7 Reasons Your Association Should Be Socially Responsible

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Renee Zau

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As an association, your job is to optimize your members’ business practices by offering resources and connections through industry contacts. Providing corporate social responsibility resources can also enhance your members’ visibility and social impact outside of your association.

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is the idea that for-profit organizations have the obligation to support the quality of life in their communities. Done right, it is mutually beneficial for both nonprofit beneficiaries and for-profit donors to participate in CSR. Therefore, it is in your association’s best interest to encourage philanthropic activity by your members by providing them with CSR educational resources and being socially responsible.

How can being a socially responsible association strengthen your mission? 

1. Achieve your association’s goals.

As an association, your members expect industry insights, education, and networking opportunities. CSR trends and ways companies in your industry have successfully engaged with causes can give them a strategic advantage, too.

When your association starts its strategic planning for the year, it may help to discuss which members have experience with successful CSR and how to share their expertise and resources with other members. Examine how CSR benefits your industry and which topics could be relevant to your audience. Sending a survey to members can identify specific concerns or challenges and gauge which topics are most popular. Be sure to provide resources for all levels of CSR experience. 

2. Attract new members.

CSR is gaining popularity amongst the business community and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, 90% of companies on the S&P 500 index have published a CSR report, up from 20% eight years before.

Your job as an association is to stay on top of trends that will enhance your members’ understanding of their industry and make them competitive in the industry. Keeping CSR knowledge and tips from them would be a disservice. On the other hand, providing detailed information about how to start and maintain a successful CSR program can draw new businesses to your association. Plus, taking a leadership role in the teaching process saves your business members time and money. 

3. Boost your industry’s reputation. 

According to 360 MatchPro, one of corporate philanthropy’s greatest assets is the reputational boost of being associated with nonprofits doing good in the community. 

Being an active advocate for a charitable cause or nonprofit partner will make a big difference in consumers’ minds. In fact, 77% of consumers are more likely to patronize a business committed to philanthropic activity and improving the community. Offering educational CSR resources is the first step to improving your members’ understanding of CSR and potentially their company reputations on an industry-wide level, making the work landscape better for all of your members. 

4. Develop sector standards.

By providing the ability to identify room for improvement within your industry, you open the door for consistent growth. Adopting CSR initiatives is quickly becoming a business best practice. Therefore, it’s in your association’s best interest to create new standards around CSR and promote it as an essential business practice. 

5. Catalyze innovation.

Your association focuses on improving your members’ working environment and finding opportunities in your industry. Promoting innovation within the industry keeps your members at the forefront of new developments. But, innovation requires your members to zoom out and look at the bigger picture: how their actions impact the outside world. 

CSR naturally focuses on addressing and amending your association’s widespread social impact. Use CSR as an opportunity to discuss how to strengthen your C-suite members’ business models to earn profit and improve social responsibility.

6. Build mutually beneficial relationships outside your industry 

Your members are likely accustomed to networking within their industry network, but they might be less familiar with the nonprofit and civic sectors. Undertaking CSR programs will allow your members to form relationships with these types of organizations as colleagues or even partners in their philanthropic endeavors. 

Besides the advantage of spreading your business’ name to new audiences, associating with nonprofits will open new doors for policy change related to your industry. For instance, the Geothermal Energy Association would have more credibility and power to advocate for renewable energy policy change if endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

7. Improve employee retention.

Your members aren’t the only stakeholders that benefit from CSR. According to DonationMatch, employees at socially responsible organizations feel more motivated and are more likely to stay in their positions longer. Avoid the costly turnover in both your association and your member companies

How can we help?

Your association can offer the following resources to improve your members’ understanding of CSR:

  • Conferences and Webinars: Your association likely already offers your members access to conferences and other professional events. Leverage this position to teach your members about CSR best practices with an educational panel or question-and-answer session. 
  • Software solutions: Remove the guesswork for your members by researching CSR software that facilitates the giving process, perhaps even negotiating group discounts for them. For example, a corporate giving platform can connect them with potential nonprofit partners, or make what they are already doing more systematic and strategic. 
  • Your own CSR model: As thought leaders in your industry, take this opportunity to lead by example. Take a proactive approach to philanthropy yourself by building out your CSR program. Promote your own CSR programs and raise money for causes that impact your industry’s stakeholders. Remember to keep the door open for your members to suggest a CSR initiative or a corporate fundraising campaign.

Essentially, you can enhance the member experience by doing things you already do, with a social impact lens: providing vetted resources and strategic solutions for conducting business.

Wrapping Up

Before teaching your members about social responsibility, ensure you understand the ways your members can give back besides writing a check. Corporate philanthropy programs such as matching gifts, volunteer grants, in-kind donations, and sponsorships may all be relevant and cost-effective options for businesses of all sizes. Ultimately, being a socially-minded association will promote accountability and transparency within your industry.


This article was written by Renee Zau. Renee is the CEO and Co-Founder of DonationMatch, a turnkey platform that brings vetted companies and nonprofits together so products and services can be donated more efficiently. DonationMatch was created as a result of Renee’s direct experience as both a silent auction chair and marketer, which inspired her to create a streamlined platform for companies to provide in-kind donations to the right event audiences.

Renee holds a B.S. in Bioengineering from UCSD, is a graduate of the Founder Institute accelerator program, and has been awarded NAWBO San Diego’s Trailblazer Award and Woman Business Owner of the Year. She believes in win-win collaboration as a tool for success in both business and life.

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