Over the past year, social unrest came to the forefront of public attention. As a result, the business world stepped up to support causes, doubling down on philanthropic efforts to drive change. The retail industry specifically continues to be a major contributor to causes like fighting the spread of COVID-19 and addressing demand for social change.
While donating to causes is important, retailers and other businesses are increasingly asking this question: Are our efforts actually making an impact? To answer this question, retailers are partnering with corporate social responsibility (CSR) solutions providers to better measure their CSR impact and to be more efficient, streamlined and flexible when it comes to philanthropic efforts.
What is CSR Technology?
CSR technology allows organizations to streamline their initiatives in giving back. From responding to emerging needs faster and mobilizing efforts more efficiently to distributing resources to nonprofits quicker, programs are more effectively managed and tailored in a more scalable way. This technology is critically important to retailers as consumers largely select brands aligned with their beliefs to ensure their money supports organizations with a positive mission. Furthermore, consumers can be quick to boycott brands they perceive as being anti-sympathetic — or even too neutral — around causes they believe in.
Not only do these solutions support company programs, but also give employees tools and resources to do their part in supporting causes that matter most to them. For example, earlier this year, as part of its MLK Day of Giving initiative, Walmart expanded its gift matching program, matching up to $4 million in associate donations as well as from customers and the broader community.
Walmart leveraged its CSR software platform to enable quick and seamless donations through an online portal, raising over $6.5 million in a single day, demonstrating how the flexibility of CSR technology helped this retailer create tremendous impact on an important cause. This is a prime example of how building a tailored giving ecosystem can allow an organization to think creatively about its giving programs. Other companies like J.C. Penney followed suit, and we anticipate seeing more large retailers participate in days of giving on an ongoing basis.
As retailers look to build giving ecosystems within their organizations and create impact, supporting causes can’t just be a one-time deal. Technology is helping make this an ongoing and sustainable initiative while engaging employees and building a healthy culture.
There isn’t a clearly defined way to maintain the longevity of programs, but retailers should consider donations or grants distributed on a quarterly basis, create internal incentives for employees to give back — like paid days off for volunteer work — and implement clear guidelines of what the end goal is in longer-term giving. By creating a positive culture and ecosystem within the organization that promotes philanthropy, they will drive engagement and find more success.
Just as important, CSR solutions help retail leadership listen and effectively communicate as well as analyze success and returns on specific objectives. Retailers should remain in constant contact with the specific causes they support and listen to their staff on a regular basis. Focus often on changes and it’s key to be ahead of the curve, which is where employee and non-profit feedback becomes invaluable.
Pooling this information together with the added consideration of what funds are available allows CSR solutions to do the heavy lifting, finding the best ways for organizations to generate maximum impact for their CSR efforts. Enhanced analytics adds the ability to explore giving data in real time for smarter decision making and sharing the retailer’s giving story to stakeholders effectively.
It’s no question the past year has opened the eyes of consumers and large companies alike to the importance of having a dedicated strategy towards social responsibility. Retailers have been active members of the ongoing push towards positive change. As they seek to overcome organizational challenges and issues of scalability, CSR technology has become a critical piece in the foundation of a more successful and impactful giving ecosystem.
Mark Layden is the CEO of CyberGrants, a leading social responsibility solutions provider.
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