Cause Marketing: Five Tips for Mobilizing Employees

How Kraft Inspired 23,000 in 56 Countries to Volunteer in Global Effort

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Nicole Robinson
Nicole Robinson
For one week last fall, almost 23,000 Kraft Foods employees in 56 countries planted community gardens, built playgrounds, served nutritious meals and packed food for hungry families during the corporation's second annual Delicious Difference Week, Oct. 4 to 9.

As part of Kraft Food's ongoing commitment to fight hunger and encourage healthy lifestyles, we use the power of our people and our partners to make a difference in the communities where we live and work.

When we started this program in 2009, more than 12,000 employees in 33 countries stepped up to help. In 2010, we doubled turnout—thanks, in part, to these five strategies.

  1. High impact = high participation.
    As a leading food company, it makes sense for our community investments to address hunger and encourage healthy lifestyles. It's a good fit for employees, too, opening doors to drive change by leveraging their professional expertise. Whether teaching cheese-making to family farmers in Africa or installing more efficient freezers for a Chicago food bank, our employees are excited to translate their skills into results for our communities. Knowing they can really make a difference, employee volunteers quickly become advocates for the organizations and issues we support.

  2. Kraft volunteers prepare meals for the needy in Dubai.
    Kraft volunteers prepare meals for the needy in Dubai.
  3. Choose good partners and listen to them.
    Nonprofits working at the grass-roots level usually know how to best serve communities and create impactful, sustainable change. These are the partners we have worked with traditionally; some relationships go back decades. For Delicious Difference Week, we asked our partners to tell us how and where our teams could help. They set up projects designed to make the most of our employee volunteers' time and skills—another way "high impact" builds participation.

  4. Let your champions lead the way.
    Our Community Involvement department is skilled but small, with six team members. But around the world, more than 250 employees passionate about service volunteer to join us as "community champions." Enthusiastic evangelists, they promote volunteerism year-round and motivate others to serve. They're our companywide focus group, testing new ideas in monthly conference calls. We engage and reward champions with elements familiar to those who run consumer engagement programs—prizes, incentives and insider information. In return, they make our global volunteer efforts work, one location at a time.

  5. Kraft Foods CEO Irene Rosenfeld volunteers at a Chicago playground during Kraft Foods' Delicious Difference Week.
    Kraft Foods CEO Irene Rosenfeld volunteers at a Chicago playground during Kraft Foods' Delicious Difference Week.
  6. Provide the necessary tools, but allow for local flexibility.
    The World Giving Index published by the Charities Aid Foundation says it clearly: "Almost all countries, cultures and faiths have their own traditions of giving ... shaped by their history, customs and religion." So a cookie-cutter program developed at Kraft Foods' headquarters and handed down to locations worldwide would be doomed to failure. We set central focus areas, define a basic structure, then invest in the technology to facilitate participation. From an interactive website to simplify sign-up, to event-planning worksheets and centralized T-shirt ordering to unify teams, we provide tools and guidance. But we know employees are our most important resource. So we empower the community champions and their teams in each location to recommend NGO nongovernmental partners and community projects they believe fit best. They're free to make any tweaks they think would make the effort more successful—even if it means trading T-shirts for aprons.

  7. Line up buy-in from the boss(es).
    CEO Irene Rosenfeld embraced Delicious Difference Week at every level and every step. Through e-mail and video, Rosenfeld personally urged employees to sign up. She volunteered alongside her team, helping build a community playground in the U.S. and serving homeless and low-income patrons at a community restaurant in the U.K. More than 90% of senior executives around the world followed her example this year. Although we used a multifaceted communications plan to encourage employees to participate, a post-event survey showed the messages from Ms. Rosenfeld and her leadership team most influenced employees to volunteer.

What's next?
The future is about more partnerships. Year 1: We introduced the concept to employees internally and helped them understand the potential of the effort and the beauty of it. Year 2: We welcomed our Cadbury colleagues and built on our initial success. Year 3: We'll continue to build internally but also expand the concept to our business partners. We're looking forward to working alongside customers, suppliers, vendors and others in the broader Kraft Foods family as we continue to make a delicious difference.

Nicole Robinson is community involvement director for Kraft Foods.
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