6 Best Practices To Design And Execute An Effective CSR Platform

A proper corporate social responsibility platform creates a win/win/win situation for the credit union, its members, and the community.
Brandon Michaels

Every financial institution is faced with the reality that success in today’s marketplace requires new paradigms for growth and adding techniques to your sales and services portfolio. You, no doubt, have a handful of strategies in mind. But there might be a tool missing in your plan. That tool is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) platform.

Six elements drive an effective CSR program: Mission, alignment, engagement, structure, communication and sales, and evaluation. To lead the marketplace and rise above competition from other financial institutions, a credit union CSR and community investment platform should embrace all six key elements.

1. Mission/Vision

An effective CSR program should embrace and follow an overarching mission/vision statement, consistent with the purpose of the business and integrated into the company’s strategy for commercial success to reinforce the company’s values.

2. Alignment

In addition, an effective CSR program should maximize the company’s overall corporate giving areas, determined according to which causes will best leverage the company’s definition of success for the CSR program. A strong program includes a mechanism for ongoing cause identification to stay current with employee, customer, and community trends.

Try aligning your credit union’s CSR effort with its business goal of providing affordable financial solutions by providing financial education and consultative advice to the public. Partnering with a local Federal Reserve Bank or other local financial institutions is a great way to provide financial education to members of the local community. Credit union team members can present economic education lessons through classes, workshops, and events.

Edelman Trust Barometer

The annual Edelman/New York Study ranks trust-building attributes that fall into five performance clusters Engagement, Integrity, Operations, Products & Services and Purpose, yielding the Edelman Trust Barometer. In recent years, consumers are placing increasing importance on purpose-related qualities. In fact, the 2013 study ranks the Purpose cluster higher than Operations and on par with Product related attributes. Check the list below to see how Edelman evaluates consumers’ perceptions of financial institutions.

  • Addresses society’s needs in everyday business (54% importance).
  • Creates programs that positively impact the local community in which the company operates (49% importance).
  • Works to protect and improve the environment (48% importance).
  • Partners with government and third parties to address social issues (39% importance).

3. Engagement

Employee engagement and participation in a company’s CSR program help drive team member loyalty and retention, which, in turn, drives consumer brand engagement. Developing CSR efforts around areas of employee interest creates stronger overall engagement and drives talent recruitment and retention.

4. Structure

A strong CSR program solidifies and maintains an efficient corporate social responsibility program structure, reflective of the needs and functions of each department that is involved in the corporate social responsibility program, including human resources, legal, finance, marketing, public relations, research, client relations, and vendor relations. Employ an inclusive management model to help ensure all departments are aware of the CSR program and their respective roles in activating the program to drive growth. Going forward, management will review a future foundation structure to ensure fiduciary compliance and streamline operations.

5. Communication & Sales

An effective CSR program empowers a company to enhance its messaging platform internally and externally, to celebrate the company’s program in a manner that is integrated with, and complementary to, the company’s overall marketing and public relations strategies, in the media, through events, on the website, in printed materials and social media.

6. Evaluation & Reporting

Best practices in CSR require the credit union to continually monitor the results of the program against one or more indicators of success, including employee engagement, employee loyalty, operating efficiency, community impact of money invested, customer perception, and marketplace reputation. One measure of success is in the recognition you receive and the awareness it generates.

The financial services marketplace is challenging. Credit unions, however, have the opportunity to deliver value to consumers that elevates the credit union brand through integrating CSR into business strategy. I look forward to sharing perspectives on this subject to inspire not only credit unions, but other financial institutions and other businesses to learn about the power of corporate social responsibility to drive growth.

Related Articles

  • 10 Ways To Ensure A Credit Union’s CSR Strategy Resonates With Members
  • Is Financial Education For Young Adults A Community Imperative?
  • The Internal Benefits Of A CSR Strategy

About The Author

Brandon Michaels leads the awesome group of Mazumans at $490 million Mazuma Credit Union in Kansas City. He took the reins at the ripe-old age of 31 and looks forward to changing the credit union industry. Prior to serving as the President & CEO, he served as the chief financial officer for two years. Brandon moved to Kansas City from the California Bay Area, where he was the vice president of finance/chief financial officer at San Francisco Fire Credit Union.


Brandon is a third generation credit union CEO. Although Brandon grew up in the credit union movement, he worked three years for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as a bank examiner before making his formal entrance into the industry … an industry he thought as a child, you couldn’t pay me enough to work in this place!


Brandon was recently recognized by the Credit Union Times as a Trailblazer 40-Below, a recognition awarded to credit union executives who are working at warp-speed to better the future of the credit union industry. Brandon is also a private pilot, an awesome dad to Charlotte and Kason, and a loving husband to his beautiful wife Kathi.
December 17, 2013

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