Earning a reputation as a solid company means going beyond selling a good product at a good price and standing behind it. Being a good corporate citizen earns you a reputation as a valuable member of your professional or local community, helping you in a variety of ways, including creating customer loyalty, helping you attract and retain workers and improving the quality of life in the areas where you do business.

Corporate Citizenship

The term “corporate citizenship” means different things to different people and sometimes gets interchanged with the phrase “corporate social responsibility.” Some differentiate between the two, suggesting that corporate citizenship more resembles interacting with others in a specific profession or community, while corporate social responsibility refers to how you manage the impact of your business society in general. A corporate citizen might donate money to local schools in its area and fund political candidates, while a socially responsible corporation might start a recycling program, provide a wellness program for its employees and ethically pay its taxes.

Develop a Plan

You’ll improve your image in your community if you create a well-thought-out corporate social responsibility campaign rather than writing a check here or there as charities knock on your door. You can only spend so much of your money doing good deeds, and there’s no crime in choosing worthwhile causes that also maximize your benefits. Meet with your marketing department to create an annual plan that helps you impress your target customer with repeated acts of giving or other good deeds.

Target Your Activities

Be proactive in creating your own activities -- rather than reacting to solicitations from nonprofits -- to maximize your ability to reach a specific audience. For example, if you sell to women, choose organizations near and dear to them, such as breast cancer or child health organizations. It’s easier for local politicians to approve a zoning variance or expansion request if you have a good reputation with their constituents. In addition to working with local charities, start an internal recycling program and look at ways you can reduce your energy use, touting your commitment to cleaner air and water in your community.

Work Actively with Nonprofits

Don’t just write a check to a local animal shelter or youth soccer league. Get involved to maximize the good you can do for them and to increase your exposure. Consider serving on a board of directors of a local nonprofit that can benefit from your business expertise. Offer to lend your website developer to a charity to help redo its website. Have your marketing people offer suggestions for nonprofits’ fundraising and event materials. Get involved with their promotion of you, negotiating contracts that get your banners and links on their websites, signage at events and permission to use their logo on your website and packaging.

Get Your Staff Involved

In addition to having your staff work with your nonprofit partners on company time, give them a chance to donate time or money. Ask your employees to volunteer at charity events as ushers, parking attendants and registration desk helpers while wearing your company. Hold a donation drive each year and put a donation thermometer in your office to create excitement.

Start a Foundation

If you want to make a bigger splash in your industry and community, start a private foundation that lets you raise and disperse money for charitable activities. This doesn’t have to be a major commitment or require full-time staff. Meet with an attorney with expertise in nonprofit work to discuss the cost of setting up a nonprofit and the amount of work you need to do to keep your tax-exempt status. You might simply use it to accept donations and fund an annual scholarship program or yearly sporting event.

Create a PR Campaign

Work with your nonprofits, local media and trade press to get coverage for your activities on a regular basis. Send press releases on your stationery to media outlets where you advertise and have your nonprofit partners send releases on their stationery to their contacts. Use your packaging, website and marketing materials to let consumers know that when they buy from you, they support a charity.