In 2013, U.S. corporations gave $17.88 billion to charity. This amount will surely continue to grow as companies increasingly put their money where their mouth is. Effective charitable campaigns not only benefit their designated causes, but the involved companies as a whole are creating truly win-win situations. According to a Society for Human Resources Management study, companies with strong social responsibility programs have better morale, higher efficiency, a stronger public image, and better employee loyalty.

According to Anthony Ingham, Vice President of North America Brand Management, Luxury and Design Brands for Starwood Hotels, "Clearly, launching a powerful responsibility program can both effect social change and make great business sense."

How can companies launch meaningful social responsibility initiatives? Says Anthony Ingham, there are six tips to keep in mind:

1. Choose a cause that is authentic to your brand

This should be a first priority. Says Ingham, "At W Hotels, for example, we have a longstanding commitment to the LGBT community." By choosing a cause for which you have made a long-term commitment, your initiative will have more meaning, resonance, and impact.

2. Engage customers

Get your clients and customers involved in your cause. Customers want and expect brands to be involved on social issues; nearly half of Millennials reported in a recent report by The Boston Consulting Group that they "try to use brands of companies that are active in supporting social causes."

3. Motivate employees

Don't hesitate to encourage and promote employee participation in your charitable initiative. Research indicates that when employees participate in programs that matter to them, their relationship with the company is strengthened and they re-dedicate themselves to their own work roles.

4. Partner with key charitable organizations

It's important to establish a strong partnership with a leading nonprofit organization. Such partnerships allow you to leverage their expertise on the issues to create real and lasting change.

5. Connect with a high-profile spokesperson

Says Ingham about the company's Turn It Up For Change campaign, "To amplify our message...we've partnered with Grammy and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson. We're excited to work with Jennifer, as she truly believes in this cause and her genuine enthusiasm in support of the LGBT community is apparent." If you don't have access to a mega-star to support your initiative, consider more local influencers who share a genuine belief in your cause.

6. Make it social

Take your cause to social media to get the word out to an even bigger audience. To incentivize participation in their hashtag #TURNITUPFORCHANGE, W Hotels donated $20 for each social media mention at the launch event and at subsequent marquee events throughout the year. Campaign ambassadors can also help amplify your message by sharing it on their social channels.

Published on: Apr 13, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.