My country friend Kate told me of her favourite maxim “don’t look over the fence into the next paddock”. It was her way of saying that the grass might look greener and you’ll spend too much time obsessing about the neighbour’s paddock to look after your own properly. But what if you peer over the fence and you find that your neighbour is having the same problems? Would it help you to develop empathy for their situation and even want to lend a hand?
A recent report shows the following situation for a group of people working in social impact:
- 61% are working longer hours
- 50% have experienced burnout
- 46% fear not meeting expectations
- 17-19% report low morale, mental health concerns and employee turnover.
Does this sound familiar? Could this be your non-profit? Is this you?
Actually these people are corporate social responsibility professionals working in corporates.
The results come from the latest CSR insights survey from the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals. The report shows continual instability and change, increased demands and responsibilities and insufficient headcount. Over 60% of CSR professionals work in a team of 5 or fewer people and they report needing more people, financial resources and greater buy-in from leadership.
It sounds just like every non-profit I’ve ever worked with.
There is a myth that CSR professionals are sitting on a limitless bucket of money and are dying to get your unsolicited proposal. If you want to connect with CSR people to explore a corporate partnership, then an approach led by empathy and understanding is going to get a warmer reception.
Here are three ways to make a meaningful connection.
Give them a compelling business case
CSR teams don’t have big budgets and they usually have to take budget approvals far up the line. Often the final sign-off comes from their CFO, CEO or someone far removed from the day-to-day understanding of social impact. You need to help them with a clear and compelling commercial proposition. They may love your organisation, be passionate about your cause and willing to be a volunteer. But they need to convince internal stakeholders that your partnership proposal is going to be worth the investment. Show that you’ve understood the business/ needs and priorities and how the partnership is going to be a win-win. Do the work for your CSR contact and they’ll be a more effective advocate.
Give them great content
Partnerships are a mix of head and heart. If the CSR team have managed to get sign-off for your partnership they’ll need your support to keep their executive, colleagues and customers inspired. Great quality content, in the form of images, video, stories and testimonials are vital. CSR teams can build a strong pipeline for their marketing and communications department, who’ll convert your content to regular pieces across all corporate channels. Don’t make them coming begging for content. Make it easy, regular and inspiring. You’ll help the CSR team convert the marketing department to advocates and you’ll increase brand awareness for your cause.
Understand their limitations
A bit of empathy will go a long way. If CSR professional are experiencing many of the same challenges as you, then be considerate about how you work with them. 86% of survey respondents said they have taken on more responsibilities during the past year without additional resources. Make sure you know how they like to be contacted, so you don’t pepper them with emails. Ask your CSR contact what they need to be successful with their own leadership. Give them a generous shout-out on social media channels and thank them for their support. Invite them to a special event. Remember that they’re hard-working humans, just like you and they’re trying their best in challenging circumstances. They are allies, not gatekeepers.
The grass isn’t always greener in the next paddock. If you understand that partnership teams and CSR people often face similar challenges, you’ll be able to reach out with empathy. That’s a great place to start in building a relationship.