How to Develop a Corporate Social Responsibility Program — Part 3: Back It Up

In this episode, we discuss Part 3 of developing a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, creating benchmarks. We discuss using data to influence or motivate the creation of your program. We explore how to build stakeholder confidence to invest in the program and how to use impactful stories to make a compelling case for your CSR program. 

Watch and Read Part 1: Research

Watch and Read Part 2: Articulate

Watch and Read Part 4: Advocacy

Watch and Read Part 5: The Pitch

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Karl Yeh:

So today I'm joined by Nicole Campbell, CSR expert, and we're talking about part three of developing a CSR program. And I think she calls us the back it up phase, but I'm not really sure what that means. So Nicole, can you elaborate?

Nicole Campbell:

Yes, it's a top secret information here though. So back it up.

This is [00:01:00] really I'd say one of the most important parts of building a CSR program, because backing it up is essentially the benchmarking and demonstrating to your potential stakeholders how much money they should be spending, what their programs should be looking like, and all of that good stuff.

And if you didn't already catch the first of the six steps for making a CSR program, make sure you check that out because [00:01:30] the research phase is definitely going to feed into this one here.



So when you're thinking about backing it up, there's a few reasons why you want to do this. And this is talking about from a benchmarking perspective.

You want to present external benchmarking information that might influence or motivate the need to actually change your program.

So for instance, if you are in a specific industry and you have [00:02:00] companies that you're competing for talent, for consumers, whatever that looks like, sometimes that can be enough to motivate someone to implement a program.

So if one company has a CSR program and you don't, you might be able to influence that change.

The second is building confidence with the right data.

So in a lot of cases, you may be going to pitch this idea to your stakeholders and maybe they like CSR or social impact but they [00:02:30] are running a business and they probably don't have extensive knowledge on what CSR looks like, what it should entail, what the budget should look like.

So you need to present this in such a compelling way that they feel confident that they can make a decision with whatever it is that you're presenting to them.

And the last part of backing it up is making it compelling with impactful stories. So it's not just the data, it's not just the context, you need to actually pull on some emotional heartstrings [00:03:00] to help get that buy in that you need.


There's a book called Switch if you haven't checked it out and they have a change management equation and it's logic plus emotion plus ease equals change.

So if you think about logic, that's where the data comes into play.

Emotion comes from the compelling stories. Maybe it's from people, maybe it's the data that I already shared about consumer expectations.

And then ease is demonstrating [00:03:30] that you know what you're doing, you have the data that ties into the confidence that I just mentioned, and a clear path that can get there that can equate to or result in change.

Most difficult phase in developing a CSR Strategy?

Karl Yeh:

Would you consider this one of the hardest phases?

Because in addition to research, right? Because you have to research all this data.

Then we go into the articulate phase, right? Which you can watch up here in the description below, but this one's a little tougher because you're getting closer to actually [00:04:00] pitching to all the stakeholders, everything that you've learned but more so, can you actually, like you said, back up everything that you've said from the benchmarking, to other companies in your industry, to even just the best practices?

Nicole Campbell:

This is the most challenging step.

And the steps leading up to this one are as important to get to this point in the first place. [00:04:30]

You need to know what it is that you want to be doing in the first place before you can even get to the point of pitching and backing it up.

And I should also add, we'll share a video on what components should be included in a CSR program.

So you can really think through some of the considerations of how you want your CSR program to look before you can actually start to back it up and pitch it to executives.

And thanks for that question. That's a great one. [00:05:00]

When you think about backing it up. So I mentioned the reasons for needing to have this.

Let's talk just a little bit around also understanding who your leaders are and your decision makers, to know how you should be best backing it up and what information is going to be most important.

Opportunist vs. Risk-averse leader

So there are a couple of different types of leaders, decision makers and I'm going to bucket them into [00:05:30] two types of leaders and there's going to be more.

And if you're presenting this to an executive board, or some sort of governing body with more than one type of decision maker, I understand it's a factor all of these things in.

But let's break it down to the opportunist and the risk of various type of decision maker as it relates to social impact.

Opportunist leader

So the opportunist, this is the leader that might have come from a different company already that loves CSR or someone who's [00:06:00] just... they're not afraid to make change.

They want to have that amazing purpose build culture. Maybe they just don't know how to do it.

So this is the type of person that you want to go in, and not just benchmark against companies that are in similar size and industry, they're going to want a little bit of that too, to know where they stand but you want to go in there and say,

"Hey, this is the art of the possible, this is where we could be. This is our current state, this is where we want to go, this is the best program, this is the money that they're investing and the types of [00:06:30] features that they have.

We can get there. And this is what it's going to look like." And then still show them how you would accomplish it. And that more specifics around that.

Risk-averse leader

Then you have the risk averse type of decision maker.

And this is the type of person that you want to present data in a little bit different of a way. So, they might be more willing to act out of loss aversion.

So if you don't do X, then you might not attract the right talent.

And you can have some of the [00:07:00] data points that we included on a different video, which are the benefits of CSR on your business:


You could say, "50% of millennials are going to be made making up the workforce by the end of this year. And 70% of those are willing to take a 30% pay cut to work for a company that cares."

That could be a great way to sort of frame this to someone who's more risk averse or disengagement costs the US over $480 billion each year.

[00:07:30] But social impact programs, as it relates to employee engagement can actually help increase productivity by 13% increased engagement by 7.5%.

So that's kind of where I would start the conversation and then benchmark against companies that you are directly in competition for with talent or consumers.

So then they can better relate to the why behind what it is you're doing.

And then again, all of this ties back into that articulate phase in step two, [00:08:00] that other video that you can check out in the note section.

Because if you aren't able to articulate those things and align it to the business, the risk averse person, you've lost them.

How long does the “Back-it-up phase” take?

Karl Yeh:

And how long does this whole process usually take?

Because in now I know it probably a difference from industry to company to company, but this seems like especially setting yourself up with all this research and all this data and to properly present it to either [00:08:30] their opportunist or risk-averse, that's at least a couple months, right?

Nicole Campbell:

Oh, yeah. It varies depending on the company.

And I think that it depends on what's going on in your business. How quickly can you access the leaders that you need to interview?

That stuff is really dependent on other people.

Some companies could turn it around really quickly depending on those factors. And the research aspect in terms of benchmarking and what not, that part's easier.

You can do that [00:09:00] on your own. So I think it could vary everywhere between one month to six months.

It's really dependent on your business.

And then when you're thinking about backing it up a couple other things to really take into consideration, and we'll talk about where you can find this information, but who your company benchmarks against from a business perspective to those two different type of decision makers you want to know [00:09:30] who they care about.

They might be more interested, when they recognize familiar companies, really making sure, again, we talked about your core company's problems.

So you know what data is going to be the most important.

So for instance, that why that we talked about before,

If you don’t go in with a clear case that aligns to the why, you’re not really going to get a lot of traction.

As an example, we talk a lot about engagement metrics [00:10:00] here, so let's just keep going.

If you're solving for attracting and retaining talent, and you're presenting out on data points around profit and revenue to an HR leader, it'll align but the story isn't going to be as smooth.

So typically, I keep those sort of data points in my back pocket that I can kind of pepper in throughout the presentation, depending where you go.

And then the last thing around the decision makers and this is slightly deviating between the back it.

But I want to say this because I think [00:10:30] it's important.

Leadership imprint on a CSR program

Sometimes you're going to have leaders who are interested in this work, and you could actually think about ways to help those decision makers put their imprint on the program.

So if they care about say, innovation or talent development, let them have a say in what types of programs could work within their company or organization.

You don't have to dictate everything.

You can get that feedback from them. And [00:11:00] you're certainly going to see a lot more support if you do that.

How many CSR presentations to executives and leadership?

Karl Yeh:

So Nicole, the question I have for you is you talk about opportunist and risk averse, but how many presentations are you looking to do?

I guess, is it to [00:11:30] everybody or do you do one whole group to a specific set of stakeholders?

So in your experience, how often do you have to do this?

Nicole Campbell:

It depends.

So if you have an existing foundation board, it could be to your foundation board or be a single presentation.

So you have to figure out the cadence of those meetings too, but you can find out from your HR business partners or maybe even your leader, but it could also be [00:12:00] smaller groups of leaders.

And then I find that often sort of opens up and avails itself to other bigger conversations.

So if you have a governing body, I'd say, it's a presentation that you would be doing to the relevant stakeholders but I always say, never go into a meeting like that unless you've already communicated and got feedback and shared your ideas with as many stakeholders as you can before you [00:12:30] even get into that room.

That's a great question.

Karl Yeh: Got it. So do you have anything else to add?

Best practices to benchmarking

Nicole Campbell:

Yes, I think from a benchmarking perspective too, from the back it up, I often get questions from clients around what type of information you should be including and general best practices about benchmarking for this type of stuff.

So if I were to summarize, I'd say don't benchmark more than four to five companies. We already [00:13:00] talked about who to include.

If you need additions sources on where to get this information, look at CCP giving you numbers, talk to folks at Benevity. We have tons of data.

If you want to look at the components of... And also in employee engagement and sometimes CSR programs, Double the Donation actually has public knowledge on this stuff. So you can check that out.

You can just download online CSR reports from companies.

And the best way, if [00:13:30] you want to benchmark against other companies, hit them up on LinkedIn and ask them if they'd be willing to share information and then you'd share yours back.

I find that can really work. And especially at Benevity, we have a community that you can do this easier but don't feel shy.

It's very cool in the CSR space that you can actually talk to CSR practitioners about the work they're doing, and it's not infringing on NDAs or anything like that.

The only other things too is make sure you provide [00:14:00] context to your leaders to really understand the space.

So I often send this information in advance with a glossary of terms so they can really understand what it is that you're doing.

They're not experts in this. They rely on you.

And then the last thing that I often get asked, like I mentioned before, is what to include.

What to include in your presentation

Well, it depends on where you're coming from with your CSR program.

You want to present something that's more holistic. [00:14:30] So if you are pitching say, a matching gifts program, or an employee engagement specific program, I would say still go broader to demonstrate how other companies are doing all of it.

So what's their grants. What are they doing in grants?

What are they doing in product donations? What are they doing in employee engagement? What percentage of pretax revenue are they giving?

All of that to make sure they understand the bigger picture and they can see kind of where they stack up against those other companies.

Question for you

How have you backed it up, and how have you done your research to actually make a compelling case for the CSR program that you're running today?

So check out the other phases of how to start a CSR program in this playlist here, as well as this playlist on other CSR strategies and tactics.

Thanks for watching. And we'll see you in our next episode.

Watch Part 1:


Watch Part 2: 


The Social Impact Show publishes new content weekly so check back regularly for the latest information, strategies and tips from CSR experts. 


About Nicole Campbell:

Nicole’s passion for behavioral science plays a key role in her ability to help organizations manage and adapt to change. 

Nicole has worked with companies of all sizes, industries, program varieties, and varying levels of executive support — and has had a hand in designing or growing Social Impact programs for some of the biggest brands out there. Her role, working with so many different companies, has provided her with a wealth of experience, data and anecdotes that have shaped a strong understanding of what works, what doesn’t and what’s next.