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CSR 2.0: Breaking Down Community-Corporate Barriers

By 3p Contributor

By Marc Stefanski

Roughly a third of America’s philanthropic donations were made in December, and many Americans bring that generosity to corporate giving decisions, too. Last year alone, the corporate sector contributed an estimable $18.46 billion to nonprofit organizations. But while each corporate contribution is meaningful by itself, its impact can be amplified exponentially with active, year-round engagement in the community.

Leaders across a host of industries, from financial services to technology, are finding ways to make corporate social responsibility (CSR) an integral part of the long-term business vision. In addition to the pure ethical value of “walking the walk,” becoming better corporate citizens can also result in meaningful business value.

By building the relationships between our associates (employees) and the communities we operate in and serve, organizations like retail banks or local services can earn greater consumer trust and loyalty. The benefits of creating a CSR culture can also ripple across the associate base, as team members take pride in participating in a local cause — in turn buoying recruitment and retention.

How can your company become a more engaged corporate citizen? The key is to get involved in the community in a regular, hands-on way. This means both going out into the community — and inviting people in.

5 ways to activate your CSR goals

Our company, Third Federal, has a long history of community involvement. It was founded during the Great Depression in 1938 in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood and is still headquartered there today. Through the years, we’ve found several ways organizations can break down barriers between their walls and the people in the communities right outside:

1. Leverage your influence for the greater good. People are listening to your organization. Don’t just market your products; use the channels to do some good. For example, we partnered with the local NBC affiliate here in Cleveland, WKYC TV, to launch the local #WeReadHere initiative to encourage children and their families across Northeastern Ohio to read together for at least 20 minutes every day. The multimedia campaign included social media, and is actively shared by area schools and nonprofit organizations.

2. Get creative about contributions. Matching associate donations (to United Way, in our case) is a great start; but there is a limit to how much can be given, so it’s useful to identify other ways associates can contribute.

For example, earlier this year, our associates collected more than 1,000 school supplies to give to underserved schools. We also organize an annual glove and hat drive to provide more than 200 children in our neighborhood K-8 schools with new hats and gloves.

Corporate volunteer opportunities are another important way for employees to get involved. Our associates participate in an after-school technology club — the Techie Club — for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, a weekly tutoring program that helps students use computer technology to work on projects like programming, making movies, and creating robots.

3. Take care of your associates. Corporate social responsibility is not limited to the communities outside of the workplace.  Your associates are one of your most valuable assets, so treat them like family. Create and maintain a corporate culture that embraces a healthy work-life balance so associates enjoy their time outside of work with family and friends. Support associates in times of need; and make sure they know they are valued and appreciated.

4. Invite the community inside. Corporations can become better neighbors in the community by hosting community events in their facilities during non-business hours. This can take the form of offering up space for business events for organizations like nonprofit community partners, which often need a conference room, or hosting more philanthropic special events. For example, we open our company cafeteria after business hours on Christmas Eve, in order to host a full holiday meal for more than 250 men, women and children in need.

5. Focus on where you can make a difference. While it’s true that no one company can eliminate poverty or cure cancer, you might be surprised by how far corporate goodwill can travel, and the impact that multiplies with it.

For example, we fund four Cleveland schools’ participation in the America SCORES program, which combines academics and sports/team-building (through soccer), while providing vital after-school care to children in the inner city. Supporting this program means we help students gain confidence, become more engaged in school and on the sports field, and access positive adult mentoring — all potentially life-changing differences for many children in our community.


The concept of corporate social responsibility is not new. For some companies, however, it has become a meaningful way of doing business rather than just a box to check at the end of the year.

Image credit: Pixabay

Marc A. Stefanski is Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer and President of Third Federal Savings and Loan. Since becoming chairman and chief executive of the 78-year old thrift in 1987, Mr. Stefanski has overseen Third Federal’s continual growth as the dominant home mortgage lender in Ohio, as well as its growth in the Florida market. Third Federal currently does business in 21 states, the District of Columbia, and reaches approximately 65% of the U.S. population.

Third Federal has assets of $13.2 billion as of December 31, 2016, up from $1.8 billion when Mr. Stefanski succeeded his father as chairman.

Mr. Stefanski earned an undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Arts in Economics) from Heidelberg College in 1976 and an MBA with a concentration in Systems Management from Baldwin Wallace College in 1980.

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