In the last decade or so, many online platforms have sprung up to help corporates strategise, implement, and track their CSR projects through data-driven intelligence and interventions.Roshni Balaji
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not an unfamiliar term. Over the last few years, several Indian companies have been trying to bring about a positive change in the society by engaging in CSR initiatives. It is a win-win situation for companies: they get to do good, and increase brand awareness while they are at it.
Expenditure by Indian companies towards CSR has increased after the enactment of Section 135 of Companies Act, 2013, which mandates corporations to direct two percent of their net profit towards social causes.
And this is the time of the year when corporates are striving to invest in CSR projects that can add value to their brands. But identifying the perfect cause can be an uphill task.
There are multiple challenges when it comes to designing and implementing CSR projects, be it identifying an appropriate and credible non-governmental organisation (NGO) or community cause, or implementing the initiatives involved, and evaluating the impact and outcomes.
This is where technology comes to the rescue. It holds immense potential to propel an organisation towards creating positive impact. In the last decade or so, many online platforms have sprung up to help corporates strategise, implement, and track their CSR projects through data-driven intelligence and interventions. Some of the eminent ones are Samhita GoodCSR, SociallyGood, and Goodera.
These three platforms together have a database of 5,268 NGOs, and have helped pool in funds to the tune of Rs 2,550 crore since 2016. They are spread across diverse social welfare projects – from providing education to the underprivileged, to enabling access to drinking water for people in rural areas.
India has around 3.2 million registered NGOs as per records maintained by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO). Identifying and gaining access to an NGO that has in place an effective set of programmes and proven commitment to the cause can be a challenging task.
Online platforms make it easier for corporates to find an NGO that aligns with their goals. Goodera has a database of around 2,000 NGOs spread across various causes, from healthcare to skill development.
“We list NGOs on our site after conducting a due diligence with respect to the degree of impact, reliability, and functioning of the organisation. Corporates can buy access to this database by paying a fixed charge on a yearly basis,” Richa Bajpai, Co-founder, Goodera tells YourStory.
Started in 2017, SociallyGood is another digital space that helps corporates take an informed decision when it comes to their CSR strategy. It allows companies to filter and chose an NGO based on location, cause, and scale of impact. Besides, it also employs artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to recommend social causes. “The idea behind this feature is to enable corporates to discover, engage, and then collaborate with the most suitable NGO,” says Vinaya Sathyanarayana, Vice President (Products), SociallyGood.
Discovery aside, implementing a CSR programme is a mammoth task. It involves myriad elements like reviewing regulatory compliance, tracking the organisation’s budget, and conducting audits of the project on a regular basis.
A slew of features offered by deep technology-backed platforms enable corporates to communicate with stakeholders in the social sector, keep CSR projects on track, and manage their budget.
Samhita GoodCSR, which sprang into action in 2016, was initially funded and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Tata Trust. In addition to connecting corporates with non-profits, it offers a project management feature, called GoodCSR Direct, on its web platform.
“This feature assists corporates to plan their CSR initiatives and modify any aspect of the programme in case of implementation hurdles. There are separate tools on the platform that can track the progress of CSR projects, and also generate data-driven reports based on the ground covered,” says Priya Naik, Founder and CEO, Samhita GoodCSR.
Goodera, which is available on both web and app formats, also has a tool to manage CSR resources and money. Once the company signs up on the platform, and onboards its CSR projects, the health of the project can be determined anytime based on certain key performance indices (KPIs) on Goodera’s interactive dashboard.
Every company that takes up a CSR project understandably expects to create large-scale impact. But monitoring and tracking the impact on ground is not easy. These tech platforms help corporates track the impact in real time by geo-tagging the location where the NGO has set up its camp.
“The non-profits listed on our platform are directed to send constant updates via our digital space. The data is then processed and presented in the form of reports,” says Vinaya of SociallyGood.
For instance, if a corporate is associated with a non-profit that provides infrastructural facilities in schools, SociallyGood’s platform provides real-time updates on the number of schools covered, the list of individual beneficiaries, and the type of infrastructure provided.
The success of large organisations today goes way beyond the products and services they provide. It encompasses the values their brand reflects. Business objectives and social responsibilities are not extraneous variables and, in fact, the latter has a significant impact on the former. Hence, identifying the right project and dedicating the necessary resources is of paramount importance for corporates.
Garima Dutt, the CSR Lead at GlaxoSmithKline in India, has been using Goodera for three years.
“Our CSR team used to invest a lot of time in research and number crunching before selecting a project. Monitoring and evaluating the CSR initiatives on a timely and accurate basis was also proving to be tough. But, after we began using all the features offered by Goodera, managing projects got far more easier and well-disciplined,” Garima tells YourStory.
Online marketplaces definitely seem to have provided a common ground for both corporates and NGOs in India to conveniently connect with each other, and bring about a meaningful change and lasting impact.