5 Reasons to Incorporate Active Corporate Social Responsibility into your Business Model

Integrating a philanthropic element to a business is not a new concept. I’m sure you have heard of a company’s corporate social responsibility, whether through your own professional experiences or within your consumer behavior. But, corporate social responsibility doesn’t just speak for itself anymore.

According to Harvard Business Review, last year alone, charitable contributions by U.S. companies fell by 14.5% and within the past 15 years, corporate giving has dropped by 50%. Although the numbers prove the decline in business success due to charitable giving, the decline symbolizes a shift in marketing that demands attention.

After analyzing the numbers, a binary presents itself between traditional corporate social responsibility and active corporate social responsibility. Traditional CSR can be defined as a business approach that contributes to stakeholders development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders. Active corporate social responsibility, which I define as a business approach that combines the efforts of cause-related marketing, where the mutual benefit is present for both the for-profit and non-profit businesses involved and centralizes these efforts through active marketing campaigns across multiple platforms. Traditional corporate social responsibility tends to follow a simple model where a business chooses a cause to monetarily support in order for credibility amongst stakeholders. Active corporate social responsibility is using your philanthropy as a marketing tactic, alongside other actively implemented objectives, strategies, and tactics.

Nowadays, marketing isn’t cut and dry like it used to be. You can’t just stick to traditional marketing mediums, and digitally, you can’t post a promotion and expect engagement, you have to be creative. According to Business Insider, 1 in 10 US desktop users have an ad-blocker in effect as they search the Worldwide Web. With ad-blockers as a threat, and simple promotions just not doing the trick, advertisements must be unique, without taking things too far. Cause-related marketing and active corporate social responsibility can fill that advertising gap while simultaneously benefiting your business in five unique ways:

Loafers-CSRHaving a charitable element further emphasizes your company’s trust.

In an article in the Communication and Society Journal titled “Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: re-assessment of classical theories about fit between CSR actions and corporate activities,” corporations are now evaluated with significantly higher expectations. With product quality and financial performance being two of the main influences on success, stakeholders are now judging a business’ success on a company’s moral criteria, such as how they became successful, the company’s values, and how the company contributes to social progress.

In the Journal of Management Studies, in an article titled “Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategic Implications,” corporate social responsibility that is strategically placed and acted upon is considered quality improvement that automatically creates a competitive advantage unless otherwise replicated within the industry. This being said, standards of evaluation are higher and expectations need to be met. By choosing to build a charitable element into your business, you are also choosing to build your company’s quality and moral criteria. Don’t just meet the expectations of your stakeholders, go above and beyond.

Millennials are particularly interested in cause-related efforts.

If your target audience reaches millennials, and you’ve been having trouble reaching them effectively, then you may have just hit the jackpot. In the Journal of Education for Business, in an article titled “Corporate Social Responsibility and the Millennials,” study shows that 61% of millennials feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world. With millennials so consciously involved in their actions and reactions, having a socially responsible business model will grab the attention of millennials as consumers AND as potential employees.

Amy Pohler's Smart Girls #WorldMentalHealthDay

Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls #WorldMentalHealthDay

Charitable trends such as hashtags and specific holidays are popular on social media.

As a social media marketer, I am constantly trying to stay on top of current trends in the news, in entertainment, in social media newsfeeds, etc. A few weeks ago, I didn’t realize it was National Coffee Day, and aside from my instant excitement (I love coffee), I realized that I missed a potential opportunity for engagement on some of my clients’ feeds. The social media marketing world is faced with constant change and a small window of time to tune into trends to achieve maximum results/engagement.

Including a charitable element in your business can help you gain considerable social reach if you plan the launch right. For example, sell a product that donates some proceeds to Breast Cancer Awareness, and launch the campaign during October, which is heavily concentrated with support in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Or instead of doing one product, choose to support a charity all-year round. But make sure to capitalize on certain holidays and months that support your cause. A good example is Amy Poehler Smart Girls, a company founded by comedian, writer, mom and actress, Amy Poehler, that is dedicated to helping young people value intelligence and creativity as opposed to fitting to an expected societal standard. Amy Pohler’s Smart Girls #WorldMentalHealthDay

In this example, they incorporated World Mental Health Day into their everyday social media content to tune into, not only a social trend but a world trend in support of mental health. Tuning into social trends in support of charitable causes, even if not related to your company’s CSR, will increase engagement and reach while furthering your company’s credibility.

Your business can monetarily benefit

When it comes to corporate social responsibility, you aren’t just giving money or time, but in certain circumstances, you can gain monetary benefits that you wouldn’t otherwise qualify for. For example, certain initiatives like recycling and employee training can result in tax deductions. Not only will your business quantitatively prosper from an active CSR, but there are other significant advantages of CSR that will make it easier to recruit and retain employees, and create relationships with local news sources. Also, having a continuous relationship with one nonprofit will provide continuous marketing through a new perspective.

The greater good.

If all else fails, your business made a difference in the world and in the lives of those in need. Whether through environmental, educational, animal, or humanitarian efforts, your business will give the much-needed gift of support and love to the world. Whether local, national, or global, your business made a difference – and that’s pretty cool.

Does Active CSR sound right for your business? Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Schedule a meeting with your employees to discuss what causes are important to everyone.
  • Research local non-profit organizations to find the charity that best suits you and your business. If you are a small, localized business then choosing a local charity will prove more beneficial than choosing a corporate charity. If you are a corporate business, choosing a larger foundation will prove most beneficial.
  • Do some research on the companies who are doing CSR right and learn from them. Then check out the companies who actively promote their CSR. Three companies who participate in active CSR are Starbucks, TOMs, and Tyson Foods.

Remember, the only way that this will be successful is if you actively incorporate charitable marketing into your regular social media routine.

This quote by Washington, D.C. attorney Peter Petesch, describes the only way that active CSR will work: “For corporate social responsibility to be as effective as it can be, it does need to engage everybody. It has to be integrated into an organization’s overall business strategy. An effective program needs to win over the hearts and minds of the workforce at all levels.”

By actively incorporating CSR into social media, you also must actively follow-through with all charitable elements. For example, if you say you are donating $5 for every sweatshirt sold, then you need to donate $5 for every sweatshirt sold. Overall, the benefits of incorporating active corporate social responsibility in your everyday marketing efforts are tremendous and worth a try.

Lizz Venanzi is a Social Media Manager at Sparq Designs, a digital marketing agency in Pittsburgh. Learn more about her, here. If you have questions about building a relationship, contact the  Sparq team today.

Follow Lizz on Twitter,  LinkedIn & Instagram


Behind the Design – Lizz Venanzi

Learn a little more about the crew ‘Behind the Designs’ with our newest Q&A series. Next up up is our NEW Social Media Manager, Lizz Venanzi.

Lizz is a recent graduate of Westminster College where she majored in both Public Relations and English and completed internships with CBS Radio, The Globe Newspaper, and Howard Hanna Real Estate. With skills in writing and media relations, Lizz will bring a new angle to the digital marketing department working with content curation, editing, social media advertising, and Google Adwords.


Sparq’s new Social Media Manager, Lizz Venanzi

Get to know her a little better!

Q: Give us some insight into your morning routine!
A: Someone once told me that one’s morning routine can tell a lot about a person. I never thought too much about it until I realized how much waking up and having a cup ofcoffee drives my day. Every morning I wake up and I make myself a cup of coffee with Italian sweet creamer and that’s all I need to feel ready to take on the world.

Q: Three apps that help with your work…ready go!
A: I am an avid “brain-stormer” so Pinterest and Instagram are definitely two apps that help get my creative juices flowing. Buzzfeed is also my guilty pleasure. As much as a quick Buzzfeed quiz can make me laugh, I really enjoy the voice that most Buzzfeed writers take on and it helps me loosen up and get comfortable writing.

Q: What music do you listen to while you’re working?
A: I like to listen to music that I have never listened to before. I have trouble staying concentrated when I am listening to songs that I know all the words to because it makes me want to bust out into spontaneous song and dance. Instead, I like to open Spotify and click “related artists” to the music I normally listen to and then give some new music a try! It helps me concentrate while also expanding my music library.

Q: What’s your dream job (besides working at Sparq =])
A: I would absolutely love to work for Starbucks’ Public Affairs team, specifically in their Corporate Social Responsibility group. I am incredibly interested in how green marketing and cause-related marketing can expand a business, oh – and (if it wasn’t too obvious) I love coffee!

Q: If you could sit down and have an hour-long conversation with any person alive or deceased who would it be? 
A: Ellen Degeneres!

Q:Who is your idol in the business world? Why? 
A: I am not sure if I have one specific idol. I have many people that have shaped my professional experience in a positive and defining way, specifically my dad and college professors. But, I tend to appreciate and lean towards people who are not afraid to do something out of the box and take risks.

The individuals at Sparq Designs believe in quality, and are huge advocates of setting ourselves apart from the competition. We do not believe in a cookie-cutter approach because we feel it’s more important to stand out in a crowd and we want our clients to do the same. We get excited about turning a concept into a design, developing a web presence, writing and optimizing content, and creating a buzz around a brand. Meet more of the team here.


Behind the Design – Adele Stewart

Learn a little more about the crew ‘Behind the Designs’ with our newest Q&A series. Next up up is our Senior Project Manager, Adele Stewart. Get to know her a little better!

Q: Give us some insight into your morning routine!

A: 6:15 (after hittin’ the snooze button a few times) and take my dog Jackson (“Jack”) out on a walk. Then I’ll take him back home and go on a quick run or walk by myself. I’ve stopped taking him with me because he LOVES to stop and sniff everything, and when I run I cannot be stopped! When I get home I shower and get ready before heading out to work. Even though I get my bags packed and lunches ready in the evenings, I still can never manage to get to the office on time – Pittsburgh, your traffic pattern bewilders me.

Q: Three apps that help with you work…ready go!

A: Pinterest – I get a lot of campaign ideas and insights from Pinterest. Often times, I will create private boards for clients and develop a campaign for each client based off of what I see.
iTunes – I purchased Apple Music back in October, and I have no regrets. It builds recommended playlists for you based off of your interests and I can listen to ANY song. It’s basically the same as a Spotify Premium membership, but I tend to like their recommended playlists a lot more. Music can either make or break my focus, so I have to choose my tunes wisely in order to be productive!
the Berry – the Chive’s sister site. I know that it can sometimes be a distraction, but it gets my mind right when I begin to find myself thinking about things other than work. I’ll allot myself a few hours to get work done, and then I will check out a Berry post for a laugh or an inspirational post. Actually, sometimes they give me ideas for our clients. Our Good Highdea campaign for Glass Gone Wow on 4/20 came from Berry inspiration.

Q: What music do you listen to while you’re working?

A: I actually pride myself on being able to find the right music for the right mood. House chill or oldies in the AM, Acoustics or symphonic in the afternoon. Anything you can sing along with or dance to leads to way more distractions.

Q: What’s your dream job (besides working at Sparq =] )

A: I’m a dreamer. If I could, I’d dabble in everything from event planning to acting. Currently working on a way to incorporate all of my passions into one complete – and possible – career. Everyone at Sparq is really supportive in the pursuit of all of our dreams, which is not something you come across every day.

Q: If you could sit down and have a hour-long conversation with any person alive or deceased who would it be?

A: My dad. He lived in Pittsburgh for most of my life, so now I am constantly trying to remember places we went to and people he knew. Places feel familiar, I’m just not sure if they actually are. Plus, I’d kill for another one of his guitar lessons I took for granted as a child.

Q: Who is your idol in the business world? Why?

A: Oh, Beyonce. I think I have always admired her ability to invest and create. I remember when she appeared in a Pepsi commercial alongside Britney Spears and Pink (I think I was around 12 years old at the time), and I just grew a strange attachment to her. Pepsi had their pop princess, the rebel Pink, and the incredibly fierce and fiery Beyonce who shreds through her part so seamlessly that you wondered why they even chose the other two. I wanted to drink Pepsi after that, and let me tell you, Pepsi to me tastes like acidic, liquid garbage. Apparently, this Pepsi deal was a multi-year one that raked in $50-million dollars. This money was also used as an investment to fund her future projects including her fashion label House of Dereon, and clothing lines with H&M and Topshop. She plans every aspect of her tour campaigns – audio, visual, and more, AND oversees her own image. She also has made it a point to remind everyone that success didn’t happen overnight. She has worked very hard from childhood to get where she is today. I aspire to be like her, and I am well-aware of the hard-work and networking that goes into it. I think whether people like her music or not, she should be recognized a business magnate within the branding industry, that has hustled to get there – it’s truly something to respect.

To learn more check out our team page!

The individuals at Sparq Designs believe in quality, and are huge advocates of setting ourselves apart from the competition. We do not believe in a cookie-cutter approach because we feel it’s more important to stand out in a crowd and we want our clients to do the same. We get excited about turning a concept into a design, developing a web presence, writing and optimizing content, and creating a buzz around a brand. Meet more of the team here.


7 Reasons Why You Should Outsource Your Digital Marketing


We see it all the time – businesses on the hunt for that one qualified candidate; that one digital marketing professional that is going to make their lives easier once and for all when it comes to searchability and social media. However, finding a single candidate with the required experience, who wants to get paid at the wage you are offering, can sometimes be a challenge. It just makes sense to look for a digital marketing team instead of having one person do all of the work and here are 7 reasons why:


When you hire a digital marketing team, you are hiring a group of professionals who have expertise in exactly the area you are looking for. People who work at digital marketing agencies are hired based off of their prior experience and are then trained to handle various other accounts. You’re actually hiring experts who have seen digital marketing work for a wide array of clients.

Inbound Marketing

A digital marketing team is not just experienced in one element of your digital marketing needs. They often have a social media strategist, search engine optimization experts, graphic designers, email marketing professionals, developers, and so much more. The campaign ideas never stop flowing, plus the teams have to stay up-to-date with any technological advances in their field.

Cost Effective

Depending on experience, one digital marketing professional may require a yearly income of $28k to $55k. Why pay salary for one person, when you could hire an experienced team for the same price (or less)?

Measurable Results

Digital marketing teams are not only up-to-date with advances in their field; they are also well equipped with knowledge when it comes to measuring key performance indicators (KPIs). A lot of the tools that agencies use cost money and are often cost-prohibitive to small businesses. Agencies have to use these tools in order to manage multiple accounts.

Peace of Mind

Often time’s businesses hire a digital marketing team for the sole reason that they do not have time to do the work on their own. Although the companies play a part in communication and overall approval of content, they can relax knowing that their digital agency is handling all things social media while simultaneously boosting their search engine results.

ROI Driven

The difference between an employee and a team is that there is no such thing as “job security” for an external team. Teams work hard to ask the right questions in order to create content that will produce results. Agencies are focused on proving return on investment for their clients because often times they don’t get a second chance to redeem themselves.

New Perspective

As a business, you know what works best for your company, but a different perspective adds an outside point-of-view. Marketing agencies will do all of the necessary research to design and execute a strategic plan that makes sense from a consumer’s perspective.

We can offer you hundreds of reasons why you should hire an outside digital marketing agency as opposed to hiring one single person, but why take them from a post? Test out the power of an agency and see for yourself.


Adele Stewart is a Marketing Account Manager & Designer at Sparq Designs, a digital marketing agency in Pittsburgh. Learn more about her, here. If you have questions about building a relationship, contact the  Sparq team today.

Follow Adele on Twitter,  LinkedIn Instagram


Why Having a Social Media Campaign Strategy is Important

One of the most frustrating statements a Social Media Manager will ever hear is, “I can run my own Facebook page – it’s not that hard.”

To a point, that’s true, it’s not that hard to throw a tweet on your profile whenever you feel like it. It’s not that hard to slap a logo on an image and post it on your Facebook, I get that. But there are some factors that tend to get overlooked when you do your own social media without a consultant or an agency.

Sometimes I have to remind people that Social Media Managers do this for a living. We create campaigns and look for the best ways to execute them, not just for our health, but for the sheer fact that it’s what we do. We enjoy the thrill of seeing a campaign come to life after months of research. We believe that having a social media campaign strategy is extremely important and here is why I believe that is.


You can identify goals and objectives – and reach them.

It’s important to determine what you want out of your social media campaign. Do you want more followers? Would you like to improve your online sales by 5%? Are you running an in-store special and want more people in the door? Identify these goals and then plan your social media around that.  How are you going to use social media to get you there? Choose two or three goals and build from there. Objectives are specific and measurable approaches to reach those goals. Have a deadline to reach those objectives and work to get there.

SWOT & Competitor Analysis 

All traditional marketing campaigns have a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), so why shouldn’t a social media campaign? Sometimes a SWOT analysis is a great opportunity to see what your company is doing right and what you can improve on. What are your competitors doing on social media? What will build brand loyalty to your company, and create overall thought leadership from your audience? In order to bring in new business, it’s necessary to evaluate SWOT and competitors.

Find your audience 

You might think you know your audience, but if you plan a social media strategy based around “35 year old women who tend to spend $250 or more online,” and you aren’t getting any results from it, then you need to understand your audience better. A social media campaign strategy will not only help you plan to market to your target audience, but can assist in identifying who you should be marketing to. Once you know your audience, your posting becomes much simpler.

Content Calendars

Having a strategy lays out goals and objectives so that they sit right in front of you. Having that information constantly at hand helps managers to make content calendars that coincide with the end goal. Content calendars are extremely useful for digital marketers. We can see in front of us what we will be scheduling for the week, and we can decide whether or not we are going to post in the order we have content ready for. We can also make room for daily posts such as natural disasters or fun holidays like “National Donut Day.”



If you have an objective put in place to help you reach a goal, chances are that you are going to watch how your posts are performing like a hawk. Having a social media campaign strategy ensures that you will be looking at your content. Gone are the days where you would throw content up on your Facebook page and “hoped it worked.” With a social media campaign strategy, Social Media Managers are able to know exactly what is working, and can figure out why it isn’t very quickly.

So yes, it still is quite simple to post on Facebook. But if you commit a little bit of time to creating a social media campaign strategy, you will find that you are going to get the results you’ve always wanted.
If you need help with your social media account, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Adele Stewart is a Senior Project Manager at Sparq Designs, a digital marketing agency in Pittsburgh. Learn more about her, here. If you have questions about social media marketing, contact the  Sparq team today.

Follow Adele on TwitterLinkedIn Instagram