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Differentiating Your Signature Initiative

The secret is out. It’s common knowledge among corporate citizenship leaders that signature initiatives – community involvement efforts that are narrowed in focus and branded – are a powerful way to support key communities and drive targeted impact within a cause of importance to your business.

Now that implementing a signature initiative has become commonplace, it is no surprise that many of our clients grapple with how to stand out from the crowd. While a branded initiative is meant to be uniquely ownable, it’s still difficult to cut through the clutter when your industry peers embrace the same causes. In our experience, programs that stand out are intentional and strategic – not just in their branding – but also in their approach to addressing the cause. Here are some of our top tips for differentiating your signature initiative:

Leverage your unique assets. Take inventory of all the assets available at your company, and be sure to tap into the expertise, products and services that are unique to your business.  Remember that what most differentiates you from a competitor may be your brand, culture, people and skill-sets. Consider how these can be leveraged to distinguish your initiative from a competitor’s, especially if you’re supporting the same cause.


Find a niche. Consider selecting a hyper-focused issue within your selected cause, or targeting a specific audience that your peers aren’t focusing on. For example, if all your peers are focused on STEM education, how can you hone in on a sub-issue that makes sense for your business? Maybe you learn that a major opportunity is integrating STEM into public schools, or that existing programs aren’t doing a good job reaching girls. By focusing in, you create a new, open space to make your mark.


Set clear, compelling goals. Bravely put a stake in the ground by setting and communicating clear, measurable goals. Goal-setting creates accountability and gives you clarity of focus about your target and priorities. And, if you’re able to publicly share these goals and talk about your progress towards them and lessons learned along the way, you’ll earn even more credibility for your efforts.


Be creative in your approach. The model you choose to address the issue will be a key differentiator. Consider the variety of ways you can go about designing your initiative, keeping your cause area and end-goals in mind. Perhaps there is a perfect match in a nonprofit partnership that will seamlessly bring your intentions to life, or maybe your cause and goals are better supported by a collaborative effort among numerous partners. Even still, your goals may be best reached through multiple approaches that address the varied facets of the cause, including partnerships, volunteerism, in-kind giving and more. Remember, your peers are or will be championing the same cause as you; what will differentiate you is the uniqueness and impact of your approach.

Integrate efforts across your business. Bring every business unit on board to help inform your strategy, implement your approach, and communicate your story. When every part of your business is tapped, a shared culture and common goals are established for all employees to champion. The work of integrating across the business is long-term – it requires meeting with various business leaders, finding common ground, and adjusting your program to bring them onboard. But, this collective approach allows for holistic, authentic and distinguished storytelling – and ultimately greater impact.

About Niriksha Kannan

Niriksha Kannan is a Director in Changing Our World’s Corporate Practice and brings experience in employee engagement, corporate-nonprofit partnership facilitation and nonprofit strategy development.