corporate social responsibility

Rethinking corporate social responsibility

posted by
Herb Paine,

President
Paine Consulting Services

Twenty years ago, I was privileged to serve as a senior consultant and trainer with the newly created Center for Corporate Community Relations at Boston College (now the Center for Corporate Citizenship).

In the two decades that have elapsed, the scope and texture of corporate social responsibility (CSR) have evolved dramatically. Then, the focus of my consultation was on community needs assessments, priority-setting, and allocations processes; today, the focus is on impact and return on investment. In the coming years, given dramatic changes in the marketplace, the context and scope of CSR may need to take a giant paradigmatic leap.

What was once a matter of checkbook philanthropy is now decidedly strategic, and the driving forces of CSR revolve around the convergence or fit between the company’s business interests (its customers, product line, and brand) and the offerings of potential nonprofit beneficiaries.

Corporate support is today an indispensable component of the nonprofit organization’s diversified fundraising strategy. Corporate presence and visibility in the community have been most effectively accomplished through relatively low cost/high yield investments, including short-term project grants, event sponsorships, cause-related marketing, voluntarism and hands-on projects, in-kind giving (e.g., printing, marketing, human resources, information technology services), and board membership.

This is all good and deeply appreciated. However, it may not be enough.

The nonprofit business model is increasingly vulnerable to the volatility of the nonprofit marketplace and broad social, political, economic, and technological trends.