Oct. 25, 2021 2:06 pm

How to create a CSR initiative built to last

"As a leader, you have to be able to find parallels between your organization and a charity in aspects like mission, authenticity, standards, and outlook," says guest columnist Adam Kaliner.

L: Liz Scott, co-executive director of Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation; r: Adam Kaliner, cofounder of Power Home Remodeling.

(Courtesy photo)

This guest column was written by Adam Kaliner, the cofounder of Power Home Remodeling.
Update: Photo caption was corrected. (10/25/21 at 3:35 p.m.)
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation all started with a very simple concept that was exactly what it stated to be — a lemonade stand, started by a young girl named Alex, that helped raise money for children battling cancer.

And that concept, as simple as it was, was the face of a much larger endeavor that for many years seemed impossible. It started at a time where no one knew where the money raised was going, or how big the charity would ever grow to be. However, one thing I was sure about back then, that I’m even more sure of now, was that Alex’s Lemonade Stand just made sense to me — who couldn’t get behind helping kids and families stricken with childhood cancer?

Beyond that, it made sense for our company — Power Home Remodeling — to support, because it meant that we had identified a charitable partner that emulated our mission of trying to create positive change.

Identify the parallels

When you’re building a brand, over time it becomes less about the individual and more about the collective. Do the decisions we’re making as a leadership community ladder back to our brand’s mission and values?

The same type of thinking applies when looking at Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) opportunities for your business. As a leader, you have to be able to find parallels between your organization and a charity in aspects like mission, authenticity, standards, and outlook.

It was evident those parallels existed between ALSF and Power. Every year, we bump up our own standard for giving while our headcount isn’t that drastically different — but we figure out ways to make our philanthropic efforts towards ALSF new and exciting because at its core, it makes our employees and our business better.

Find one thing and focus on it

Yet, finding success within the realm of CSR is not easy. As a business, you employ people who are vastly different from one another — they come from different backgrounds, have different world views, live in different locations, and have different experiences. Thus, what they feel passionate about and the causes they want to support can vary.

However, if you try to support too many different charitable organizations simultaneously, you’ll see that the impact your business and the people within your walls have is much smaller and feels insurmountable.

Now, this doesn’t mean businesses should stop giving to multiple causes altogether —Power has always distributed our financial support; yet finding a focus for your philanthropic efforts allows for true, lasting and life-changing impact. When you find a cause that fits this description, wrap your business’ arms around it and embrace it fully.

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Give your employees’ the keys to the car

ALSF telethon, June 2021. (Courtesy photo)

And once you’ve designated a charitable organization of choice, it’s time for leadership to simply step out of the way.

When your core foundation is built on culture, it’s a no brainer to let your employees in the driver’s seat when it comes to creating the community and the following behind your philanthropic giving efforts. At Power, our ALSF planning committee is made up of employees from every facet of the business that get to drum up their own ideas each year from their hands-on understanding of what excites our people, because they themselves are part of the audience.

Our leadership is simply there to make sure we’re staying on course with our efforts, and that we are able to say ‘yes’ to life-changing experiences for our Hero Families that are part of ALSF.

The secret sauce? Creating impact

Employees having a direct hand in that planning, creation, and execution of philanthropic efforts, that’s the secret sauce. It’s commonplace for businesses to write a check and donate a large sum on behalf of an organization, but how much impact does that truly have on your people?

At Power, we incorporate our employees within these efforts to help them grow as humans, because the growth of our people is what we ultimately want. And until you are giving back to others, you’re not growing as much as you can.

So instead of just stroking a check, we encourage the opposite. We create an environment focused on education, engaging events, healthy competition, compassion, and team work that’s all put toward a purpose-driven initiative that unifies our employees. And by doing so, employees are compelled to give back on their own volition — not because of recognition, or external news attention — but because of their pride, the fun they have doing it, the impact they make, and the most simple reason of all: to help kids who are in less fortunate circumstances due to pediatric cancer.

That mindset is what makes every dollar raised and every employee effort real, no matter the cause.

Now, 10 years into our relationship with ALSF, we have raised over $4.4 million dollars; of which $1.2 million of those total funds was raised this year, despite the current world circumstances taking a toll on the business of philanthropy.

Now more than ever, companies need to remain committed to helping their charitable partners through more than just fundraising, but through company culture and creating meaningful impact. A

s long as Power is supporting efforts that are tied to making an impact and affecting change, it makes sense for our business. When you can do that — find something that fits your people and doesn’t feel forced as a partnership — that’s when you’ll begin to create a CSR initiative for your company that’s built to last.


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