CSIC monitors and analyzes how communication is used to create social impact across the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors.
We identify and analyze campaigns, trends and best practices from a wide range of communication disciplines including nonprofit communications, social marketing, fundraising, cause marketing, CSR communications and sustainability communications. We seek answers to questions like:
- What does it mean to be transparent?
- How is technology changing the way stakeholders engage with causes and organizations?
- How can organizations better collaborate across sectors to broaden impact?
Our goal is to identify what’s working so that we can better articulate the positive role communicators can play and support their work in advancing the field.
In partnership with the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, CSIC is undertaking a multi-phase project that encompasses research, training, and the development and dissemination of best practices on storytelling in the nonprofit sector. The project aims to fill the existing storytelling resource gap by providing examples of good, compelling stories that have had measurable outcomes for organizations, along with a step-by-step process for creating and sharing these stories—particularly one that’s geared toward smaller organizations. Research and trainings will be conducted throughout the summer and fall 2013 semesters; it is anticipated that final results will be publicly available in spring 2014.
In partnership with Waggener Edstrom Worldwide's Social Innovation Practice, the center developed a quantitative study with the objective of fostering a deeper understanding of perceptions, behavior and motivations for cause support—both local and global—among digitally engaged American adults. Criteria for inclusion in the survey panel included online or offline support of a charity or cause during the previous 12 months; moderate activity on social media (as defined by posting content, commenting or liking at least three times per week); and following at least one brand, company or organization on a social media platform. Market research firm Authentic Response fielded the online survey among 2,004 qualified American adults, ages 18 and over, in July 2012. Results were released in Spring 2013.
Communication and the Veteran Employment Problem
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from the Department of Labor, veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be more likely than their civilian peers to be unemployed. CSIC Research Fellow Sunset Belinsky explored the issue of veteran unemployment as a function of the communications challenges faced by four different key stakeholder groups: veterans, employers, the government, and veterans service organizations. Her newly-released white paper offers recommendations on ways in which they can work—both on their own and collectively—to overcome these challenges.
Small Business, Big Engagement
Social media has emerged as an ideal platform for sharing a corporate responsibility story with stakeholders. It’s authentic. It’s continuous. It’s targeted. It’s interactive. But small businesses in particular face barriers in effectively using digital platforms to tell their stories. CSIC conducted in-depth interviews with individuals at 12 small to medium-sized businesses in the Greater Washington, D.C. region in late 2011. Combined with audits of their websites and social media channels, as well as available data and statistics from previously available studies, researchers were able to identify trends in how small businesses are thinking about social media, CSR and the intersection of the two. Using some of the examples seen among the small businesses interviewed, they also were able to develop some best practices that will guide other small businesses in incorporating social media into their CSR storytelling mixes.
Dynamics of Cause Engagement
In partnership with Ogilvy PR's Social Marketing group, the center conducted a survey of 2,000 Americans adults in late 2010. The results showcase trends in cause involvement and evaluate the role of on- and off-line activities to foster engagement in causes today.
The Role of Imagery in Nonprofit Communications Planning
Images can play a vital role in how effectively messages can reach various audiences. When images accompany text or a story, which element makes the difference in engaging the reader or viewer? Which motivates one to act? Using images strategically in external and internal communications planning and execution can be a vital component of success for an organization. Disparate pieces of advice can be found online and in publications urging organizations to utilize photos for different reasons and in an amalgam of ways; however, a consolidated handbook of how to incorporate photography into communications planning does not exist. The primary objective of CSIC's Nonprofit Imagery Fellow was to develop a framework that will walk nonprofit organizations through the process of communications planning with photography as an integral element.
Transparency in Cause Marketing
This study focuses on how consumer-facing corporations and partner nonprofits communicate the impact of their cause marketing campaigns. Are they in open dialogue with their customers? Do they tell consumers how much money is ultimately donated at the end of the campaign and how many lives are changed? Whose responsibility is it to communicate the campaign’s impact? The research will look at rational versus emotional impact, the 'cause supply chain' and communicating situational context. Over a period of three months, CSIC will study 30 cause marketing campaigns and the way corporations and nonprofits communicate campaign impact, in order to develop a framework for communicating impact.
Using Social Media Platforms to Amplify Public Health Messages
In partnership with Ogilvy PR, CSIC Social Marketing fellow Alexandra Hughes researched and developed a white paper that examines how to leverage the opportunities social media provides by identifying tenets and best practices for public health-driven social media, as well as provides insights into how to reach and engage key consumer and provider audiences.
Communicating CSR: Whose job is it, and do the leaders excel?
CSIC graduate student Sherie Winston examined the types of jobs available in communicating a company’s corporate social responsibility, and also studied patterns and trends across the ways in which a select group of corporations communicate their social responsibility.