CSR Tune Up Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is big business. And not just for the causes, organizations and people who benefit from corporate donations. Today  the value in being a good corporate citizen is widely accepted. It builds trust with key stakeholders, demonstrates corporate values and can even (gasp!) lead to a stronger bottom line. But about a year ago, the muckety mucks at The Reputation Institute began to speculate that CSR is dead. They ultimately decided it is not dead after all, but it is often mismanaged. And that means companies are missing out on the benefits of some very rich investments. So how do you know if your CSR program is working hard or if it needs a tune up? Here are a few things to ask before you sign off on your 2014 plan: Are you living your company values? Whether you re-engineer your supply chain to reduce your environmental footprint or give to the arts, your CSR program should support your company’s mission, vision and values. Authenticity and trust are two key measures of a successful CSR effort, so the connection between your business, your company values and the cause you support should be clear and easy to understand.  How much is enough? Sure, Fortune 500 companies can create their own initiatives, support multiple causes and get deeply involved with national or international programs. But every company can do something meaningful – whether it is a small donation, volunteer support for a local charity, donating in kind or participating in the United Way. The key is to assess your company’s available resources and make a contribution that is in line with its business goals. Who else can help? It’s great to write a check,but CSR is also about building community and making connections. Look for a cause that gives your key stakeholders – including employees, business partners and customers – a chance to get involved, too. It feels good to be part of a team, and creating good will and a sense of loyalty is another benefit. Are you spreading the word? Make sure your CSR efforts are part of your marketing mix. To realize the business benefits of your company’s contributions your key stakeholders need to know what you are up to. Not to mention, that marketing support is valuable to your chosen causes, charities and partners, too. They can benefit from the awareness as much as from your financial support.  So yes, CSR is big business, or at least a serious business strategy. But it should be inspiring, too. If you are looking for a creative jumpstart for your next campaign, see what some of the good guys have been up to.

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