How to Generate Enthusiasm for CSR from Within Your Organization

| CSR, Employee Engagement, Podcasts

The best way to set up a successful corporate social responsibility program is to start from the inside out. Check out these tips from Murray Seward, CEO of Outback Team Building & Training, to get employees excited about doing good with your team.

Studies have shown that people are more engaged and much happier at their jobs when their employer is socially responsible. And motivated employees who are proud to associate themselves with their workplace are more likely to put in that extra effort for their company. 

But how do you get your employees excited about your CSR efforts?

We sat down with Murray Seward, CEO of Outback Team Building & Training, to talk about corporate social responsibility and why encouraging your employees to drive your philanthropic initiatives is so important. 

In the interview, Murray suggests three different ways that you can promote genuine enthusiasm for CSR by reaching inward: 

1. Hire Employees That Align With Your Core Values 

2. Find Out What Your Team is Excited About 

3. Ask Employees How They’re Going to Contribute to Your Company Culture 

Listen to the latest episode of Outback Talks: The Employee Engagement Podcast below to directly hear from Murray, or keep reading for an overview of the discussion.

How Employees Can Drive Your CSR Efforts 

Having your employees personally contribute to the narrative of your CSR program is a powerful way to encourage their engagement. Your team will be more likely to invest in your efforts to give back if they’re making a real difference and contributing to a higher purpose than just a bottom line.

Here are some ways that you can start getting your colleagues excited about CSR:

1. Hire Employees That Align With Your Core Values

First thing’s first: hire the right type of people.

“If you can recruit and hire people that share the same core values, this stuff is easy,” Murray explains. “It’s when you don’t do that and you have people that have all different mindsets about what is good…then it becomes a little more difficult.”

In a nutshell, you just want everyone to be on the same page. All parts of a company are interconnected and a healthy business should have everyone from leaders to employees to embody the same value system.

When employees are in tune with your core values, they are more likely to make decisions that are in alignment with the vision of the business. And, especially if social responsibility is a significant part of your organization, you’ll want to hire people who place importance on those kinds of things as well.

2. Find Out What Your Team is Excited About

Employees are one of the most significant components of any CSR program. “You want your team members to drive it,” Murray says. “If the driving has to come from the top, it’s not going to be sustainable.”

Research has shown that high participation rates in CSR – and, in turn, the program’s success – come from having an employee engagement strategy in place. The employee and their relationship with the company needs to come first.

To ensure that your program is sustainable, find out what your team is interested in. Make it known that ideas will be supported, and encourage employees to take initiative if they have ideas of their own.

So, how can you find out about what employees are passionate about? Simple: ask them.

Try sending out an internal survey or a poll that asks what sectors they’d like to give back to, or that gives them the option to write down a cause they’re interested in supporting. This can be a great opportunity for you to find out about initiatives in your local community that you might not have been aware of.

3. Ask Employees How They’re Going to Contribute to Your Company Culture

“One of the things I challenge all the team members here with is: how are you going to add to the culture this month? It’s one of the screens that’s up on all our dashboards,” Murray says. “How are you going to improve [or] enhance the culture this month?”

When you ask your employees how they’re going to contribute to company culture, it reassures them that their input is both valued and respected. It can also encourage them to think about different ways that they can:

  • Make a meaningful impact on the business
  • Contribute to a positive working environment
  • Bring things they are passionate about outside the office into the workplace 

For more tips about CSR, you can tune into Murray’s interview above, or download the episode by subscribing to our podcast, Outback Talks: The Employee Engagement Podcast, on iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. See below for the full transcription of the episode. 

Learn More About Corporate Social Responsibility

Check out Everything Your Business Needs to Know About CSR for more insights and expert advice on this compassionate practice.

Yasmine Shemesh (YS):
Hi everyone, and welcome to “Outback Team Building & Training Tips,” a monthly audio resource for HR and business professionals. This podcast is produced by Outback Team Building & Training, a leading team building, training, and consulting provider for organizations across North America. I’m your host, Yasmine Shemesh, and this month I’m joined by special guest Murray Seward, CEO at Outback Team Building & Training. Thanks so much for joining me today, Murray!

Murray Seward (MS): Thanks for having me! It’s gonna be great!

YS: Our topic this month is Corporate Social Responsibility and Murray will be sharing his insight and expertise on the subject. But, before we begin, let’s start out with our quick tip of the month. Each month we begin the episode with a quick tip for our listeners. Murray, what is the first thing a company should keep in mind when it comes to aligning a business with charitable efforts?

MS: I think the most important thing, actually, is to flip that around and align the charity to your team members. So, rather than coming up with something that you, as a business owner or CEO, are really excited about, find out what your team is excited about and then think about how you can support that or those things. That’s going to be a much easier way to get energy from your team members. You know, things that they can relate to and really get behind in a big way – and in a natural way which is not forced. They want to be involved with it because they’re bought in and excited about it and, even better yet, the idea came from them. So, that would be my tip as far as that.

YS: That’s great! Awesome. Now, let’s get to our main interview. CSR has become a standard business practice for many organizations. So, why is incorporating philanthropy into a business important?

MS: A lot of people think business is a zero-sum game and, in my opinion, business is not a zero-sum game. Healthy, profitable businesses have the opportunity to pay it forward and help with, you know, exponential growth and betterment of society. We’ve got the ability to make the world better, and in many ways – so we should. It just makes sense to do.

YS: Yeah, and in a lot of ways, even the smallest things can make a really big difference.

MS: It can make a huge difference. Something very small can make a huge difference to one person. So why not do it?

YS: Absolutely. So, now, there are actually some opposing views that see CSR as socially irresponsible for a company, in that it can be self serving or that it can distract from more lucrative investment opportunities. What are your thoughts on that?

MS: I mean, in terms of the self serving part, indeed some business owners support charities for an ego boost and I don’t think that in any way lessens the positive impact their support has. I don’t really care if that person, you know, gets a big ego from doing it and [are] celebrating their own donations or whatever it might be. I could care less, as long as they’re helping support that charity.

In terms of the financial side of it, I think it can be irresponsible. If you’re a business owner and you are redirecting funds and resources that your business desperately needs to stay healthy, I think it is irresponsible to divert those resources and funds to a charity. Take care of your own family – your own house – first, make sure it’s healthy, and then redirect the excess that you don’t require to other things. So, it can be irresponsible.

And you see that all the time. There are some great causes and they’re donating certain amounts of their profit to a charity. I think that’s a great thing, as long as the company can remain healthy after giving up that money or those people’s time or whatever it might be. It also depends on what the goals of the business are. Common belief, it seems, is that the sole purpose of the business is to make every possible dollar profit possible and, believe it or not, that’s just simply not the case. There are some companies where that is the case. If it’s not the case, then take that excess money, those excess resources that the owners of the business don’t require, and this is a great use for it.

YS: I mean, you can’t really help if you don’t have the resources to do it.

MS: Totally. But people do, right? Lots of people who are running a business, for example, think that they are very healthy, because they don’t have financial reporting in place or whatever it might be. And then they sponsor something or get involved with a charity, and then at the end of the year they figure, “Oh my god, we don’t have enough money to make payroll.” You may be helping the charity, but all your employees, your team members, are suffering big time.

YS: Yeah, it’s about understanding that balance.

MS: Precisely. Precisely.

YS: On that note, how reflective should a business’ core values be of their approach to working alongside a charitable initiative?

MS: I think it’s an obvious plus if you can find a charitable initiative that’s aligned with, not only with your core values, but also your beliefs and your morals. Whatever those may be. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the beliefs and morals of society in general, but whatever they may be for your team members. It’s important.

It’s critical that your team members completely support it, because if they don’t, then it’s fake support. You want your team members to drive it. If the driving has to come from the top, it’s not going to be sustainable. It may be successful in the first year and then it will die off – and that’s one of the challenges I know that charities have, as once they find a donor or somebody to support they need that support to keep coming. So, to get a really great piece of support one year and then to have it die off to nothing in the next can be quite harmful for a charity. Finding something that the entire team can fuel is a great thing to do.

YS: And sustaining in the long term, as well, is important to be able to understand how to manage that partnership, so that you can support one another in the long run.

MS: Absolutely, because it is a partnership. You know, usually in each city there seems to be some significant donors to healthcare – and that’s a great partnership – but the healthcare provider also needs to be in partnership with that donor to know what could be happening and what they can support in the future. So, these core values have to – it all has to – be aligned for something to be sustainable.

YS: Yeah, it’s a big part of the decision making process as well, to direct that.

MS: Big time.

YS: What are Outback’s core values and how do they play into the company’s philanthropic practices?

MS: We’ve got six core values and there’s two of them that are very specific, that do align quite well with the charitable things. The two I’m talking about are “Always Be Improving” and “Always Take Action.”

We had a leadership meeting and we talked about Outback Cares, and we talked about: how can we make this program better? How can we improve it? Instead of, ‘Well it’s already fantastic’ – “how can we make it better?’ So, we came up with some ideas and then we talked about, ‘Okay, what is the actual process for ‘Taking Action’ to make that happen?’ It’s not just a topic we talked about and then it’s going to disappear into Neverland – it’s actually going to get going here in the very near future. So, those are the two core values that I think of our six that align the most.

YS: For sure. Now, looping back just a little bit, can you tell me more about Outback Cares? How did you and the team build it, and when did you get started with it?

MS: Outback Cares started back in the 1990s with my mentor and our chairman, James Corbett. He, outside of our company, was supporting lots of charities locally and did it very quietly – didn’t want any fanfare and that was very, very cool to watch, actually. We actually got the opportunity many, many years ago through our partner in the business – which is a white water rafting company – and we had the opportunity to work with the Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. And they, every summer, held a camp for kids who have been burned in accidents. Badly burned in many cases, and this is the chance for all those kids to come together and enjoy summer camp together – and fully funded by the firefighters and all the fundraising they did.

So, Jamie thought it would be a great idea to take them out on an adventure and get them out of their comfort zone and realize that they, even though they’ve sustained these terrible injuries, could still get out and stretch their limits and grow. We would take them, a ton of them, every year over two-day period, take them white water rafting. That’s how we really got kick-started in a big way.

And then when our business grew and we got into the team building side of things in the late 90s and early 2000s, we tried to figure out how we could use our team building activities as a way for companies and charities to blossom. And that’s where now Outback Cares has grown significantly in the donations we make to a ton of charitable events every year. I think this year we will have donated about $500,000 worth of team building activities that can then be raffled off, silent auctioned off, that type of thing.

YS: That’s amazing!

MS: So it’s been very, very cool!

YS: Can you tell me a little bit more about what kind of charitable things that Outback Cares does?

MS: I mean, it runs the gamut. Everything from significant charitable events for cancer and different diseases and things like that. Lots of kids things. Everything down to school fundraisers, sports-themed fundraisers, the different cycling events that are happening now. So, someone’s going to be cycling, you know, 500 kilometers and they’re trying to raise funds; so they’ll do their own events and use our team building events as raffle items or draw prizes or standard option items, so it helps them. It runs the gamut all across North America, so it’s pretty cool!

YS: Super well-rounded.

MS: It used to be just a local thing and now it’s expanded all over the continent.

YS: That’s really great. That’s wonderful. So, now, another thing that I really wanted to ask you was just about what kind of things have shaped your own personal experience. Did you have any experiences growing up, like volunteering or anything else along those lines, that may have impacted your views on philanthropy?

MS: For me, it’s probably a two-part answer. One is my sports coaches played a massive role in my growing up as a kid. I would spend hours upon hours upon hours down at the sports fields. So, having them there to, you know, see how they live their life and what kind of parents they were and role models, that was a huge impact on my life. I also saw how much fun they had and also came to realize, not so much as a little kid but as a teenager, ‘Hey this is something I might be able to do.’ So, that’s when I started coaching sports and I was a soccer executive when I was 14 years old.

YS: Oh, cool!

MS: Because I just saw the impact that could have and loved it and I coached all the way up to now – just a couple of years ago, I finally retired from coaching. So, that’s the personal side of it.

The second side, I already mentioned, is watching James Corbett, our chairman, and just seeing how he has integrated that into his life and into his business life. And so it just made total sense to keep it going. It’s been good.

YS: That’s wonderful.. Yeah, you know, it’s really interesting how you see a lot of those sports analogies really apply to so many different facets of life.

MS: Totally, totally. It’s volunteers that fuel that. You know, it’s the same as scouts and guides and it’s the same with dance and theatre and things like that. A lot of it now is switching to more professional paid coaches, but even then, they’re not paid what they’re worth in those roles, so in that sense they’re volunteering, as well. It just makes sense, you know, to get people to step up and do it. It’s what we need.

YS: Yeah, absolutely. So, now, things like volunteer days and initiatives like beach clean-ups are meaningful efforts to both the employee and the cause. So, with that in mind, how does a company integrate CSR into company culture in a genuine way?

MS: Yeah, I think it gets back to how we started the podcast today and that is about – you know, one of the things I challenge all the team members here with is: how are you going to add to the culture this month? It’s one of the screens that’s up on all our dashboards. How are you going to improve [or]  enhance the culture this month?

So, somebody’s initiative will come out of that. When you can have all of your team members thinking about things like that, some of them will think about charitable actions. It’s just [how] it’s going to be. And then their energy is genuine, and then their energy spreads, and people will want to support them. And the next thing you know, picking up garbage on the local beach is a really fun thing to do.

YS: Totally.

MS: So, that’s the secret to it. And it comes back to the core values as well, the alignment of core values. If you can recruit and hire people that share the same core values, this stuff is easy. It’s when you don’t do that and you have people that have all different mindsets about what is good or whatever might be the right thing to do, then it becomes a little more difficult. But getting those people to really drive these things – no different than the person who gets the sports pool going or whatever – that person’s helping add to your culture. There are people in your company, I guarantee it, who if you told them that you would support them, would, by all means, invest their time to make it happen.

YS: They’re sort of like the heart and soul.

MS: Totally. Absolutely. You know, there’s this common belief for whatever reason that people will only do what they are paid to do or what they are told to do, [and that] is not true at all.

YS: Yeah.

MS: You know, bulk of people in society want things to be better.

YS: Absolutely. They want to help and give back and help others be happy.

MS: Totally! Even in very small ways. Spending a half hour picking up garbage on a local beach makes a big difference.

YS: Absolutely. So, now, you told me a little bit earlier about some of the initiatives that Outback does. You guys also offer a wide variety of charity-themed team building activities like the Charity Bike Buildathon and Wheelchairs for Charity. Can you tell me a little bit about how the team came up with these things and why it was important to include them?

MS: I think what has happened here in the last 10 years is that our team has been really good at actually talking to a lot of customers and finding out what it is they’re looking for, what they’re interested in, what charities their company support. And then once we already get that information from them, then the magic happens with our events team, who is able to design some really, really cool and fun and engaging activities.

And then the secret sauce, of course, is to design those activities that can be done anywhere for any group size that are portable, flexible, all of that – so that’s what makes it really, really cool. All of our events, the ones you mentioned – Wheelchairs for Charity, Charity Bike Buildathon – can all be done with small, really tiny groups, or can be done with thousands of people at a time. It’s really been our customers that are the main drivers. And, anybody who’s got any more ideas by all means let us know, because we are all ears.

YS: That’s great. Alright, Murray, do you have any final tips for our listeners before we sign off?

MS: I mean, the big thing is it just ties into our core values. Take action, go to your team, mention that in a planning session or some memo or a brief you send out. Ask them for ideas, what are they passionate about, and then look for trends. You might have a number of people who are interested in a certain type of charity – maybe it’s kids things, maybe it’s centered around some charity around disease, or who knows what it might be – but find out what those trends are and then figure out how you can support it within the means of your company.

It could be a hundred dollars, it could be a lot of money, it could be time that you allow people to take. You know: ‘Everybody gets a half day allotment during the year to go out and do something.’ Figure out what you can do that still maintains the health of the company, but takes a little bit of the excess and gives it back. I think it’s something every business can do without any issue whatsoever.

YS: It’s like what we were saying before, even the smallest effort can make a huge difference.

MS: Exactly. It will change the thought about how everybody in the company thinks about each other. It’s just one more little piece to add that culture and make it that a little bit better. But, again, driven from the team members, not necessarily from the leader. It’s just so important.

YS: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Murray. That’s it for this episode of Outback Team Building & Training Tips. Outback Team Building & Training helps organizations across North America build relationships through memorable team building, training, and consulting experiences, and our team has been recommended by over 14,000 corporate groups in the United States and Canada. For more tips and expert advice on CSR and philanthropic team building, visit the Downloadable Resources section of our website at to download your free copy of “Everything Your Business Needs to Know About CSR.” And don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or wherever you may listen to your podcast. Until next time! Thank you for listening.


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