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Friday, August 20, 2010

Pushing Philanthropy Beyond Writing Checks

Many companies these days are using their commitment or investment in corporate social responsibility (CSR) to elevate their brand in the minds of their stakeholders and prospects. Any effort in this direction is positive. But sometimes it’s a bit ambiguous how a company’s culture and brand are aligned with their CSR efforts.

It was refreshing to learn how one of our clients, Panera Bread – the bakery-cafĂ© franchise – is doing what they do best in a way that truly demonstrates their brand value, culture and commitment to CSR. They are leveraging their expertise and products to serve the community. In this innovative experiment, they have opened a nonprofit restaurant, which is essentially an eatery where people pay what they can afford.

According to the article which ran in USA Today, Panera’s cashiers tell customers their orders' "suggested" price based on the menu. About 60% to 70% pay in full. About 15% leave a little more and another 15% pay less, or nothing at all. A handful of customers have even left big donations, such as $20 for a cup of coffee.

At Right Management, we partner with Chicago’s Cara Program, a non-profit dedicated to helping poor and homeless individuals prepare for the job market and find permanent employment. We commit our own professional staff, company resources and job hunting expertise to help people get back to work. We do mock job interviews, give individual coaching, help with job hunting on the Internet, and do whatever else may be necessary to help Cara’s students achieve their career goals.

With so many companies jumping on the CSR-bandwagon, it begs the question: how can you really use this commitment and investment by truly adding value? How can you leverage what you do best and align your company’s CRS activities with your brand, culture and expertise?

As some might say: it’s about “eating your own cooking” or “walking the talk". I say it’s about pushing philanthropic efforts to be more than just lip service. Take it to the next level and ensure employees and clients are aware of your efforts and confident that the organization is committed and acting responsibly in the best interests of the community.

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