Social investment is fundamentally about people.

A lot of small businesses lack the understanding of social development and don’t know how to engage with it, says Nation Builder’s Keri-Leigh Paschal. Getting corporates to invest in social development plays a vital role in increasing opportunities and ensuring sustainability for all South Africans.

Nation Builder’s main objective is equipping, enabling and mobilising businesses to leverage what they have at their disposal towards social good and nation building, such as money, products, staff or skill sets.

Paschal offers tips on how corporates can invest towards long lasting social development:

  1. Your purpose

Your motivations for giving affect your social impact: is it just for compliance and tax benefits, or is your goal to make an impact improving, say, education?

  1. Strategy and planning

For donations to be effective, it should be well planned. Strategy keeps your giving sustainable in the long run. Look at your long term objectives; how your corporate social investment CSI relates to your core business strategy; which stakeholders should benefit most from each investment; and how the progress of each investment will be measured. Select a project or NPO preferably a well established one that aligns with your values and get to know them. Document your strategy.

  1. Sustainability

Ensure your strategy is sustainable and look at things like succession planning, stakeholder relationships and project exit strategies.

  1. Implementation

This is where you start to take action and your well-thought-out plans are tested, and altered according to the many variables towards your desired outcome. It’s vital to keep monitoring the course of the journey to ensure the project is heading in the right direction. Invest in relationships and continue to manage the expectations of all parties involved.

  1. Partnership and collaboration

Collaboration can achieve far greater impact in a far shorter period of time than if you work alone. Have peers who can support, challenge, give insight and walk the continuous journey of learning with you including implementers, investors and beneficiaries. Treat beneficiaries as partners and not as subordinates. 

  1. Team positioning

Determine where the CSI function fits into your company. Do you have a CSI team? Who decides on the purpose, strategy and sustainability of CSI? Who reports on the progress? Do they have the skills and expertise to run this inhouse, or should you consider using an external consultant? Could you empower staff to become CSI champions?

  1. Monitoring and evaluation

Monitor to understand whether the project’s implementation is being carried out effectively and evaluate to understand whether the intended impact is being achieved for the target stakeholders. Know what you want to measure but also ensure that the reporting you need doesn’t place an unfair burden on your partner NPOs.

“Social investment is fundamentally about people,” says Paschal. “If you only do one thing to invest in long-lasting social development outcomes, invest in relationships. It is even worth allocating time and funds for building relationships with your partners as part of your CSI spend.”

This article originally appeared on Moneyweb and in the Citizen newspaper in January 2018.

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