Ditch the Begging Bowl

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Making a Sustainable Difference – a Moral Obligation or a Business Imperative?
By Amanda Zar
AtoZ Fundraising

Corporate Social Investment (CSI) is commonly defined as planned charitable giving, geared to make a measurable and sustainable difference to communities and the individuals within those communities. A few years ago it was accepted practice that donating to a charity was a moral obligation, and a small percentage of a company’s profits would be given to a particular cause – usually based on the Director’s discretion. Times have changed considerably within the corporate sector. Businesses now employ specific staff to manage their CSI programmes and dedicate resources to promote their good work. CSI has become a formal and recognized part of Corporate South Africa. But what about a CSI strategy for SME’s?

In some cases, SME business owners are driven by their own personal values and need to do good, and contribute to a cause close to their hearts on a yearly basis. Besides the obvious section 18A tax benefits and BBBEE points received from their contributions, what other business benefits are there to supporting a CSI cause?

The primary benefit of donating to an NGO is without question the opportunity for your business to be acknowledged and identified as a morally conscious, responsible contributor to the upliftment of South African society. An important question for SME’s to consider is – are your donations having the desired impact in the communities? And importantly, are you communicating the impact that your contributions are making to your customers and your staff? It is no secret that staff value working for an organization that is seen as socially conscious. A specific CSI strategy can include elements such as employee involvement and volunteering, which inevitably lead to greater staff morale.

Not only does contributing to an NGO benefit your organisation internally, but it can also have a positive effect on your customers. There has been a huge shift in terms of customer perception and consumer buying behavior over the last few years. Consumers, especially the younger generation, are purchasing more products from companies that are socially conscious than from those that are not. The secret is to inform your customer base that you are indeed contributing to social upliftment. This can be done via various communication and marketing strategies, or via a cause-related marketing campaign. A cause-related marketing campaign essentially involves a percentage of each sale of one of your products/services going to a cause. This way, when a customer purchases an item or a service, they themselves feel like they are contributing to the improvement of their society. The customer feels good and ultimately you and your company are seen in a favorable light.

WHAT NOW? Ideally an SME CSI strategy should have a direct link to your core practice and activities. Once you as a company have decided on a CSI focus area, such as youth, health or the environment, you would need to partner with a reputable NGO in that particular sector. There are over 120 000 registered NGO’s in South Africa, and selecting an appropriate one to receive your contributions can be quite a task. Once you have made a selection, sit with a representative from the NGO as well as with your marketing team and work on an employee involvement programme, as well as a marketing plan which will assist you in showcasing and profiling your contribution as relevant and appropriate.

Including an element of sustainable, responsible citizenship is an essential part of good business practice. It not only ensures your business actively empowers marginalized South Africans and the communities in which they operate, but it also allows you to receive combined tax savings, BBBEE scorecard points AND the opportunity to showcase your business as a vested and progressive organisation.

AtoZ fundraising is a consultancy that offers organisations in the social development sector holistic support services in terms of their fundraising and marketing requirements. Our purpose is to work closely with NGOs to assist them in identifying the correct and appropriate way in which they should work to ensure their sustainability. Directors Amanda Zar and Catherine Taylor have a combined diverse experience of 15 years within the development sector which ensures that they are well positioned to walk alongside NGO’s.