5 Steps to a Successful CSR Program

Corporate social responsibility programs can connect your meeting's goals to the larger community, for the greater good. 


Webcast: Easy & Meaningful CSR
Industry experts Lain Hensley and Melissa Van Dyke will share insight on adding meaningful CSR initiatives to a meeting's agenda, including where to find partners and how to put ideas into action. The CMP-credit webcast takes place Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, at 2 p.m. EST. Register here.

Today's employees want to talk about the positive impact they have in society; more importantly, they want to contribute hands-on to the surrounding community. That's why corporate social responsibility programs can be one of the most important aspects on meeting agendas. 

Connecting sales and leadership content to social issues has the power to transform company culture and attract the best and brightest to an organization. CSR is a critical arrow in the quiver of companies for demonstrating their investment in people, customers and the world. Those companies look to meeting planners and training companies to help harness the power of working together for the greater good and to grow their bottom lines.

When my business partner and I joined forces, we had each had a lot of experience with CSR initiatives in our personal lives. We had organized fun runs to raise money for Lou Gehrig's Disease; supported a local doghouse building for an animal shelter; and so on. We always felt great after completing such efforts and often included our employees in the in the process. 

We brainstormed ways to incorporate philanthropic activities into the business model of corporate meetings. That is how our company, Odyssey Teams, Inc. -- a  motivational team building and leadership training organization -- came to be. It's a journey I'll speak about during Northstar Meetings Group's webcast, "Easy and Meaningful CSR." Together, Melissa Van Dyke, vice president of design and insights for Creative Group, Inc., and I will discuss adding corporate social responsibility elements to meetings to engage attendees and give back to the host communities.

The free, CMP-credit webcast takes place at 2 p.m. EST on Feb. 12, 2020. You can register here. In the meantime, however, let's explore five criteria for successfully implementing a CSR program into your meeting's agenda.

1. Align Goals and Efforts

Don't add a CSR activity to the meeting agenda just to say you did. The more your business and social projects embody the overall behaviors and lessons your meeting is trying to teach, the deeper the impact and greater the return on investment. 

The big "why" of the meeting should radiate throughout any CSR initiative. Planning an activity in such a way aligns your meeting's overall goals to the philanthropic event and leads to a stronger outcome. The challenging part is making the lessons jump out of the experience without the activity feeling canned or staged.

Leadership principals, change readiness, customer centricity, problem solving and collaboration are just a few themes that you can bring to full color via a socially conscious program. For example, if the theme of your event is problem solving, then the CSR activity should require that skill. For example, our Life Cycles program encourages attendees to use their problem solving skills to manufacture a bicycle from scratch parts. Working together, the team experiences firsthand the influence their actions, integrity, attention and intention have on the lives of their co-workers, families, friends and customers.

2. Bring Learning to Life

Ask your client if they have ever done a service-learning project in the past. Ask whether or not it was successful and what they liked most about the project. Rule out repeating any initiative identical to one they've carried out in the most recent years so that you can maximize variety and creativity. Work to design several activity options for attendees based on the experiences, outcomes and goals of the hosting organization. 

Asking about past CSR experiences will also help you determine if the client fully understands the learning potential of these programs. That way, you can work together to align the learning objectives of the effort and their connection to the event as a whole. 

3. Tailor the Content

The right balance of activity and educational content is critical to striking a balanced environment for attendees. If your keynote speaker is addressing the ideas of customers and collaboration, you might want to consider planning a CSR activity that brings those topics to life -- such as pairing with programs like the Build-a-Hand Project, which is focused on collaboration, perspective, inspiration and giving back.

Designing an effective activity starts with the expectation for the program. Make the giving aspect of the project an unexpected treat and not the focus. The focus should be on the content and the connection of the activity to that content.

Also pay attention to time constraints. If you only have two hours, plan an activity that allows for at least 20 minutes of learning outcome discussions. If there's no discussion around the who, what and why of the program, attendees will likely only remember the activity and not the lessons attached with such.

4. Accommodate Activity Levels

Consider initiatives you have carried out in the past and the physical limitations of your meeting attendees. Will the group be in business attire? If so, they probably wouldn't be too keen on heading outside to install renewable energy systems at the local convention center. Choose something more low-key. CSR events like Team Mosaic Give are done indoors with very little physical activity. This can be good for large groups or high-level leaders who want to stay looking sharp while still experiencing the power of giving.

Have attendees been inside for a few days with little to no change in scenery? Perhaps heading outside to plant trees in a local park would provide the boost of energy and camaraderie they are likely craving. The bottom line is to cater to the group at hand. Not every CSR initiative works for every group. Consider the size, attire, energy level, and willingness of your attendees to create a truly unique and meaningful program. 

5. Explore Charitable Options

If your client has a particular charity they work with, why not customize the CSR program to bring awareness to that ongoing initiative? If the charity is of broad focus, you might plan a more general activity, such as building Corn Hole games that can be donated to various entities, such as military groups, youth organizations or senior care facilities. 

When working with an international team, it might make the most sense to produce something with a wide-reaching impact. Water filters, prosthetic hands and other similar items can be distributed globally and make a perfect metaphor for the reach of the company. Ponder all of the options to look for the best connections for each meeting. 

Lain Hensley will present in NMG's Feb. webcast, "Easy and Meaningful CSR."
Lain Hensley will present in NMG's Feb. webcast, "Easy and Meaningful CSR."

Lain Hensley is president and facilitator of Odyssey Teams, Inc., a motivational team building and leadership training company, offering a training course focused on philanthropy. He has delivered keynotes to thousands of companies in more than 21 countries, with clients including Microsoft, Hampton Hotels, Oracle, Charles Schwab, Johnson Controls, Caterpillar, Gallo Wines, DaVita, Shell and Genentech.

Lain will present as an expert in Northstar Meetings Group's upcoming CMP-credit webcast, "Easy and Meaningful CSR." Learn more here.