Op-ed: Integrating a social mission into business strategy is worth the effort
By Jennifer Welsh
Traditionally, the fall is when local charities and nonprofits in Ottawa prepare for their biggest fundraising campaigns, leading up to the all-important Giving Tuesday in December, when individuals are encouraged to donate to their favorite causes.
But local businesses can make a year-round impact by partnering with charities, with the added benefit of advancing their strategic agenda.
As someone deeply committed to building a startup, I’ve seen firsthand how you tend to be totally focused on survival, using brute force to get your product to market and onboarding clients. The challenges you face as you grow are different but equally stressful: keeping your customers happy, retaining great people, doing payroll, managing demanding investors, and adapting to stay ahead. on your competitors.
Giving back is not often on an entrepreneur’s agenda. However, when done strategically, integrating a social mission early into your business can be a huge benefit to your business. Giving back can help you build your network, attract talent, build a strong company culture, and position the company as part of a positive movement.
And this approach is also a major asset for the local associative ecosystem, for obvious reasons.
From my experience as a volunteer with iSisters Technology Mentoring, a local charity empowering women and gender-diverse people in need with life-saving IT and employability skills, I have seen how point the support of local technology companies has been essential throughout our history. From IBM (now Lenovo) computers donated in the early 2000s to recent program grants from Ciena and the Flex Foundation, we have been able to serve more learners more effectively through the support of our community.
Local tech companies also provided us with countless volunteer experts who helped us set up our learning management system, execute our data collection strategy, and manage our website analytics.
The most important aspect of choosing a cause is to genuinely care about the organization and its mission. Consult employees on the causes that matter to them; volunteering opportunities can also deepen your impact. Talk to a few local nonprofits to learn more about the work they do and the kind of help they need.
Strategically planning for your company’s social impact from the start sends a message to investors, employees and other stakeholders about your confidence in your company’s potential. These tangible benefits will help you champion your case:
- Eighty-four percent of consumers would choose a brand aligned with a good cause, and 95% think it’s a good idea for businesses to support causes.
- Socially responsible companies see 2.3 times higher retention; 60% of employees say that a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their employer.
- Being unique, interesting and caring is a very effective and inexpensive way to create value for your brand.
Jennifer Welsh is Chief Financial Officer at Indiva Ltd., a Canadian producer of cannabis edibles and other cannabis-based products, a Chartered Professional Accountant, and volunteer Treasurer on the Board of Directors for iSisters Technology Mentoring, a Ottawa-based women’s charity.