Rethinking CSR for Social and Company Good


A pioneer in the payments industry, Netspend has spent 20 years on a mission to help people live their best financial lives. Each year, Netspend takes the money it might spend on a typical year-end holiday party and instead funds a day-long giving spree all over the company’s hometown of Austin, Texas.

In this pay-it-forward initiative called Community Connect, teams of employees find opportunities to buy gas, groceries, pay off bills, and other ways to ease the financial burdens of day-to-day life for so many, especially during the holidays. Community Connect is one of the many ways Netspend strives to exemplify its mission and culture of philanthropy.

INK had the great honor to help Netspend develop a unique corporate social responsibility (CSR) narrative and increase brand awareness around this event to amplify its success and impact.


The INK team played a huge role in the success of Community Connect. Their support and engagement were invaluable.

Kelly Knutson

President, Netspend


Aligning Cause and Company

Companies have an opportunity – and as the name CSR suggests, a responsibility – to make a positive impact on the world. Writing a check or hosting an employee volunteer day are positive first steps but one-off initiatives can create a reactive and disjointed CSR program.

Innovative companies align their CSR strategy with business goals and customer interests. They make it part of their business and their story. This shift in approach makes a big difference in the form of employee engagement, brand awareness and preference, and a more focused impact on society. The challenge is to create a CSR narrative that strengthens your brand positioning and does so uniquely and memorably. Marketing leaders who don’t do the strategic and creative CSR work ahead of time leave behind value and impact.

Rethinking CSR

The bigger picture value was on our mind as we approached planning for the 2018 Community Connect. What was different about this event? What impact had it made over the last seven years? It was more than an alternative to a holiday party, but how?

INK sought to answer those questions through stakeholder and industry research. We found the company’s emphasis on philanthropy was distinctive in the payments industry. We also started to realize the purpose of Community Connect went beyond supporting a corporate culture of giving back. It was designed for employees to get to know customers on a personal, emotional, and empathetic level. It was about meeting people and helping them in unexpected ways to cultivate extraordinary connections.

Not only did we infuse Netspend’s unique philanthropic stance into brand messaging and positioning immediately, but we also used it to reframe Community Connect to local media as a way to uncover real stories of sacrifice during the holidays.

In addition to positioning, we saw this as way to expand thought leadership opportunities and developed content around Netspend’s CSR expertise and unique approach. Before we even put pen to paper, we knew our goal wasn’t only about growing awareness for Community Connect. It was also to position Netspend as a customer-centric company walking the talk and a CSR expert setting the standard for the entire industry.

Results for Good

INK secured significant local coverage around Community Connect 2018 using a mix of earned and paid media and influencer relations, all made possible by a rich, authentic story opportunity. Coverage included segments with three local broadcast stations, an online gallery featured on the site of the city’s top paper, a photo spread in the local business journal, and social posts with a popular local Instagrammer. The online industry publication, Money, Inc., even featured CSR-focused pieces, further establishing Netspend as a thought leader.

We also secured a highly-coveted spot for Netspend during the 2019 SXSW conference on how to create CSR programs that make a difference for both organizations and the communities they serve. The hashtag? #rethinkCSR

The most important results arguably came from the event itself. Netspend’s team of employees gifted thousands of dollars to unsuspecting Austin residents to help cover groceries, gas, bills and other expenses that cause additional stress during the holiday season.

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