The power of a well-considered Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy shouldn’t be underestimated.

photo of Run Geelong participants

When close to 13,000 people ran, jogged or walked their way through the recent Run Geelong event, it highlighted what can be achieved for both the community and the corporate sector, if done correctly.

Each year, Run Geelong and its five sister events across Australia raise over $2 million for children’s hospital and health services across their host cities. They also underline how serious Cotton On considers CSR as part of its business reputation and development.

The company uses its own awareness and fundraising foundation to implement a clear and consistent vision to ‘empower youth, mobilise communities and build futures’. Unsurprisingly, Cotton On tends to support causes that align with these goals both here Australia and overseas.

Fun runs raising money for children’s health are a perfect fit with the company’s social values. They are a great way to get people out enjoying themselves, socialising and improving their own wellbeing, while collecting valuable funds for local hospitals.

It’s also a lesson for many small- to mid-sized businesses.

Businesses of all sizes have an important role in giving back to the community. However, smaller businesses often take a ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ approach to choosing which causes and charities to support.

While providing support of any kind is admirable, successful CSR isn’t about random choices. Instead, it is about matching your choices with the values and culture of your own business. Importantly, it should also resonate with your customers and employees.

An effective CSR strategy starts with identifying the issues and causes that best mirror your business values and culture. You should then determine the best means for you to provide help and support.

Understandably, not every business has the resources of Cotton On to set up major events such as fun runs, but there may be other ways in which you can assist and promote awareness and support for your chosen cause both within your organisation and through your customer base.

CSR isn’t about throwing sponsorship money at an event or activity simply to get your logo on the promotional materials. More importantly, it’s about how you and your staff can invest time and knowledge to support your chosen cause. Providing resources is a great way to help as is ensuring your own business policies and procedures reflect the values of the cause.

Use social media and your website to promote your preferred cause and gain extra support for them. Finally, don’t be shy about posting about the hands-on work and events you initiate and participate in.

There are many worthy causes and charities in our region for which your business could provide valuable benefit. Not all are high profile and there are enormous opportunities to help raise awareness for lesser known groups and their important work.

Organisations such as Karingal BacLinks are also available to connect you with specific community groups or charities currently looking for support to complete projects or raise funds.

Any business can make a difference and enhance its commitment to and reputation in the community by taking a measured and consistent rather than arbitrary approach to CSR.

Make 2017 the year you move up from a business sponsor to an effective community-minded organisation.

This article first appeared in Geelong Business News.