Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Community Involvement as a Client Development Tool for PSF's

Earlier this year Creative Growth Group organized a discussion for its clients and friends-of-the-firm regarding how professional services firms can leverage their community affairs as a client development tool. Ann Cramer, who is Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Director – Americas for IBM, led the discussion and it was clear that the opportunities go well beyond community involvement.

Top three takeaways:

1. Integral and Strategic: Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs imply a broader impact than merely giving some cash to charities. This is no longer a nice-to-have, outlier set of activities. It is now imperative that professional services firms, just like their corporate America client base, integrate community activities into the fabric of their business strategy. As Ann Cramer said, “IBM views corporate social responsibility efforts as an integral, aligned piece and principal of our business strategy with direct impact on our ability to achieve growth and greatness.” Taken at this level, corporate social responsibility efforts can and should demonstrate an impact on quantifiable savings and/or market opportunity creation.
• Action: Lobby your firm to raise corporate social responsibility to the level of strategic imperative.

2. More than Money: You don’t have to be as big as IBM to make a significant community impact. IBM itself evolved from grand benefactor dropping cash around charitable organizations to intentional and strategic community participant considering all assets the firm has to potentially deliver to non-profits such as time, talent, treasure and technology.
• Action: Take an inventory of the time, talent, treasure and technology assets at your firm and offer an expanded resource pool – not just cash (or, in some cases, instead of cash) – to offer the non-profit community.

3. Genuine not just Generous: Strive for congruence between what your firm claims as its values and how it actually conducts its community and corporate affairs. Beyond congruence, a firm’s corporate citizenship activities should stem from a genuine passion for the cause being supported. If the cause has a clear, genuine and believable link to the firm’s core business and the interests of your professionals (not just your Managing Partner) it is more likely to succeed.
• Action: Involve employees in deciding how the Firm allocates its philanthropic activity and assets. 1/3 of IBM’s philanthropic activity is employee guided.

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