With the continually mounting pressure on companies to remain socially active in the midst of company growth, it is imperative that campaigns are meticulously planned and executed. We are all familiar with the classic strategy: donate some money from your company’s budget, publicize it, and wait for consumer response. It works, right? Think again. Here are a few innovative strategies to diversify and improve social initiatives:

Partner with Nonprofits in the Related Sector

Often, when companies begin their quest for social change, they feel that the operation needs to be a sole accomplishment of their own entity. However, most businesses are not experienced at all in the social initiative sector. Valuable time taken away to learn about charitable donations, make the right local contacts, and other technicalities add up to a list of avoidable activities. Consider instead pinpointing a nonprofit in the related field–local, regional, national, or even international–that has been effective in the past. Such organizations as United Way, YMCA, and Boys & Girls Club all have local chapters throughout the nation you can contact directly for potential partnership to work on your social initiative. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are over 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the United States [1]. They cover all different fields–education, poverty, health, homelessness, and more–with experience you can draw upon. These organizations have already worked in the sector and local region and have established relationships with the people needing help, understand the most successful strategies, and already sought out potential sources for donors.

Give more than Money: Involve your Employees

What’s more valuable than money? Of course, as Mark Cuban always explains in Shark Tank, it’s time. A major trend in many of the top companies in recent cycles has been the inclusion of employees in the volunteer work. Not only does this tactic lead to a consistent source for volunteers, it also provides indication to consumers and the world that your company and its employees are committed to making a difference. It is much more effective and meaningful for your company to donate precious time from the busy schedules of your employees. As Andrew Winston, a sustainability expert and author of Green Recovery asserts, “The engaged workforce will find more opportunities to get lean and identify more opportunities to innovate and create products and services…All of this work will improve the top and bottom lines” [2]. A prime example of involving employees is Target. In a recent campaign, Target promoted childhood education by renovating an elementary school library [3]. The video revealed the marveled, ecstatic reactions of the students who came in to check out the school after renovation. At the same time, Target employees–dressed in their usual red attire–were shown throughout the library, still moving furniture and shelves around. This creates a sense of credibility ethos (an underlying sense of trust) in Target and its employees. When consumers watch this video, they associate the strong impact of the renovation directly to the Target employees who made it happen–without this element, there is no way to associate the social initiative effectively to your company.

Use your Company’s Product or Service for Social Impact

One of the most important factors that drives business is that unique product, service, or niche market your company can bring to the table. Why not use this advantage in social initiatives as well? As Keith Breslauer, an MD of Patron Capital describes, “Think about what you could offer, whether that means pro bono marketing or fundraising support, making introductions, or providing a venue for an event” [4]. If your company has differentiating factors in its products or services, be creative and develop them into your social initiative campaign. If you have an e-commerce website on clothing, give away your products free of charge to underprivileged children in third-world countries. If you run a car repair business, offer free repairs to impoverished people or engage in fundraising to purchase a used car for someone in need. Often, the “two-way distribution” social campaign is highly effective. For each product or service your company sells, offer a second product or service to someone in need. A prime example is TOMS Shoes. Started by Blake Mycoskie (his book Start Something that Matters is a great read for anyone looking into social impact!), this company donates a pair of shoes to someone in need (for instance, in Africa) for each pair it sells. This innovative campaign has become embedded in the company’s reputation and its brand. Why, though, is this so effective? Assuming you have a patent, no other company can compete with you in that social initiative. It will be something completely unique and revolutionary, something that draws the eyes of consumers and the media. Just recently on Shark Tank, a business called SSeko Shoes uses its shoe production to prove jobs in Uganda for women aspiring to go to college. No matter what industry your business is in, your consumers will be thrilled to hear that your company has used its own innovation to make social impact.

Follow Through

A major problem for many social campaigns is execution. The endless idealizing of imitative goals often bogs down the overall effort. Ensure that your company allots the proper time, resources, and care to make the initiative authentic and meaningful. Stay current on social media to inform consumers of your progress. While it is always great to drive your profit margin, real social change is important, too–make sure your efforts provide change for the better in the world for the people that need it most.


[1] http://nccs.urban.org/statistics/quickfacts.cfm [2] http://www.greenimpact.com/sustainability/three-tips-for-engaging-employees-in-sustainability/ [3] https://corporate.target.com/discover/article/a-look-back-at-200-Target-School-Library-Makeovers