Finding Your Authentic Voice in Corporate Responsibility Initiatives - Rolling Stone
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Tips for Finding Your Authentic Voice in Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives

Align with causes that resonate with your core values.


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Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.

Studies show that giving back can lower blood pressure and even contribute to a longer life. Whether you run a small business in the creative sector and wish to get involved in assisting your community or you’re a global conglomerate impassioned with a corporate responsibility initiative, there is always an opportunity to generate goodwill by donating your time and money toward great causes.

Finding the right partner for your charitable efforts can be as rewarding as it is challenging. As founder of performance with purpose brand, DEFY, I’ve worked hard to find the best outlet for my philanthropic goals. Luckily for you, this means I have a little cheat sheet to help you determine your goals. Check out my checklist below to help you start your philanthropic journey:

Define Your Values

Today’s consumers are cynical — they can differentiate between quick PR decisions made to grab headlines and an authentic charitable pursuit. The first step you should take in any philanthropic effort is to do some soul searching to find the values that guide your business.

Grab a pen and paper, and simply jot down your core values, as well as the issues that matter most to your brand. This action will help you whittle down the causes you want to focus on and ensure your values align with the mission statement of a potential charitable partner.

Align with Causes that Resonate with Your Core Values

Discovering a new mission will strengthen your relationship with your customers. As long as your mission fits your corporate message, it should align naturally with the brand you’ve created.

As a Black entrepreneur known on the football field for starting the Mile High Salute, my guiding principles have always tied closely to supporting the African American community as well as those on the front lines, such as the armed forces, veterans and, most recently, the medical community.

Start first with what excites you and where you think you could help. There are so many worthwhile causes to donate your resources to. Finding ones that you have a personal connection with narrows down where you want to focus.

Decide on Tools to Support Your Cause

Giving back can take many forms, such as:

• Fundraisers.

• In-kind donations.

• One-time and ongoing giving.

• Advisory or in-person commitments of your time and expertise.

• Raising awareness via your personal or company platforms, such as websites, events, or social media channels.

Below are a few personal examples of how I chose to give back and why, as well as advice for each type of giving:

Donate In-Kind 

When Covid-19 first started sweeping the nation, I knew I wanted to give back, but with so many unknowns and time being of the essence, donating goods to already established nonprofits with a proven track record was the obvious choice. My company, DEFY, jumped into immediate action and donated over $400,000 in DEFY beverages to Feeding America and directly to first responders and veterans via the request form on our website.

Donating in-kind means lending the best of what you do to help those less fortunate overcome adversity. When employing this initiative, focus on what you can do to help the situation. If you have the resources and there’s a great need to fill, take action.

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Raise Awareness

When the tragic news of George Floyd’s passing reignited the national debate over race relations in the U.S. and around the world, I knew I could not stay silent; my values wouldn’t let me. As a member of the African American community, I chose to use my platform to discuss the important issues at hand with a diverse array of media outlets, such as ESPN’s SportsCenter and MSNBC. I knew my time and ability to shed light on the situation was the best way I could give back, so I put football and DEFY’s media outreach on hold. I used my time to raise awareness with the audiences I had at my disposal.

Not everyone has the opportunity for television and radio appearances, but we all have social media and circles of influence. Raising awareness in any form is a way to show support for a cause and further put your values on display to your customers and fans.

Make Giving Ongoing

When my company was gearing up to create a new alkaline water, we knew we wanted a built-in donation structure that aligned with our mission as a woman-, veteran- and black-owned brand. Before the products even hit shelves, we worked for months to identify and secure partnerships with three major organizations that aligned with causes that mattered most to my team. Our CEO, Megan Bushell, chose the National Association of Women Business Owners to be one of three organizations that would receive a percentage of DEFY Water sales. Another board member and former Navy SEAL, Eric Frohardt, connected with Disabled American Veterans, an organization he had a personal connection with and utilized when transitioning back to civilian life.

The best way to make giving ongoing is to tap into your core values and find the mission that aligns best with them. As mentioned above, our CEO Megan chose to give to a group that benefits women in business — you can see how she could relate and be motivated to work for that group. Think of this corporate initiative as your “desert island” philanthropy — if you had to choose just one mission, which one would you give to?

The Long Game

So, there you have it — all the basics you need to activate your philanthropic efforts.

No matter how you decide to give back, you will find that being consistent and on message is the most important part of the long game. It strengthens not only your bond with the causes that matter most to you but also the consumers’ bond with your brand.


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