We at whatimpact speak with tens of companies on a weekly basis about their social value strategies and goals. The practises and approaches to social value vary, but they all share one common dilemma: what technology should be used to make the most of these social value investments.
There are various reasons for companies to invest in communities:
- Building a reputation
- Employee engagement
- Generating commercial value through enhanced sales (e.g winning government tenders)
These three motivations are overlapping but have different requirements, hence one software and platform solution rarely covers it all. Most notably, not all CSR and social value investment can be used to win government tenders in line with PPN 06/20. Only tender specific, measurable, evidence based activities are valid – not generic CSR investment or volunteering.
“Today, many platforms cater to either giving and volunteering needs OR grantmaking, reflecting a general understanding of the split between corporate citizenship and grants teams within organisations. As organisations continue to harmonise programs and evaluate their efficacy, and more holistically (or introspectively) assess what it means to be good citizen, it would be reasonable to expect a convergence of goals, tools, and measures of success. “ RWI CSR Technology Review, 2019 funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
When implementing and planning any giving practises, there is a lot to choose from. All forms of social value technology (software, apps and platforms) have their own USPs. Here are some ideas how to evaluate a suitable type of a solution for your company’s needs:
A company’s social mission comes to life through its giving, volunteering and other participation in our local, nationwide and global communities. Thus, using a platform that facilitates matching with a range of social value organisations is often the first step to building a consistent social value strategy. There are plenty of donation, volunteering, grant-making platforms available, as well as white labelled software, that help companies find organisations to support.
However, for your company reputation to benefit from these partnerships, it is important that the platform gathers the right information. It is vital to gain qualitative data, ideally directly from the beneficiary organisation, in order to be able to learn and communicate the impact in a credible and transparent manner. Proxy driven SROI calculations, whilst supporting qualitative information, provide no evidence of social impact by themselves.
Internationally agreed Principles of Social Value guideline presents the principles of using SROI. Read more about these here.
Employee engagement is a broad concept. In part, it is linked to community engagement activities, such volunteering, payroll giving, fundraising events and involving employees with ‘charity of the year’ activities.
Companies have two main strategies for employee volunteering:
- Everyone can choose their charity and method of volunteering based on personal preferences
- The organisations chosen as ‘approved’ organisations to volunteer with support the company CSR strategy. This volunteering often takes form of skilled volunteering.
If a company uses volunteering as a feel-good activity, without qualitative impact targets and need for proven impact, platforms that include employee-driven decision making, payroll giving and wellbeing activities can be a solution.
If volunteering is a supporting activity to other donations, such as grants, product and service donations or giving professional skills with certain impact targets, then more strategic, holistic iterations servicing all different kinds of donations should be considered.
If skills-based volunteering is used to deliver proven social value, bundling skills and choosing beneficiary organisations with a real need for those specific skills is essential. The larger the value of a skills-bundle, the more comprehensive impact reporting can be requested in return.
As mentioned above, the new UK legislation PPN 06/20 helps organisations investing in social value to gain business from local and nationwide authorities. However, even if the company client is not the government, social value strategies and evidence is required by many B2B partners, both corporates and SMEs, as they only wish to work with responsible organisations.
In order to turn your social value investments into ROI, a few principles should be considered when making decisions on the technology supporting your giving and volunteering programmes.
- For creating credible community engagement plans and subsequent implementation, a platform offering matching, communication and understanding of anticipated impact is the key. Companies struggle if presented plans are unrealistic and delivery partners cannot be found. These difficulties create stress, costs and disruption within the companies.
- If a company donates various resources, these should all be coordinated via the same channel or making sure the impact reporting comes in the same format for all resources.
- Impact reporting should be evidence based and contain qualitative data. SROI calculations are indicative, whereas qualitative and quantitative evidence defines the difference achieved.
- Coordinating skills-based volunteering should be empowering for your employees and free from extensive labour and consultancy costs when managing the programme. It is not uncommon for the costs of management to exceed the impact of the programme.
Whatever system your company chooses to use, running social value programmes and administrating the systems is the key. CSR related software or platforms require dedicated management, as does any CRM or accountancy system. When choosing a right solution for your company, you will end up saving costs, saving time and delivering better value to society.