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Needy Who? Target group, or the implementation partners

Being a recent Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practitioner for a major corporate firm, I have always been curious to know how others in this space are treading this path, and if they have any suggestions. During one such discussion I was advised that I should search for ‘needy’ NGOs/not-for-profits/voluntary organizations. Small is beautiful, but so is the big. I decided to probe further. Having been in the corporate environment, I have always thought about scaling up as a natural outcome to the growth process. The answers that I got are multi-pronged:

the big guys -

· Bigger NGOs can fend for themselves, since they have established funding lines

· They have huge overheads and the chances of misappropriation of money are more

· The big guys make more noise as compared to the actual work they do on the ground.

the smaller ones -

· Are more efficient;

· Have better accountability;

· Do genuine work and have more committed staff

While the arguments were pretty strong, I was not very convinced. I think the decision about what partner to choose & what strategy to adopt should be guided by focus of the organization and the outcome it wants to achieve. Very basic as one might think, but we tend to miss a lot of these basic things in our day to day functioning and in the race to get things done.

Personally, I feel that a CSR strategy should have a portfolio approach. The same objective can be achieved using different routes/methods. For example, if we are looking at women’s financial empowerment, one can form self-help groups (SHG) with the help of the current staff, partner with an NGO working on SHGs, get support from a microfinance institution (MFI) etc. The moment one starts looking at the end, everything else falls into place. The decision of which organization/corporation/NGO to partner with depends on who is able to best achieve the outcome one needs.

Here I am thinking like a customer out to buy a product/experience which meets a need and I am looking for the best my money can buy. As much as I would love to support and promote and support the local industry, I may not want to compromise on quality of my experience.

Here are my thoughts on big v/s small -

Small is good when:

· Testing a hypothesis, experimentation;

· Providing a demonstration effect which you want others to pick up and replicate;

· One needs closely monitoring of impact and tight control over operations.

Big is good when:

· Scaling up and expansion are more pressing needs;

· There is a need to minimize cost of reaching/benefiting a client (beneficiary)

· Covering larger geographical area and gain credibility.

The bottom-line still remains: actions should be governed by end results.

(Views expressed in this article are personal to the author)


About Author: Tarun is a seasoned CSR professional with over 20 years of experience in philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.

He has been honored with “101 Fabulous Global CSR Leaders” twice over the past 5 years on the World CSR Day. Read more

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