Developing CSI Synergies

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Corporate Social Investment (CSI) practitioners, non-government organisations (NGOs) and non-profit organisations (NPOs) are self-reliant. Together they make a difference, but the success of the process is dependent on developing their synergies. With Covid-19, many of us are now working or studying from home, keeping socially distant, and generally going about our lives in a ‘virtual’ way. Isn’t it time we re-examined our CSI processes and brought some of this virtual methodology to these processes?

Let’s see how we could improve on the impact that we make as CSI practitioners and NGOs, focusing on our online presence.

Keep websites updated
One of the most important platforms for corporates, NGOs and their audiences are websites. The website is often the first place where customers interact with us, giving an impression of the whole organisation at a glance. Therefore, it is essential that our websites are up to date, professional and easy to use.

How does yours look? Is it attractive, summarising what you do on the homepage in a way that attracts and piques interest? Is the information up to date? This is an ideal time to give the website an overhaul, ensuring that reports of projects are accessible and that both funders and community members seeking support can easily find what they need.

Don’t skimp on websites – your budget and time allocations for producing a stimulating, updated website should reflect its importance.

Simplify the application process
Time is precious and we can’t afford to waste it. As a funder, how streamlined is your application process? So many NGOs and NPOs fail at the first hurdle because they either lack the documentation required or are intimidated by the application process which is sometimes explained using unclear terminology.

As a first step, why not require only the NGO registration document, proof of a bank account and registered members’ IDs, together with an ‘elevator pitch’ of 500 words about the project aims and results? Such a brief pitch forces NGOs to be clear and concise. NGOs that are successful in the first round can then submit further supporting documentation during follow-up rounds. All first-round applications should be digital. This is possible with the use of free apps and widgets such as ‘Jotform’. This digital process not only saves time but money – money that can be better spent.

Fair and transparent selection criteria
It is impossible to develop synergies if funders don’t clearly specify what they want to achieve. NGOs need to know which corporate is best suited to helping them, so clear parameters are a must. Likewise, funders need to be careful with how they select projects. One corporate has telephone interviews – this seems unfair to those who lack good verbal skills. We really need to make our selection criteria fair, clear and transparent across the board.

CSI super app
Long term, we could be looking at developing a CSI ‘super app’ on which all NGOs and corporates can register and store their data. Indeed, we are excited to announce that due to our commitment to and passion for the industry, CSRNEWSSA is developing such an app, the ‘CSI ID’, which works a ‘smart directory’ – storing all CSI-related information such as NGOs’ locations, activities, funding sources, focus areas, and so on. Corporates will also have access to information on other corporates and be able to discern where funding gaps lie, both geographically and in which sector, and both corporates and NGOs will be able to target their work accordingly.

Once the directory is up and running, all information related to CSI will be accessible and stored in one central hub, saving us all time and money. Join us on ‘CSI ID’ to develop our synergies!

CSI 2021 and beyond
An essential part of any project cycle is monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Standard practice for social development projects recommends that 10-15% of project costs be allocated to M&E.

We really need to take the time to stand back and learn from what we are doing, whether it is corporates assessing the impact of their funding, or NGOs assessing the impact of their work in communities – and how well these partners are working together. An essential part of this reflection and learning process is assessing how we as an industry are developing new approaches and practices. Part of this process is recognising the continuing impact of the pandemic and how we need to change practices to reflect this digital, distanced age.

A critical look at how we collectively ‘do’ CSI would yield long-term benefits, improving the way we approach projects and ultimately how we serve communities.

Dawn Green
Dawn Green is editor for Innovation & Technology here at Corporate Social Responsibility News South Africa. She has twenty years of editing and writing experience in academic and corporate sectors and is fully invested in social development and decolonised practice. She is committed to the use of plain and sensitive English language and recognizes the multiple and changing identities that people claim. She loves research and exploring the many ways we can improve our practice to improve the lives of others.

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