The impact of the global pandemic has been engaged through various lenses, including that of the economic impact on women, small businesses and the imprint of digital transformation, and national government preparedness and response strategies on what has been a turbulence that has resulted in a loss of life, funds, and intensified public sector engagement and call for collaboration. A new lens engaged by the Sage Foundation, spotlights the impact on over 4000 businesses, its leaders, and employees, and how they have and are driving and thinking about corporate philanthropy.
In their Harvard Business Review essay entitled “The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy”, scholars, Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer excellently paint the inception of the term, how the business practice has evolved over time, and the (potential of the) value created from strategic, focused corporate philanthropy and how it can drive company competitiveness beyond the outlook of charity. One of the latter arguments that the essay makes prominent, is the obscene vapidness that the true aspiration of this business engagement loses itself to, resulting in this chilling statistic from the People Powering Change Report by the Sage Foundation on the effect and residue of the pandemic, and that is how businesses’ engage in philanthropy, with 64% reporting that funds for corporate philanthropy have already been cut – or will be cut in the coming 12 months.
But what if corporate philanthropy wasn’t a charitable drive? Instead, an opportunity to invest in not only the public image of the company, but to strategically support the business’ bottom line and how it contextualises its corporate social responsibility to strengthen its competitiveness for its engaged stakeholders.
“My company encouraged volunteers to assist individually in their local communities. People also opted for money donations as opposed to the usual giving of time. My organisation matched the money donations received.”
At the end of 2020, the Sage Foundation commissioned Kantar, a leading data, insights, and consulting company to conduct a global study of business leaders and employees on corporate philanthropy and its current state. The findings of the report were anchored on unpacking the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on corporate philanthropy, to challenge the relationship between purpose-led businesses and engaged employees, and to standardise the various four markets (of Sage) in South Africa, United Kingdom, United Sates and Spain. Here is what the report has informed us about corporate philanthropy:
1. COVID’s Negative Impact on Corporate Philanthropy Investment
For corporates, the impact of the pandemic has been felt mostly by the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Corporate Social Investment (CSI), and Socio-Economic Development (SED) departments, often observed through the singular lens of expenditure and non-revenue generating business activity. As such, the study reveals that 64% of the interviewed business leaders believe that COVID will impact on their businesses’ ability to invest in corporate philanthropy in the long term, and as a further consequence, 49% of the business leaders believe the ripple effect of reduced investment will cause a delay in progress being made against reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Where does your company stand?
In South Africa, according to the latest data published by the latest Trialogue Business in Society Handbook, corporate philanthropy investment grew by a marginal 1,2% in real terms from R10,2 billion in 2019 to an estimated R10,7 billion in the 2020 financial year.
2. A Company’s CSI Engagement Matters
Who engages on the billions of dollars, globally, that companies invest in? One of the 4000 group of stakeholders that the People Powering Change Report by the Sage Foundation engaged, was socially responsible employee. Globally, 58% employees referred to an organisation’s commitment to corporate philanthropy being a priority to choosing the company that they end up working for; and even through 2 out of 3 businesses do not offer volunteering opportunities to their employees during paid working hours, 1 out of 3 business leaders have felt the increased pressure from their employees since March 2020 to support the local communities.
“Great Management that gives the right level of autonomy and support. Great tools that allowed me to do onboarding remotely, great culture of the company that communicates a lot, and Sage Foundation is the cherry on the cake. Very happy to be part of this great company.”
3. The Opportunity to Redefine Corporate Philanthropy
For the Sage Foundation, their 5 paid volunteer days provides the business with a differentiator for their talent acquisition attraction strategy, a context-based objective that participates in the broader purpose-led business agenda of Sage.
Financial services company, Investec’s CSI strategy engages through the lens of education and entrepreneurship as they see these two pillars being “critical to creating employment and socio-economic growth in South Africa.” During the pandemic, Investec invested their corporate philanthropy through the Solidarity Fund, the YES programme with 1440 interns receiving funding and for entrepreneurs, supporting Uconomy.
“Sage Foundation is excellent -5 days a year each for everyone to give back to our charities and communities is great. This is only part of a good benefits package you get for working at Sage.”
The rise of smartly investing in corporate philanthropy, paired with the commitment to SDGs and strategically engaging with stakeholders like employees and investors, enlightens us how far the school of CSI thought has come. A business led by operating with purpose at the center, with an inclusive and diverse way of consulting is sure to grab the opportunity to redefine how it innovatively engaged in corporate philanthropy, and not just for the community it aids, but those who can volunteer their time and money.
“Employees are keen to keep their commitment to volunteering despite the global health crisis with almost all (97%) employees saying that disadvantaged people and non-profits needed support now more than ever due to the pandemic. Over half (57%) go even further than that and say they would volunteer their own time money to the organization or initiative that their company supports.”
From the People Powering Change Report and the case studies provided, it is clear that corporate philanthropy’s role and impact is well understood and articulated by stakeholders involved and engaged. It benefits the company’s triple bottom line, provides an elevated attractiveness and competitiveness from a talent acquisition and retention strategy, and introduces capabilities of strategically and smartly investing in company growth.
Does your company care, how does it engage philanthropically? As an investor, employee or business leader, does this matter to you?
I’d love to hear from you!
On 7 July 2020, I was greeted by an email in my inbox with the subject line “Software Company Content Campaign”, followed by an urgent request outlining the impact of my work in industry. A few negotiations and months later, this would be the birth of a partnership now known as #SageForSmallBiz with multinational enterprise software company, Sage.
Six months later, and we’ve designed a conversation engaging with innovators, entrepreneurs, financial practitioners on themes of digital transformation, financial strategy and business innovation for the optimization of successfully running your business.
To mark this 6 month landmark, I’ve decided to share some of my 6 favourite moments and resources from the #SageForSmallBiz conversation:
Announcement of the Partnership
This was a conversation and partnership that was months in the pipeline, and I’d had a relationship with a few of my current colleagues, so when we hit the ground running, it was like a aligned well-oiled machine. This lead to getting profiled on the Sage website, engaging on the value of impact innovation.
Smart Money Tribe
The prospect of being in such a partnership meant that the #SageForSmallBiz stakeholders like yourself, were looking for value-add that wasn’t just centred around my expertise of being in business innovation, but also to engage on shared experiences. This is why, when I had the opportunity, I brought in my smart money tribe who are investors, entrepreneurs, venture builders to talk about their financial strategy that they use in their businesses, and treating their entities like legacy babies.
The Evergreen 30 Day Sage Trial
As a founder of a small business, managing your expenses and income is often afforded by the affordability and accessibility of an Excel spreadsheet. As you move your business from stage of growth to another, and you cannot afford to be inputting on excel at every purchase because more high-level prioritise require your attention, or the services of an accountant, the attractiveness of automating your accounting software becomes more alluring. This is why the Evergreen Sage Business Cloud Accounting Start 30-day FREE trial is one of my favourite resources from Sage.
“Accountants don't come cheap and as a startup, you generally have a very minimal budget in the early stages of your business. So Use accounting software to remain organized.” – Tinyiko Simbine, CFO and Co-Founder of GirlCode
Trust me when I say that takes a village to raise this conversation. From my fellow brand partnership colleagues, to the Sage engine that ensures we get our wish list to give you the best engagement and resources, getting on the monthly calls and strategy sessions definitely make the journey to work on this campaign a better delight.
Small Business Toolkits
If you’re not a big fan of reading articles or joining webinars, Sage has curated a few toolkits that are consumable and practical for founders in their first year, to creatives who are struggling with the jargon of the business and finance world. My top 3 would have to be:
Elevating after 6 Months
We have a special project coming in the next few months that will engage the tough economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through digital transformation, financial strategy and business innovation. I cannot wait to share this with you.
What have been some of your favourite moments and resources from the #SageForSmallBiz conversation? Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you and the value derived for your business or idea. Keep following the hashtag and www.sage.com for more information and updates.
“Such valuable information!
Thank you for breaking it down, BUT not dumbing it down. We’re learning as we go and grow #SageForSmallBiz.” - Phumeza Langa, Host of #SistaHoodHour