A blog by Cause Consulting

6 Tips to Evaluate + Strengthen Your Signature Social Impact Program

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Signature programs – ownable, branded, and outcome-driven social impact initiatives that deliver on business and social objectives – require constant evaluation and strategic review to continue driving meaningful business and societal outcomes. With increased pressure from diverse stakeholders for companies to lead on issues impacting the communities they serve, corporate social impact professionals are being challenged more than ever before to architect stronger social impact initiatives and enhance existing ones.

Aligning more closely with business strategy, engaging more employees, and identifying a social issue niche in which to lead are among some of the common challenges practitioners are facing in taking their initiatives to the next level.

As we head into the fall, embrace planning season, and look ahead to the new year, it’s important to take a step back, think critically, and be deliberate about how you leverage what your organization does best to get back to basics and make your signature program work harder.

Here are 6 tips to help social impact practitioners strengthen current initiatives or create frameworks for new programs that are bigger, bolder, and move beyond traditional practices:

1) Build from brand purpose and DNA.

Know your brand promise and corporate purpose and decide what elements your signature program should reinforce. Engage regularly with your brand team colleagues to collectively craft how to “bring to life” what you stand for.

2) Focus on a relevant, critical issue.

When we say focus, we mean focus! Identify a social issue (not three) that is not only important to society and your key stakeholders, but one that makes sense for your company to rally behind over the long-term. Engage issue experts, nonprofit partners, and employees to develop a “theory of change” within an impact model, align your company’s assets and architect the path forward. Then, allocate appropriate resources – this could be as much as 70-to-80% of your budget and time.

3) Leverage what you do best.

Get smarter and uncover the products, services processes, and technologies that truly drive your company’s success. Take the time to understand your workforce’s skill sets, then align these assets with your “theory of change.” This will help you identify your program’s “special sauce” and marketplace differentiation.

4) Focus your strategic investments on fewer impact-driven partnerships.

It is time to move beyond spreading resources thin across many nonprofits and communities. This approach will not move the needle on critical issues. Proactively explore deeper, longer-term, multi-layered partnerships. Ongoing collaboration is essential with players who share a common goal. Consider new and unexpected partners. And, if your current partners are not open to new ideas and change, perhaps they are not right at this time.

5) Be an issue leader.

Your company’s brand, voice, and leadership are needed. Whether it’s to raise awareness of an issue, mobilize people to take action, or convene a conversation to identify new solutions, be proactive in taking on opportunities to lead.

6) Craft stories of impact.

We appreciate the need to track outputs such as volunteer hours or pounds of food donated, but we must move our communications towards highlighting human outcomes and telling emotionally compelling stories.

Signature Program development and refinement is a continuous improvement journey. Following these strategies can help guide a thoughtful, deliberate approach and enable you to rally your most important stakeholders to drive together toward impact.

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