Communicating in the CSI Space. 24/3/2016
Published on NGOPulse
In 2014/15, corporate contributions to Corporate Social Investment (CSI) increased to R8.2 billion – up from R2 billion just over a decade ago. This shows not only the commitment of corporates to the socio-economic development of the country, but that that there still remains much to be done in meeting the challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment in South Africa.
These challenges are addressed on a number of levels and through many initiatives by a multitude of stakeholders from government, the private sector and civil society organisations. However, what is key in the social investment space is communication.
Effective communication is critical for fundraising, sharing knowledge through advocacy and lobbying and educating grantees and beneficiaries, while it enhances relationship building with grantees, encourages collaboration and partnerships with other grantmakers and stakeholders, promotes public relations and brand reputation, and improves donor and investor relations. Communication is also critical in sharing monitoring and evaluation findings, whether positive or negative.
When designing a communication strategy it is important to understand the target audience and the purpose of engagement with them. The strategy should allow for feedback loops to ensure that communication flows both ways.
Tshikululu Social Investments, with support from the FirstRand Foundation (FRF), and in partnership with GrantCraft, has developed a guide that focuses on communicating for impact in the South African context.
Entitled ‘Communication That Counts: Lessons from South African Social Investors’, it provides key lessons in communicating for impact from grantmakers, foundations and donors in the social investment space. The guide was be shared at a breakfast event, CSI That Works, be jointly hosted by Tshikululu and the FRF.
Some of the guidelines and lessons highlighted in the guide include the following:
- Collaborating and enhancing partnerships;
- Communicate clear and consistent messages to target audiences;
- Emphasise genuine partnerships which provide for win-win scenarios;
- Keep communication positive;
- Listen and document all communication processes with partners;
- Grantee communication
- Create opportunities to engage with grantees as well as regular feedback mechanisms to get their insights into programme efficacy;
- Consider how communications might affect power dynamics and incorporate equalising elements into communication strategies;
- Involve beneficiaries in developing policies around issues like photography and funder visits;
- Public relations and brand equity
- Identify all communication channels available to you and determine how you might leverage each to convey an aspect of your message;
- Develop a public relations plan and communicate with key media to share the organisation’s work;
- Spend time developing an understanding of your brand – not just your corporate identity, but what you should be known for;
- Pursue honest feedback from stakeholders on how your brand is perceived (from funder, partners, grantees, the media etc.).
- Knowledge sharing
- Choose the right tools for sharing knowledge
- Share reports, case studies and other research more broadly through online open access platforms (e.g. issuelab.org)
- Make sure your website has findable and relevant information for various stakeholders
- Internal communications
- Ensure that employees are aware of on-going social investment initiatives and be aware of their perceptions of these;
- Set up a formal employee volunteer programme to invite staff to be active participants in philanthropic work;
- For smaller teams, brainstorm ways to get and keep communication strong;
- Monitoring and Evaluation
- Combine statistics and data with anecdotes to ensure the impact of grantee projects is effectively communicated;
- Look for effective ways of communicating key findings or trends with the audience, such as using infographics or producing case studies