4 Ways CSR Leaders Can Build More Internal Support For Their Programs

Rebecca Mitsch

Communications strategist working with MovingWorlds

Those working to build and scale CSR programs know that external impact isn’t possible without the engagement and participation of internal stakeholders. Particularly in the wake of COVID-19 and virtual work, the evolving and growing needs of external stakeholders can overshadow the needs of internal stakeholders. While a focus on your end-beneficiaries is a definitive best-practice, to create real impact, you need to develop internal support.

Keeping your internal stakeholders engaged now will pay dividends down the road, particularly since this a good time to engage internal stakeholders differently. Here are 4 ways for your now-virtual team to keep your internal stakeholders engaged:

  1. Make impact data clear, accessible, and easy to understand. CSR programs often depend on stakeholders literally seeing the success of a program first-hand or hearing about it via word-of-mouth in the office. People can’t get excited about joining in on your great work if they don’t know what great work you’re doing! In a virtual setting, you may have to adapt how you present this data, but it’s a great opportunity to build meaningful dashboards using tools like Data Studio to put hard numbers into meaningful graphics. Going virtual may also mean utilizing different metrics than your stakeholders are accustomed to seeing, particularly if your program leaned heavily on in-person engagements pre-COVID. It’s best to find a happy medium, incorporating some vanity metrics, like the number of employees volunteering, that your stakeholders already understand, and introducing new metrics to fully follow your CSR program’s impact journey. Consider for example this living impact report from our partners at Tableau, which is a great example of the kind of reporting that is possible to create and share. And keep in mind that data and dashboards are important to show measurable impact, but success stories depicting the human element of impact will still resonate with members of the C-Suite should be woven into your reporting.
  2. Make meetings memorable. We talk a lot about our human-centered design approach to creating and fine-tuning sustainable social impact programs, but it can also be applied to something as simple as an internal meeting. In the bestselling book The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, authors Chip and Dan Heath share that moments are meaningful and memorable when they have elements of elevation, pride, insight, and connection. Take a step back to ask yourself how you can design and run virtual gatherings with your team that include more of these elements. Perhaps you can start off the meeting celebrating “wins” that your team has accomplished before jumping into the agenda. Or, try incorporating collaboration tools into your meetings, like a virtual whiteboard for brainstorming and small-group breakout rooms to foster engagement and ensure that all meeting members have an opportunity to be heard. You can learn more about how to incorporate these elements in our guide to building impactful virtual learning communities.
  3. Harness internal stakeholders to spur innovation. It’s all too easy to feel limited by all-virtual meetings and programming. But going virtual isn’t just a change in how you’ll conduct meetings or have impact, it’s an opportunity to remove boundaries that may have existed in your in-person work. Virtual engagements are also a great leveler, increasing accessibility and reach. Get creative by assembling some of our key stakeholders and asking a few questions to start the brainstorming: Who can you engage with now that you couldn’t before, and what could that mean for your program? More importantly, who should you have been engaging with before and can you prioritize that now? Senior leaders are potentially more accessible than they’ve ever been because we can all jump on a video call. Employees who always wanted to join the program but were limited by time and/or geography, can participate in the virtual version. As we get accustomed to thinking virtually, we can increase our inclusiveness and crowdsource ideas from all sectors of the company. Being virtual won’t limit your access to your internal community unless you let it, so checking that mindset is a crucial first step. 
  4. Leverage storytelling. Storytelling humanizes your CSR program, inspires internal stakeholders to participate, and creates an opportunity for employees and executives to be proud of the program and their role in it. Being virtual doesn’t decrease the power of storytelling, it increases the need for compelling stories that connect to the heart of the work, and the options for how stories can be gathered. Use your team’s experiences creating your organization’s programs and working with your external partners, and your participants’ experiences volunteering, fundraising, and donating to connect with your internal stakeholders. At MovingWorlds, we prioritize helping our corporate partners tell the stories of their employees experteering experiences because it is the best way to quickly show the full impact of our programming to all stakeholders. Prioritize storytelling now, to lay groundwork for more impactful programming in the future.

We know that impactful and sustainable CSR is more than just saying things that sound good to consumers, it’s about backing up words with action. Because of this, communication and engagement aren’t solely external facing considerations, it matters that your internal stakeholders are engaged and aligned for maximum impact. As you’re working through how best to maximize your program’s impact, refer to our resources for help. And if you’re looking for more customized support, reach out to us.