Corporate stewardship has officially moved from the category of "nice to do" to "need to do." With consumers making buying decisions based on businesses that support their communities, organizations everywhere have restructured their missions to include corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies.

There's a slight problem, though. Many leaders are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to successfully launch and maintain CSR on top of other responsibilities. An age-old method of rallying the troops and eliciting donations may be the most practical -- and underutilized -- tactic for giving back: the fundraiser.

Surprisingly, fundraising is overlooked by even the most well-meaning executives. Why? Perhaps its familiarity is what takes fundraising out of early CSR discussions. Yet its simplicity is its strength. Kenan Pala, 13-year-old founder of Kids4Community, has recognized the beauty of this platform to spread positive messages and make waves.

However, he cautions against taking fundraisers lightly, adding that winning events are thematically complementary to both the audience and cause. Pala advises organizations to "be careful in choosing an event that is relevant to what you're doing. If your project is about saving whales, perhaps don't use a football tournament for your fundraiser's theme." For instance, he organized the world's largest cardboard box mosaic using boxes of cereal that were later delivered to a local food bank. The project brought hunger and homelessness into the spotlight in a way that encouraged involvement from young and mature do-gooders.

That emphasis on relevant fundraising themes is important to note for those who have jumped headfirst into fundraising on a corporate level to pursue deeper connections between the worlds of business and charity. Seeking unique fundraiser ideas to jumpstart your organization's CSR campaign? Reinventing the wheel isn't necessary when you have options like these:

1. Make movement a core element.

Encouraging attendee activity is ideal for fundraisers that revolve around healthier living. Participants get a double-whammy advantage of supporting a cause and doing something good for themselves in the process. Dance competitions and talent shows promote performing arts skills. To encourage athleticism and fitness, try walkathons, 5Ks, or a night out at places like a Rockin' Jump trampoline park, which allows people to destress and get a cardio boost while raising money. Even an organized water balloon fight in the nearest green space can become a winning formula for CSR success.

2. Create something cool and market it.

Is your team bubbling with creatives? Lean on employees' natural talents by challenging them to create and manufacture a specific product. Then, put all or a portion of the product's proceeds toward a specific charity. Anything from a corporate cookbook brimming with workers' tried-and-true recipes to a calendar with images pertinent to your fundraising mission is fair game. You might be surprised at how popular a charitable product can be among customers.

3. Encourage family involvement at fundraisers.

A stumbling block of corporate fundraisers is that you're asking employees to spend more time on the job, which means they'll be away from their loved ones. To bridge this gap, add family fundraising activities into the mix. Picnics, cook-offs, and festivals are perfect experiences for people of all ages to get together and give back.

4. Hold in-house competitions.

Fundraisers don't have to include people from outside your company. You can host friendly competitions between employees, teams, or departments. Casual dress-down days -- for a small donation "fee" -- are another in-house fundraising option. Although these fundraising experiences take place during the workday, they don't steal productivity. They're just old-fashioned ways to encourage everyone to take a stake in the company's CSR.

Cultivating your social responsibility currency among clients and prospective buyers requires thoughtfulness through action. Call together your top players and investigate the fundraising possibilities that dovetail with your preferred donor types and beneficiaries. You might just find that it's easier to jump into the CSR realm than you originally thought.

Published on: Apr 24, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.