Every Company Should Adopt an NGO

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“We must get rid of the term CSR as it creates a permanent and unhealthy dichotomy between business and society.

We need to integrate the two but then we don’t need to shout about it so much anymore. In the full business case, businesses understand that taking into consideration all social and environmental concerns is good for business and then CSR is not needed any more.”

The Brand New Spirit, By Christian Conrad, Marjorie Ellis Thompson

This quote pictures the ideal world, in which every business integrates the societal impact of their business as part of their business operations. Shareholders and investors do not take up start-ups without a clear declaration of their impact and/ or support to the society. Where employees require companies to act correctly and ethically.

But until that dream becomes a reality, the best next step is that every company should adopt an NGO.

This relationship benefit both sides immensely:

01 | Corporates can help NGO’s understand their market landscape, scale faster and ultimately become self-sustainable.

When non-profits and for-profit companies work together they can create something bigger than they would alone. Scale can be created through advocacy, support on the business operations and helping on the strategy long term.

Think of it practically – an NGO has no identity created, since they cannot afford a branding agency. The corporate company can help them set up that identity and have all the assets created for them – and so they can have a digital voice.
An NGO is supporting young adults in challenging situations and helping them acquire skills that could save their life. The corporate can create a mentorship program to support on that. The possibilities are endless.

02 | NGOs help corporates take their own company values to the next level.

A company adopting an NGO has an immense impact on its reputation amongst employees, amongst shareholders and definitely their customers.

Set up paid volunteering hours to support the NGO, celebrate the NGO milestones internally, make it a topic at every townhall and be sure to include them in your corporate family. This will definitely set a new stage for your core values and this reads into: employee retention, employee loyalty, customer loyalty, stronger reputation, all of it coming into our favourite corporate measurement – PROFIT.

In order for this relationship to work, there are some rules to put into place:

01 | Put CSR at the core of your company

“ A salad dressing on a rotten salad. A lot of companies don’t integrate […] into their organisation. A lot of it is basically bullshit – you know the level of bullshit depending on where it is parked in the organisation. Unless it is embedded in the organisation, core business, it is only an add-on, an external thing.
I have never understood corporate volunteering if it has not got anything to do with your core business. CSR has been damaging to the whole sustainability movement – not created an economy.” The Brand New Spirit, By Christian Conrad, Marjorie Ellis Thompson

If you do it just to look good, it might work against you. Everyone can tell when you do it genuinely or when its a careful PR stunt to increase your short term profitability.

02 | Make it a long term relationship

A lot of companies just pick up a short volunteering project, one day, max. a few days per year – usually as a cheap version of team-building and then move back to the status quo.

This is not a relationship has an impact on either sides. For this collaboration to work, both parties must be invested in a long term relationship, with rules In place, with evolution charts and of course, impact measurement.
Companies and their adopted NGO’s must go through long periods of engagement and relationship building, thus enhancing trust.

One example could be the exchange programmes between the corporate and the NGO as one way to help both partners to align their language and working processes.

03 | Make sure you have something in common.

For example, if you are in tech, we do not ask of the corporate to support planting trees in Ghana. Choose an NGO can you can actually help with the current industry or have a complementary purpose – think of volunteering to all Free Code Academies. Support with laptops and free code training.
Create visit days for the students into your office – you give them a chance to see what is possible in the future.
Develop a 1-1 mentorship program between your employees and the students. Nurture that NGO and help them gain skills for the future.
Get the best students as interns.

04 | Make it public in a humble way

Of course you should inform and involve your employees, let your shareholders know and above else, tell your audience why do you do what you do. But make sure you do it in a humble way – be honest, friendly, supportive in your tone of voice.
Do not over-publicise your support as it might work against you.

05 | Get it wrong and your corporate reputation is now at stake

“Acting correctly, ethically, it is like a mandate. Enron could tick all the boxes, but in their DNA they were shit”.

Adopting an NGO should be an honest, transparent, humble affair and it must all start with the top management – this is not just another HR or a marketing project.

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