Engaging Corporations - Some suggestions on how to engage corporations based on stories of network members

How to Engage Corporations

  1. Engagement

    This section presents three critical activities to engagement: a. Accessing the Corporation, b. The Initial Meeting, and c. Building the Relationship.

    1. Accessing the Corporation
    2. This is the stage at which your association makes the point of contact. You have completed your preparatory work and now are ready to consider the following:

      • Plan ahead. Your first goal is to persuade the CEO or corporate decision maker to follow through to the next stage—in this case, the initial planning for a specific engagement.
      • Identify who among your Board has the influence to open doors or create opportunities to contact the CEO.
      • Have clear objectives for this approach, with a checklist or protocol that details the step-by-step process.
      • Be prepared with responses to frequently asked questions.
      • Demonstrate your knowledge in your area during the meeting.

      Based on the experience of the Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society in Thailand, the CEO, Board and top management should be involved in the engagement process from the start. Initial contact should be spearheaded by one of them. CEOs often prefer dealing with their peers. Your CEO could broach ideas about CSR, either in a formal setting or informally during luncheons, cocktail parties or golf. This approach is tried and true, unlike "cold calling” which is not recommended. Once interest is generated (i.e. the CEO agrees to take up the matter), materials can be sent and an appointment made for the initial meeting.


      • Use influence to open doors; map relationships and know who is useful within your network.
      • Be versed in corporate language and apply your knowledge to score a meeting.
      • Research corporate culture.
      • Be confident and convincing; make a good impression on the corporation.
    3. Initial Meeting
    4. Prepare for your first meeting. Getting key individuals to meet must be facilitated on both sides. Initial meetings should be arranged by the decision makers involved. If the agenda is presented and advocated by leaders the corporation trusts, then the likelihood of meeting is stronger. This agenda must be mutually agreed upon and beneficial to both sides; the contributions of each party must be clear and achievable.

      Case Study: Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, Thailand

      In the late 1990s, the Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society (CPCS) joined together with professionals of a large corporation and members of civil society to form the Business Group for Thai Society (BGTS). The member from the business sector took the lead while CPCS provided the secretariat functions. The objectives were to raise awareness in the business sector around the importance of social responsibility and to build an alliance between the business sector and civil society to respond to social issues. Since this was done at a time before the surge of CSR in Thailand, the understanding and acceptance of the concept was very low. Much of the work focused on educating and starting the dialogue on business social responsibility, raising the level of awareness of businesses around social issues in which they might play a role, and connecting businesses to civil society partners.

      At the start, the results were encouraging as business and civil society members showed interest and willingness to engage, particularly with increased understanding of the concept. There were many innovative ideas waiting to be realised. Many workshops took place and plans were developed. Business professionals and civil society members were able to come together at the same forums to exchange ideas and discuss cooperation—a process that gave them a better understanding of each other's limitations and potential.

      However, disappointment came when many of the plans failed to materialize. Many ideas taken back to corporations were turned down by boards, CEOs, or top level management who were uninvolved in prior discussions, and so unaware and perhaps disinterested. Some approved programs were downscaled to small projects and given very little resources, including insufficient manpower. While BGTS members remained committed, they were aware of the difficulties of implementation under limited support. The importance of promoting understanding in the broader society and building social pressure towards business social responsibility were seen as necessary, and it was clear that the issue would have to be promoted at all levels within the company. It was understood that these tasks would be a longterm effort. The group at this point began to lose momentum as the anticipated timeline of tasks was stretched out.

      Offer your services. What knowledge and expertise can you offer your corporate partners? Examples include:

      • Ability to identify the best organisational solutions.
      • Knowledge of good CSR criteria.
      • Knowledge of varying CSR concepts.
      • Knowledge of corporate philanthropy tools.
      • Ability to leveraging philanthropy by getting other stakeholders (employees, customers, etc.) to contribute.
      • A list of philanthropic activities (with cases) that can be developed by the corporation.
      • Suggestions for how companies might organise their philanthropy (i.e. operate, give, or a hybrid of both).
      • Knowledge of how to systematise best practices and develop a good database.

      It might be useful to identify projects for confidence and trust-building where little or no money is required. Because these types of activities help improve company image and add prestige, media exposure can help motivate corporations for further involvement.

      Case Study: Hungarian Donor’s Forum – Engage Day

      Hungarian Donor’s Forum is a club composed of five corporations: Generali Insurance Company, Holcim Hungary Ltd., Hungarian Telekom Plc., Pannon GSM Telecommunication Plc., and Vodafone Hungary Ltd. The club's first project was a volunteer day to remove graffiti from Saint Rokus Hospital and Saint Rokus Church. From the five corporations, 40 volunteers were involved. The club managed to involve all corporations in the project and to create cooperation between the government, corporations and the civil sector to solve the problem, and the expense incurred was about EUR1.600. The event was well covered by the media and the feedback from the corporations was encouraging.

    5. Building the Relationship
    6. Once trust and respect between the association and the corporation is evident, the partnership is ready for deeper engagement. To build a relationship with the corporation, the association can offer assistance, which may include:

      • Identifying appropriate causes to support.
      • Helping to connect philanthropy with business objectives.
      • Helping to develop tools for corporate philanthropy and philanthropic activities.
      • Helping to establish performance metrics for corporate social responsibility.

      Institute for the Development of Social Investment (IDIS), Brazil

      The Cause Related Marketing Initiative supported by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)1 was an effort of the Institute for the Development of Social Investment to help Brazilian society, corporate and non-profit professionals benefit from a strategy for private social investment that can bring significant benefits to social and environmental causes, as well as to companies, non-profits and their brands. Developed in 2003, the Initiative promoted awareness of this tool and how to use it effectively towards partnership building.

      The IDIS is at an advanced stage where it can advise companies looking to structure strategic CRM programs according to their values, mission and vision. But before the IDIS could achieve this, they did the following:

      • Created a steering committee with companies with cause related marketing programs (IDIS also funded the program), where each role was clearly defined. (Memorandum of Understanding or MOUs could be helpful.) Meetings with key stakeholders were held regularly.
      • Raised funds. Additional funding came from the Charities Aid Foundation.
      • Surveyed corporations to understand their behavior towards cause related marketing programs. This gave IDIS the context and additional data for media promotion.
      • International conferences brought experts to share learnings (Sue Adkins from BiTC UK in the 1st year; David Hessekiel from Cause Marketing Forum USA in the 2nd year). National cases were also highlighted to raise awareness.
      • Released communication materials and continuously disseminated information about cause related marketing.

    Case Study: Center for Philanthropy, Slovakia

    The beginnings of the Center for Philanthropy (CpF) go back to 1992, when the Environmental Training Project (ETP) was launched in Eastern Slovakia and then expanded to all of Slovakia in 1994. The program was designed to promote practical and management-oriented training for local self-governments, nonprofit organisations and small and mid-size businesses focusing on environmental protection. The program was led by University of Minnesota (USA) and was funded by the United States Agency for International Development. In Slovakia, the program included training courses and provided grants to help build managerial skills and competencies.

    CpF started its cooperation with Orange Slovensko, a.s. (formerly Globetel, a.s., the largest provider of mobile telecommunication services and the largest telecommunication operator in Slovakia in terms of customers base and sales) in 1999. The first activity was monitoring the You Can Help to Help Program, in which Globetel gave donations to hospitals and social care facilities, verifying their use and impact.

    After Globetel made a public call for a partner from the non-profit sector at a conference in Stupava, ETP Slovakia started working with it more closely, developing for it the first regional open grant and helping in its implementation. The program was designed to improve the quality of life in regions of Slovakia. For the first time, such a grant program was funded by a major company based in Slovakia.

    The joint program focused on:

    • Development of philanthropic programs, including technical, financial, human resources, and administrative implementation and performance of activities related to planning, implementation, and program evaluation.
    • Monitoring of societal philanthropic need with special focus on: assistance to select target groups or a designated circle of individuals; monitoring of trends in philanthropy; provision of information about philanthropic projects being implemented in Slovakia; provision of information about developments in the non-profit sector and its relations to business; and actively facilitating proposals for philanthropic projects.

    Openness, transparency and availability of support constituted the principles of CpF work when designing and implementing grant programs through the open grant mechanism. So when CpF submitted proposals during the grant round calls, these got approved. So far, CpF has received almost SKK 72.8 million for projects supporting cultural, sports and educational activities for young people, creative and active teachers for innovations in teaching methods, and gift giving to children in hospitals, the elderly and the homeless.

    Because of the partnership with Orange Slovensko, a.s., CpF has become familiar with the dynamics, creativity and flexibility of the business environment. CpF has also been able to develop relationships with other businesses seeking to develop their philanthropy. On the part of Orange, being able to fulfill the expectations of its clients, staff and partners has established it reputation as a "company with a human face.”