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CSI takes new approach to funding NGOs

 The Big Issue South Africa 14 March 2019

The recession has changed the way companies across the globe view corporate social investment (CSI). Spending cuts have meant NGOs are competing harder for CSI funds, but on the plus side many companies are paying more attention to which CSI projects they choose to back. (679 Words) - By Nadia Rosenthal


BI SA_ CSI takes new approach to funding NGOs

Sarah Harding from UK group Girls Aloud during her visit to Mother2Mothers. Photo: Big Issue South Africa

Among them is British Airways, which has partnered with UK charity giant Comic Relief for its fundraising venture Flying Start. It supports two South African NGOs, Mothers2Mothers and Grassroutes Soccer, among others.

The airline recently flew out more than 30 of its cabin crew for a three-day expedition to visit the two Cape Town-based NGOs so that staff could see first hand who they're raising funds for. Keith Williams, the airline's chief financial officer, and Sarah Harding, well-known singer for UK band Girl's Aloud, were among the high profile guests.

Asked why BA would go to the expense and effort of flying out the group for the on-site visit, Williams said it's primarily to get the cabin crew, who will be the ones collecting the funds for the NGOs during flights, motivated and involved. "It's part of ensuring that we maintain the interest and inspiration to raise our target of £8 million over the next three years for Flying Start," he explained, adding that the trip serves as a team-building exercise as well.

This hands-on approach is a reflection of the new direction CSI is heading in, so too is the win-win nature of the Flying Start fundraising partnership.

The initiative began when Comic Relief, the charity behind Britain's famed Red Nose Day, was looking for a way to expand its fundraising efforts beyond the UK. What better way to do this than to simply climb aboard the already established 800 routes that BA operates and raise funds, literally, in the air? BA benefits from Comic Relief's well-known brand and its established infrastructure to distribute the funds raised, while Comic Relief and the charities it supports benefit from the captive audiences on BA flights. What is appealing about this initiative is that travellers flying out of South Africa are given the opportunity to give something back to the country they've just visited.

Of course, it's not pure altruism that drives corporate giants like BA to have a CSI project in place. It's become more crucial than ever before for big business to reinvest in the markets they operate in because consumers are becoming far more discerning about which brands they support and most consumers want to support brands that "do good".

Or, as Amelia Jones of Community Chest Western Cape put it, "large corporations include CSI in their business strategy to make a footprint wherever they do business, partly for reasons of ensuring long-term sustainability of their businesses".

But for the cabin crew visiting

Mothers2Mothers, an organisation providing support and counselling for HIV-positive mothers, and Grassroutes Soccer, an NGO using soccer to mobilise youth against HIV/Aids, the days spent in Khayeltisha was more than just a business strategy.

"It was really eye-opening to see the potential that you can live long-term with HIV," said Williams, clearly humbled by the experience.

Visits from supporting organisations are also integral to the beneficiaries of the NGO, pointed out Dr Mitch Besser, Founder of

Mothers2Mothers: "They are able to feel like they are part of a larger framework."

"It always amazes me what a huge difference a small intervention can do," added Michele Settle, marketing director of Comic Relief, who visits beneficiary organisations in two to three countries each year.

"People have huge appetites for changing their own circumstances - they just need a small leg up."

Originally published by The Big Issue South Africa ©

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