‘Tis the season of giving, so we thought we’d talk about how to maximise the benefits of your Corporate Social Investment (CSI) projects with the following five tips.

#1 Choose carefully

The hardest part of a CSI project is choosing what kind of project you would like to invest in – and then finding the ideal beneficiary to work with.

You need to choose a project that speaks to your company’s values and vision. For example, if your company ethos is focused on innovation, you will possibly be interested in a project that uses new technologies to good effect.

It is also useful to stick to a project that relates to your industry, as you will have knowledge, contacts and other useful resources that you can draw on. For example, if you are a catering company, you might want to get involved with a feeding programme. And if you are a stand builder, you might want to build desks for a school. If your conference targets corporate business people, maybe you could consider investing in an entrepreneurial project for talented youth.

It’s also a good idea to partner with a company that has a proven track record in facilitating CSI projects, as they will be able to help you follow best practice guidelines. If you are a small company and don’t have a budget for this, then consider partnering with a professional NGO that is capable of using your resources wisely and is experienced in managing partnerships like this.

#2 Go local

As a company in the events industry, you are probably aware that events can be both beneficial and disruptive to the communities that host them. So why not use your CSI project as an opportunity to reach out and help those who might have been affected by your event in in some way?

This also has a very simple practical benefit in that it allows you to visit them often and build a lasting relationship. You will also be able to see how your efforts have impacted them over the long term – and can learn from this.

#3 Get hands-on

While a donation of money or goods can be fantastic, it can feel rather transactional if it’s not experienced in a personal way. If possible, invite your event attendees, client, sponsors and/or staff to be present for the handover of a donation, or even to provide a service like planting trees or painting walls. You can make an event of it.

Meeting the recipients who will benefit from an initiative makes it a far more meaningful experience – for them and you!

It can be tricky to organise such things, so if this isn’t possible you can still organise videos and photos of the handover to share with everyone instead. This also builds trust that you are doing what you have said you will do.

#4 Don’t assume

A mistake many companies make is to assume they know what is best for a charity or organisation. Or to assume they will want to receive their event left-overs. This is, generally, a bit misguided and presumptuous.

A far better approach is to set up a meeting and get to know the people you want to help, and what their most pressing requirements and needs are, well before your event. This doesn’t mean you must give them everything they want on a silver platter. But it will help you identify any opportunities where you can have the biggest impact for them – which is really the point of this all.

#5 Make it long-term

Once you’ve found a CSI project that you enjoy working with, commit to them and providing ongoing assistance year on year. In this way you can deepen your relationship and build on all of your efforts – enabling you to have the greatest positive impact in the long term.

And something to bear in mind…

Remember, CSI projects require a lot of time, energy and dedication to succeed, and can be rife with challenges. The good news is that whatever you put in will likely match what you get out of it. Good luck!

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