Cultivating good relationships involves good communication: with each other, as well as with other stakeholders. For companies, good communication and ongoing relationship management is essential to meet expectations, safeguard project success, as well as to protect your company’s interests and reputation.
After approving and formalising your involvement in a project, you’ll want to keep tabs on its progress, with:
- On-site project visits
- Regular face-to-face discussions with project implementers to understand how the project is evolving, and to ascertain the sometimes unexpected needs that might arise during implementation.
- Regular reviews of progress during the process and to see that the mutual obligations contained in the contract that you have signed with a project are being adhered to.
- A general overview of how the project panned out toward the end of an initial funding period, to assist in decisions about whether or not to renew your support for it.
Some of this ongoing relationship-management needs consistent awareness of contractual and reporting obligations that come with the project’s rollout. Sometimes it must involve face-to-face project visits.
Here are some basic tips to consider:
- Internally, discuss the purpose of the visit in advance, and what you want to achieve with it.
- Arrange who will meet and host you (and time factors) so that no-one’s time is wasted.
- Prepare and/or agree an agenda for the visit, so that things you need to be exposed to are there to be seen.
- Set aside time for you to learn first-hand about on-the-ground realities rather than having your visit fully consumed in formalised meetings.
- Enquire about any applicable protocols (including dress codes) that need to be observed and appropriately respected – a matter of particular importance to poorer communities. Do not “rock up” in sloppy or too-informal dress, as though you’re visiting a zoo.
Consider communicating about your involvement with CSI partners. It doesn’t have to be about trying to get credit for what you are doing, but it can raise awareness of project work, or community needs and could also draw support from other potential donors. The use of common sense, sensitivity and sincerity can make your communications about your partner projects highly beneficial to them.
Here are a few tips on how to communicate for CSI impact:
- Try to use your communications about a project as an add-on to your other support for it. After all, you have the potential to market and create awareness for your projects to your business networks, colleagues, your clients and within your industry.
- Mention of your support for a project carries the most weight when it “passes the glory” onto the project you’re backing. Tell their story, and why they deserve your – and others’ support. This can help to bring them support from others, and thus decrease dependency on you.
- Be sure to let your company marketing and communications colleagues know about your work, its developmental purpose, the projects you are involved in, and guide them in using this information to promote your social investment goals in tandem with their own strategic objectives for the company.
- Let your colleagues know about CSI projects you support, and why, using the company’s internal communications platforms. It could also be a way of involving staff in the project which can give them a sense of pride in the company when they know that they are part of a company with a broader positive societal impact and purpose (one that they could possibly become part of) over and above commercial success.
- Some projects are more suitable to cobranding than others and where they are, this can bring strong brand strengths to all parties.
- Be careful, however, not to overwhelm a project with excessive branding or else you run a risk of being seen to “own” that project. When this happens, you may find it difficult to extract yourself from the project over time, which raises a number of risks. For the company one risk is potential reputational risk to their brand should there be any compromised integrity. And for the project itself the risk is that other donors might assume that it’s yours for the long-term and so they avoid supporting it themselves.
At its heart, CSI communication is an exercise in ongoing relationship building, and connects you to your various audiences, both inside and outside the company. It also helps beneficiary projects to attract additional awareness and support, and gives them exposure they might not otherwise get.
An emphasis on communication along your CSI journey also enables others to learn from your experiences and own lessons learned so as to replicate best practice as well as avoid common mistakes.
- Paul Pereira, WHAM! Media. This article is extracted from Nation Builder’s “Re:Calculating your Giving”. Download the full publication at https://proudnationbuilder.co.za/resources/