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Nation Builder Top Tip: Social investment is fundamentally about people

Written by: Megan Ellis

A lot of businesses feel intimidated or overwhelmed when it comes to understanding social development, and they don't know how to engage with it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working towards sustainable social investment:

1. Know 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?

2. Strategy and planning

For donations to be effective, they should be well planned. Strategy keeps your giving sustainable in the long run. Select a project or NPO (preferably a well-established one) that aligns with your values and get to know them. Document your strategy.

3. Sustainability

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

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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? Do they have the skills and expertise to run this in-house, or should you consider using an external consultant?

7. 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.

Finally, remember that social investment is fundamentally about people. 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.

Written by Keri Paschal, Executive 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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