The New Companies Act and the 2% CSR clause has got many organizations in a bind about the right approach to adopt. Community managers and communication professionals who oversee the company’s CSR programming are concerned about the role and expectations within their respective firms and what it means to communicate these changes.
While most organizations await clarity on the policy and will look to others to ‘lead’ my sense is that those who clarify their purpose will stand to gain in the long term. The approach to cascading messages and the transparency of operations will have a direct impact on the overall sentiment among employees. Internal communications, therefore, has a crucial role to play in making your community investment
Here are a few recommendations that can help you take stock of where you stand and what needs to be done to be ahead of the game.
Align with your goals: How your employees perceive your actions based on these changes will determine if they value your organization as a great place to work. Many research studies have reported that employees are inclined to work for firms that demonstrate strong community giving fundamentals. Ask if these new changes impact your company’s overall CSR goals. With or without the 2% funds every organization worth its name must anyhow ‘do good’ for the communities around their location. Don’t react to the changes but lead.
Understand the influencers: While the government guidelines will shape your organization’s thinking a fair bit, very often what influences decisions on CSR are the business outcomes you expect to fulfil. Also, it is about the opportunities for employees to give back and the ability of partners to bridge the gap. Therefore, consider the broader parameters for driving CSR at your organization and what it means to invest funds. Frame your criteria for community engagement and have it published.
Take a stand: Many organizations will face dilemmas about investing their funds – do you invest in one big initiative or do you spread them thin? Do you focus on one audience or multiple audiences? Do you look at short term projects that show immediate gain or long term initiatives that will you can reap the benefits in the long term? If you are part of a multinational does it have implications on your CSR agenda in the country? Do you pick up social programs that are intangible or invest in building infrastructure which is visible? The answers to these questions aren’t easy and will need to take a stand collectively with your stakeholders. The key point is put your stake in the ground and stay focused.
Be open to change: The guidelines may change and clarifications make take time to come but it shouldn’t deter you from staying on course with your approach and thinking. Envision the impact you want to create. To maximize the impact of your funds you need to have a group of champions who have a good grounding in social connections, understand the CSR landscape, have proven abilities to assess projects and sustain communication campaigns. Create a workout among this group to arrive at a structured approach to drive community engagement.
Open channels of communication: Begin with your employees and industry peers. Seek their inputs on what they expect to do more with the communities around you. Include feedback into the process and have a robust mechanism to loop back learning from every program. Recognize employees who have contributed consistently to the communities. Measure impact and report out as per the mandatory guidelines.
Finally, give back from your heart but balance your community investment by using your head!