could even help you get larger contracts, where these things might be scored.
  • If your project is an energy-saving or sustainability one, you should see some fairly quick savings on your business costs.
  • If you’re managing to get publicity for free, you may be able to reduce your paid-for marketing spend.
  • Finally, of course, as a business, you may be able to reduce your Corporation Tax bill to reflect charitable activities such as: donations of money, land or equipment, the secondment of employees or sponsorship payments.  (If you are a sole trader or partnership, the regulations on charitable giving are the same as if you were a private individual).  It’s worth speaking with your Accountant or visiting the Gov.uk website to check if your activities can be off set against tax.

Have we convinced you? 

Supporting CSR activities needn’t involve a direct financial investment; allowing the office to hold a Macmillan Coffee morning, for example, shouldn’t cost you anything but will pay dividends in general kudos.  If you can splash out for branded football shirts for your team to take part in that charity 5-a-side tournament, it will repay your investment many times over in the value of in publicity and profile.

So, what are you waiting for? 

Don’t let big business have all the ‘brownie points’; whatever size your business is, you will see the benefits of giving something back.

by Jane Perry, Flexible HR  jane@flexiblehrsupport.co.uk and Claire Sutton, Minerva Marketing Projects      claire@minerva-marketing.co.uk