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Nation Builder top tips – How to be strategic about social investment

Written by: Sithandwa Ngwetsheni

Social investment is a business imperative. This means that its planning and implementation need to be professionalised.

Professionalise delivery – Social investment must be subject to the same standards of professionalism as any core business function.

Quality, not quantity – Even relatively small companies can be leaders in terms of the quality of their social investment. Often, it's the smaller manageable project, underpinned by a set of workable ideas and anchored in the community, that stands the test of time.

Learn – Aim to spend more time listening and learning instead of being the loudest voice and opinion in the room. It is important to learn about cultural realities and challenges, as well as looking not just for what you think the community needs, but acknowledging what value, experience and resources each role player brings to the table.

Meet local needs – Often, the areas of greatest need are not in the well-marketed communities, but right in one’s backyard. Geographically, but also amongst your staff and their families and communities. Try and focus on the needs of people within your reach. An important part of corporate social investment is how the funding you provide empowers others to do more for those in need around them.

The power of relationships – Relationships cannot be bought; they must be built. It means, among other things, keeping your promises, managing expectations, showing you care and taking the long view. Most importantly, it means engaging constructively when there are difficult issues, and always looking for solutions together.

Aim for Dignity – The aim of social investment is to help others to make more of themselves, both at an organisational and a beneficiary level. This foundational value should be the beginning and end of every strategy planning and review process.

Just say no – If you want to optimise your social investment spend, develop the confidence and ability to say no. There are many reasons for walking away from a project. They range from the availability of funds and the sustainability of the project itself to the quality and track record of the people behind it.

Measure, monitor, benchmark – As social investment has become more professional, so has the value of measuring and monitoring a project's impact against its intended objectives. In fact, it is crucial that you set out this objective at the outset. Equally important is constant and ongoing monitoring. Establish processes and procedures through which to gather and assess project workflows, decision-making, risks and governance issues. It is only through such measuring, monitoring and benchmarking that you'll be able to reflect on your return on investment.

Written by Lauren Henning, the Public Affairs Director at Nation Builder, a platform that equips business leaders with learning tools, free resources and a community that helps them achieve the greatest possible positive impact in our country through effective social investment. www.proudnationbuilder.co.za



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