Begin at the end: How to create an impactful community strategy

May 01, 2014

Jayesh Shah argues that successful corporate community strategies are those that focus on long-term impacts.

A growing focus for today’s corporates is the desire to understand and measure the impacts of the community activities they invest in. As corporate responsibility becomes increasingly integrated into core business practice, the pressure is growing for community programmes to deliver results in a similar manner.

This pattern is reflected in the community investment made by LBG members, who are favouring longer-term partnerships rather than traditional one-off funding. In 2013, strategic community investments accounted for 53% of LBG members’ contributions, whereas more reactive charitable gifts made up 32% of the total.

Corporate Citizenship recently hosted a Knowledge Series event to explore the different strategies that corporates are implementing to drive impact. Here I will draw on the main themes that emerged; lessons for any business attempting to re-vision its community strategy.


  1. Focus your impact

Businesses must seek to understand and identify the areas in which they can deliver the greatest impact and develop a strategy to reflect this. The key questions need to be what is a business is good at, and where can it add value? The ultimate goal should be for community activity to be integrated within, not added-on to, core business practice.

As professional services firm KPMG demonstrates, this doesn’t have to be a radical step. One of its core 2012-2014 community targets is to recruit 25% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This will be achieved through school leaver programmes, which target schools serving disadvantaged populations. Increasing a diverse range of young people’s access to a profession is closely aligned to the core business and, if achieved, should result in longer-term community and business impacts.


  1. Streamline the approach

That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for one-off funding. Areas such as disaster relief are without doubt worthy causes and global efforts rely on businesses to react. However it is not realistic to think that a community strategy can have a long-term impact if it attempts to tackle a full range of societal issues.

Therefore, streamlining the approach becomes an important part of making the transition from multiple charitable gifts to a single unified strategy.

A brief history of Barclays’ community investment programme demonstrates the value in doing this. Barclays’ began its journey with a disparate community programme, eventually introducing its first global community investment strategy – Banking on Brighter Futures – in 2007. Since then, the creation of the 2015 Citizenship Plan has streamlined Barclays’ approach to align its community investment activity with core business skills and expertise.


  1. Set iconic goals

Part of Barclays’ strategy has been to focus this approach towards a singular, ambitious goal. 5 Million Young Futures aims to enhance the enterprise, employability and financial skills of young people aged 10 to 35, by 2015. Another example is Jaguar Land Rover’s objective to advance the knowledge of 2 million young people, also by 2020.

Setting ambitious goals is a key part of any strategy overhaul and provides clear objectives for a business to work towards. Building in measurement frameworks and tools, such as LBG, from the outset allows the monitoring of progress towards these long-term objectives and the flexibility to adjust along the way.


Beginning with the end

The message from each of these lessons is to start the process by focussing on what needs to be achieved at the end. This can be implemented through envisaging the impact a community programme will make, identifying the areas that make most sense for the business and ensuring that the strategy is sufficiently focused.

In theory the rewards of getting this right are huge. To streamline a strategy around the areas that a business is strongest in, and to measure progress towards ambitious goals along the way, makes perfect sense both for the business and its communities. To achieve long-term impact from their investments, businesses must be forward-thinking when devising their strategies.


Jayesh Shah is the LBG Coordinator at Corporate Citizenship.