New Study Identifies Attributes that Make Citizenship Programs Authentic

By Mandy Ryan, Managing Director, Corporate Social Engagement, Changing Our World

As corporate citizenship consultants, we often find ourselves in the position of helping clients “make the case” to senior leaders that an investment in the company’s philanthropic efforts will benefit the bottom line. And while we truly believe this to be the case, the oft-cited idiom of doing well by doing good is not always straightforward, and, in fact, is quite a delicate equilibrium to achieve.

Over the years, the stats have clearly shown that people want companies to give back. This is good news for our field and for society at large. Yet, with this increase in expectation has come a boost in savviness and skepticism on the part of consumers. For instance, 75% of people think companies are more talk than action around their support for social issues, at least some of the time. Simply put, giving for the sake of giving is no longer enough; companies must do better.

So, what is better?

Changing Our World’s recently released corporate citizenship report points to one key factor that can make or break a company’s citizenship efforts: authenticity. Authenticity is, in essence, the pivot point. Authentic citizenship programs forge pathways to loyal customers and employees, while those same stakeholders will speak out and shut their wallets to punish companies deemed ingenuine.

The problem is, authenticity is not exactly easy to come by. It can’t be bought or messaged. It must be earned.

Luckily, our research, based on a survey of over 1,000 Americans, pinpoints four key attributes that are consistently called out as core to authentic citizenship programs: having a long-term strategy; putting skin in the game by allocating meaningful resources to the effort; leveraging core business assets; and, earning the endorsement of third party advocates. While each attribute takes time and thought to achieve, all are attainable. And, combined, they form the foundation for programs that are impactful in the community—and achieve that proverbial “halo effect” for which companies strive.

We invite you to learn more about these four core attributes, as well as stakeholder perceptions of authenticity in corporate citizenship—including the differences by age and gender—with this free download of Changing Our World’s full report: The Authenticity Opportunity: Substance Over Splash in Corporate Citizenship.

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