How to take your corporate social responsibility programs global

In today's episode, you'll learn how to take your corporate social responsibility program global. We explore what you need to think about including legal, financial and vetting requirements. We also discuss resources required, challenges to overcome and additional strategies.

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What we discussed:

Karl Yeh:  

So today I'm joined by special guest. Her name is Kerry Lawrence. She is the Community Investment consultant with Benevity. And we're going to talk about growing your global social impact program. So thank you very much, Kerry, for joining us today.

So I want to get right into it.

And I think today we're talking about businesses and companies that are past the startup, or trying to establish or trying to grow or trying to get buy-in for [00:01:00] the social impact program.

We're looking at companies that have passed that and now looking to grow it globally. So from your perspective, how does that process start?

How to take your social impact program global


Kerry Lawrence:           

Oh my gosh, thanks Karl. This is a great question.

And we're constantly trying to work with clients on this.

So my first question every single time is what does global mean to you?

We need to define what that means. [00:01:30] We need to be very specific.

  • Is it only where you have business roots?
  • Or is it only in third world countries?
  • Or does it only depend on your program eligibility?

There's lots of different reasons.

There are lots of different ways that you could define that.

And then you need to also ask yourself, why are you building a global program?

There's lots of different reasons.

And then what problem are you trying to solve?

Do you feel crystal clear with [00:02:00] this? And if you do, you will be able to effectively prove you were solving it.

Also what's really important is what are your invested external stakeholder needs. What are their expectations?

So you also need to know this to be able to prove it.

And based on the resources you have, are you able to address them all, and what is the priority?

The bottom line for this, before we get into sort of what the things to think about, is you need to be laser focused. [00:02:30]

Keep it simple and start small. If you're trying to build something globally, obviously if you have limited resources you can't all of a sudden hit every country in the world.

You can't all of a sudden hit every third world country too, because it's a lot of work.

And we're going to go into the what to think about and some really great program ideas, but you need to start there first.

It's how you define that.

So in terms of the things to think about, building a global program can be really messy.

Not to try and dissuade you, but there's lots of [00:03:00] nuance you got to think about.

So the first one

What is the legality of funding in the countries you want to donate to?

Some countries don't allow donations from international countries.

You need to understand the languages.

Are you creating application forms in the country of choice language?

If they do apply in their own language, who's receiving it in your end and are they able to translate or be able to go through that process of approving it? [00:03:30]

What are the local needs and nuance with receiving donations?

Will one global program work?

So say for example, in Vietnam, they may just allow volunteers. And that may be their way of receiving contribution, whereas another country will just need cash donation. Currencies, huge. Everybody, currencies.

How will you send your contribution?

Will it be accepted in the currency of that country?

Or are you going to send in American [00:04:00] dollars or Canadian dollars?

This leads me to eligibility and tax requirements.

If your company's American, does the nonprofit need equivalency determination.

Karl, oh my gosh. This is a whole other conversation about equivalency determination. Every single enterprise company that I speak with have their own rules for that.

But it's huge. You need to talk to your legal department.

And then there's only two more things.

Who is doing the vetting of the charity? How do you know it's a real deal? [00:04:30] How do you know it's a real deal?

So again, if they're in Vietnam or a third world country and it's very small community, how do you know that it's not fraudulent? How do you know that they are a real charity?

And then how is the nonprofit finding you?

Or are you finding the nonprofit?

Those are just some things to think about, which seems like a lot, but that is what will get you started hitting the ground running is getting the facts straight.

And then depending on all of the [00:05:00] above, I'm going to give you three top three program types for global programs that I've seen with enterprise companies.

And the first one, which is probably the easiest if you have this, easiest in terms of if you have employees, is if you have a company with business roots.

If you are a company with business roots in international countries, build a nomination program for employees.

Get the employees to do the work. [00:05:30]

They nominate a nonprofit of their choice based on your eligibility requirements and mission.

And then you can have a team set up in each of those international locations.

If you don't want to ago that route ,another very common one I've seen is you have one international program manager who sources nonprofits, and needs, again, based on requirements and mission.

They nominate and apply on behalf of the nonprofit. And they just do the work in English and keep it simple.

Or the last one, [00:06:00] that we just did actually for a huge global organization, is they ran a one month global campaign with a six month lead in three countries.

So they recorded a webinar. They had all these causes join or non profits join, telling them what they needed to do to apply.

Told what their mission was, what they were trying to solve together.

And then they just allowed them to apply in one month window because they only had like three people on their team [00:06:30] to be able to manage those grant requests.

So that's a lot of information, but in terms of getting it going there are some things to think about there.

Karl Yeh:                      

Kerry, you mentioned the legalities and the tax implications.

Wouldn't it be easier then to start in a country or region that's kind of similar to yours?

And there's obviously going to be differences no matter what.

Let's say for example it would be probably a lot easier to start if you're in the United States and you go [00:07:00] to Canada, versus if you're in the United States and go to South Africa.

Probably way, way easier.

Is that something that you would recommend to start in countries that would kind of have similar tax codes, similar legal implications than your country?

Or, but then again, the causes that you maybe want to work with may be already in the countries that may not have those similarities.

Is it easier to start a global program in a similar country?


Kerry Lawrence:           

Yes, it's true. And you may have... There's two things there. [00:07:30]

One yes, absolutely similar type countries that do have legalities that are understood by your tax and legal people.

But then also, you may also have partnerships with causes or nonprofits in other countries based on relationships from before.

And just stick with that.

Just try again, if you're going to keep it simple, just try. Even if it's one partnership or two, stick with that just to see how that goes.

And we're going [00:08:00] to sort of get into that a little bit more a bit later in terms of how you build that relationship.

But if you can just keep it simple, stick with one country or even two.

Karl Yeh:                      

So when we're talking about resources,

What are the resources you would need to actually start expanding globally?

Kerry Lawrence:           

1. Build relationship with marketing and communications team

I'm going to say the first one is you need really good relationship with your marketing communications team.

Marketing have a lot of resources behind them that you don't even know that you could use for your community investment program.

First of [00:08:30] all, they know some of the bigger challenges that your company is trying to solve in terms of brand challenges or what their customers are looking for are where the gaps are. So they're going to know some of this information.

But number two, they know how to communicate.

You most likely are not a communication expert.

You are a community investment expert in terms of understanding how to connect, build relationships and run a granting program or a community investment program.

Your marketing team, if you're going to be doing [00:09:00] something globally, you're going to need a lot of help in terms of PR.

How do you get that information out so the international causes, wherever they may be, know about you?

How are they going to find you?

They are the expert in building a communication strategy, so jam with them. Work with them to figure out how to do that.

So that is a very big and important resource.

You're also going to need a lot of support from, like we mentioned earlier, your legal tax department.

What's easiest right now?

What would be... Talk to them first in terms of what are the facts. [00:09:30]

2. Connect with international vetting organization

You're also going to need, and this is huge as well, international vetting organization partnership or relationship such as with Tech Soup.

They're one that we know, we work with.

You can find your own, but they are a very well known organization that help you with international vetting. We have clients that try and do the vetting on their own.

Again, you are not an expert at vetting. Absolutely look for a partnership in that area. [00:10:00] Also accounts payable I'm going to suggest as well.

If you're talking about fulfilling and paying a country in a currency that's not your own, what are their requirements? How are they going to do it?

And I honestly highly recommend making sure that any cause that you fund internationally, even if it's Canada and you're in the US, make sure they have EFT set up. Electronic funds transfer. Much easier, simpler, keep it clean.

3. Employees

And employees, great resource. [00:10:30] If you have employees that are super passionate, we all do within our organizations.

We have those ones that just can't stop volunteering and have great ideas and relationships with even within their local communities, use them.

Talk to them. They are your advocates.

And then if we're going to look at other main physical resources, you're going to need an application form with very clear eligibility criteria, timelines defined for when they apply, when [00:11:00] will they receive the funds and how will they receive the funds?

What can they expect?

What do they need to do this? What do they need to do to apply?

And going back to this word that everybody cringes at, it is a buzzword, it's been around for a million years.

4. Strategy

You need a strategy.

What is your globe program strategy? Being very specific about articulating the problem you're trying to solve.

So I'll give you a really good example here.

If you are a retail company selling renovation materials, wood [00:11:30] and nails, hammers, paint, all that kind of fun stuff you sell commercially individually, your problem would be there's shortage of skilled labor in third world countries due to flooding and landslides.

Maybe the need is materials and people with the skills to rebuild homes.

Your pillars could be education and innovation.

So your contribution are materials and education to make sure that people within these local communities have the skills to help rebuild homes.

With climate change, it happens [00:12:00] all the time.

That would be something that would be super specific that you could try and solve and you would be able to report on.

Karl Yeh:                      

Now you mentioned something about international vetting.

And I was wondering what if the organization doesn't meet... There's causes or nonprofits that your employees want to donate to but for some reason or another they don't get, I guess, approved by your vetting [00:12:30] partner.

How would you handle something like that?

Because I'm sure there are a lot of times that that would come up, whether it's a new organization or something that is not aligned with maybe the values of the company.

What if the employee causes don't align with the business causes?


Kerry Lawrence:           

Yes. It's funny that you say that Karl, because this is one of the number one things we get back, at Benevity anyway, from a lot of our clients who say their employees are so passionate, they're constantly [00:13:00] nominating nonprofits of their friends.

Friends and family, they're in their communities.

And it's very demoralizing when you have a program run like that and you're saying no as a company.

This is what I loop in as change management.

How do you over the course of, and it takes time, but how do you communicate?

Again, you have help with your marketing communication friends. How do you communicate what your program is doing and what you're addressing?

[00:13:30] So most likely you're going to have two buckets of money. And of course I'm simplifying, but you'll have two buckets of money.

One strategic, community investments, that are part of your company, part of they're solving the mission, the problem you're trying to solve in your communities.

And another is this charitable gift, which is just transactional here and there.

The vetting portion of that, you have to be so crystal clear with why you are only allowing these organizations in different countries because of tax implications, et cetera. [00:14:00] It's the why behind it that employees need to know why.

And if they want to nominate to have them vetted outside of that, they can do that, but it's still they must meet this criteria.

Karl Yeh:                      

So what are some of the barriers that grant practitioners would have to hurdle across?

I guess what are some of the challenges that you've probably seen organizations face when they're going global?

Challenges and barriers for companies going global?


Kerry Lawrence:           

Yeah. I'm going to say the number one challenge is going to be alignment and agreement [00:14:30] on what your focus area is or are, your focus as are.

And then who you're going to be gifting to or sending funds to.

That is like hurting cats.

If you've got internal stakeholders and you've got a C-suite, you have your investors, you have your employees, you have your community needs and the work you're doing there, all of them are going to have different ideas of what you should be doing as a company. Because let's [00:15:00] face it, you have the asset.

You have all the assets, the cause does not.

The charity does not.

So if you're trying to, as one lonely program administrator or program manager or director, trying to figure that out, that's the biggest hurdle is trying to get everyone to agree on what this global program is and what you're trying to solve and where your funds should be going.

There's always going to be you have your idea for the problem and what type of charities you want to fund and then your CEO may say, "No, [00:15:30] no, no. I want to be for this."

That is going to be one of the biggest hurdles.

Secondly, you're going to have the hurdle of setting nonprofits up for success. It's hard enough in North America with English being, I'm going to do quotes here, first language, because we know this day and age it's not necessarily.

But that is a huge hurdle for how do we get nonprofits who have low resources to understand what your program is and who you fund and who you don't fund and how to fill an application form.

 [00:16:00] And it sounds really basic, but that application form is... Again, I can't stress this enough.

Keep it simple.

And be very clear about what it is and don't make it a 12 page application form if they don't speak English very well.

And they can't fill the whole thing in. So that is another hurdle, is trying to keep that simple and clear.

And obviously the vetting and equivalency determination and whether you need that or not, and how to manage that. And what you talked about, another big hurdle.

Karl Yeh:                      

so Kerry, do you have anything else to add in terms of growing or moving your program to a global or moving it to different regions?

Kerry Lawrence:           

I think the biggest [00:17:00] thing is it's about your connections internally and with your partners. Who do you know?

You don't have to do it on your own.

You actually do have a team.

Even if you're a team of one managing your entire community investment social impact program, you have a lot of relationships with internal teams such as your marketing and everybody else. Go and talk to them.

Talk about what they need.

Talk to your C-suite.

Even do a survey about what's most important. I think you need to use your relationships and then talk to your cause partners. [00:17:30] If you're going to keep it simple in the beginning, you've got one in Vietnam, work with them. Find out what you can do for them and pitch that.

Question of the Day:

Have you ever expanded your social impact programs globally?

How did you do it? What are some of the tips and strategies, maybe some of the challenges that you faced?