You’ve decided that you want to incorporate social good into your business model. Great! We salute you. But not so fast – choosing the way you want to give back, and how to authentically incorporate it into your business, is the hardest and most important part of this process.

After 16 years a designer and 10 as an agency owner, I reflected on my experience and made a switch from the traditional agency model. Now we are a agency focused on design, storytelling, good, and giving, and we help our clients do the same. DesignGood Studio works with people, businesses, brands and organizations who want to incorporate social good, so I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. While stories of brands like TOMS are inspiring, building a business that integrates giving back into its core message is not as easy as it looks. To help you on your way, the DesignGood team has put together a list of everything you need to know to authentically integrate social good and giving into your company’s business model:

Connecting Your Company With A Cause
To start, think about the problems or needs that your business might be able to help resolve. The cause you back should be relevant to your business, and make sense to your brand and your story as a whole. People want to feel connected to a story. The quickest way to create that for your customers is by bringing in a cause that fits seamlessly with your brand. For example, we ran a story on the DesignGood blog recently about Bureo Skateboards. Bureo gives and takes in an incredibly positive and socially conscious way:  they design skateboards made from plastics pulled from the ocean, and educate communities near their collection sites about environmental causes. Aside from the fact that a cool, eco-conscious skateboard comes out of the deal, Bureo also is removing something negative from a community and returning something positive. That makes for a great story, and a perfectly rounded, socially aware business.

To zero in on your best way to contribute, start with a few simple questions: Who are you helping? What are you passionate about? Why are you choosing to work with this particular cause? Does it weave into your brand’s core message? Remember it’s not just about sponsoring an event or slapping your logo somewhere; you’re incorporating a belief or passion into your business’s entire being. If it doesn’t weave seamlessly into your brand’s story and overall core message, then it’s not for you.

Finding A Link
If you’re working directly with consumers or selling a product, the link between your industry or business and social good isn’t as obvious as it might be for a business like Bureo Skateboards. If that’s the case, don’t worry.

To help find the link between your business and your social contribution, think about who your core audience is. What cause would they support? Is there anything your company or industry does that could be considered negative? Then come up with a way to negate that issue through your work and try to give back anything that you take. A great way to tie social good into your business is by supporting the communities and resources that help to create your product in the first place.

Another excellent option if you’re struggling to find a link: Many of the brands that we work with at DesignGood Studio focus on education. Consider creating scholarship funds in your industry, and you’ll be contributing toward the next generation of experts in a way that fits with your brand.

Creating Value Through Social Consciousness
Once you’ve determined how to pair your brand with a relevant cause that you’re passionate about, the next step is learning how to tell that story.

Implementing this storytelling component is a key part of the entire picture of your business. Keep in mind that your brand isn’t just your logo – not even close. Your brand represents your voice, tone, the way you communicate with customers and what they think of you. It’s a mix of graphics, ideas, deliverables and words, and that needs to be clearly and quickly expressed to your customers. This must be a consistent message you send through design and branding, on your blog, in your social media posts, and every other aspect of your business’s communication. Your brand should be transparent, the social component should be transparent and the alliance should be obvious.

You want your customers to walk away telling a story and talking about your business. So you’ll need to give them a story to tell. Your story can be communicated through words, graphics, blogging, social media, video and more. Consider how you can connect with your audience in every step of your brand- building efforts. Whether you’re looking for a design and branding agency or a new employee, everyone you work with needs to understand your vision, believe in it and be willing and able to help you convey it as clearly as possible. You are building a tribe around your brand. Your internal team and agency support should be like minded. When all this comes together, you begin to attract like-minded customers as well.

Putting It Into Practice
Mastering these first three steps shouldn’t be quick and easy. It should be long and heartfelt, and you should be ready for lots of thinking and growth. While these steps are just the foundation of building a relevant, socially conscious business, starting with the right foundation will help to make the rest of your work toward building a successful brand much easier.

To see more examples of creative companies who have successfully integrated social good into their business models, check out DesignGood, where new stories are published each week about people, organizations and brands who are giving back creatively. For more information on incorporating social good into your brand, check out DesignGood Studio, where we explore questions like “What’s a social company?” and “How can a business create social impact?”. And if you haven’t already, give both “Conscious Capitalism” or “Start Something That Matters” a read – both of these books are integral reads for anyone who’s thinking about starting a socially conscious company, and in fact played a big role in the start of DesignGood.

And another thing: incorporating social good is beneficial to your business. Consumers are starting to look for businesses that give back, and at some point they’re going to expect it, if not demand it. That’s why it’s so important to be thinking about these concepts now so that you and your business aren’t left behind in the future. Trust us – it’s a good idea.

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From the Editor
At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that cause us to think differently and think big-picture and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders and influencers in the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you Sign-up for the Weekly and Subscribe to Conscious Magazine.