• Mark Topley

Doing good or blowing your own trumpet?

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Over the past few weeks I’ve been posting various videos on my FaceBook page of a conversation I had with Chris Barrow around CSR.

It’s always good to get engagement, and one commenter raised some interesting points.

The main issues they raised are something I came across fair bit when I was CEO of the dental charity Bridge2Aid. The traditional view among some people I met, is that doing good is, in and of itself, its own reward, and therefore everyone should do it, with no strings attached. According to this view, promoting what you’re doing by working with charities is wrong, especially if you use it as part of a marketing exercise.

My commenter also raised an interesting question about why anyone would pay someone like me to help them organise their charity work.


Over the course my career I’ve worked with a large number of charities and businesses of many different sizes across four continents. In that time, I have come across some people whose motivation for getting involved in charity work was purely about self promotion. Where that involved my organisations, we gently distanced ourselves from them. Although I’ve found that people do things for different reasons, the overwhelming majority do so because they genuinely want to make a difference, and wanted to use the power and wealth creating ability of their business to make a difference.

I’ve always seen partnership between business and charity as something that should create a win on both sides. After all, a business which becomes more successful and operates in a socially responsible way has the capacity to do a lot more good. If a charity partnership is part of creating this success then I’m very happy to see that. Where businesses partner with charities in a genuine way, seeking to add as much value as possible in funds, time, expertise and profile, then that can have a hugely positive impact on the cause. All good stuff.

CSR is much more than charity

Working with charities is only one (small) part of Corporate Social Responsibility. It speaks to who your company is, what it believes, and how it does business.

  1. It flows into how you engage with your local and wider community and good causes, and your commitment to sustainability and the environment – so playing your role as a good corporate citizen.

  2. It flows into acting honestly and with integrity as a business – going beyond mere compliance.

  3. And it flows into how your treat your team.

If it’s done well and with commitment, it creates heart and energy at the centre of the business. Because CSR touches many areas of the business, it requires some expertise to get right. As one of my clients said recently:

‘We called Mark because he has decades of experience of this kind of stuff (CSR & organisational management) and we’d reached the ceiling where we needed more structure and more expertise, I was delighted to be able to get help. There’s an organisational element involved and we needed help in structuring and planning that Mark was able to give us, and it’s been fantastic.’

And so back to my commenter. What’s my answer?

Self promotion – I agree that there are some who will use charity work solely for marketing purposes, but if they do, in my experience this will backfire, both internally and externally.

Why do you need me? CSR is about much more than working with charities. It’s a complex area that touches many parts of the business, and getting it right requires expertise and clear path to implementation. It needs to be done well, to maximise the impact for all parties, maximise the help for good causes, and to structure it in such a way that its manageable and sustainable.

If you’d like my help, contact me here.

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