It’s been more than 5 years since CSR became a mandatory business affair, but CSR grantmaking is yet to mature. As a result, the CSR ecosystem in India is not so vibrant as expected. In general, most of the CSR programmes of companies have failed to create desired impact.
With CSR leaders having amassed absolute power and standing between the grant seekers and CSR boards, the grantmaking has been hush-hush affair with no or little transparency in the process.
In many cases, the grant seeker is chosen on whims and fancies of the CSR leader and not through an open and transparent process. Often seen, that the selection process for grant seekers is biased.
This leads to a discouraging scenario for the NGOs and such agencies who have developed their credibility with communities over the years. It is not conducive for the social development sector as well.
Most of companies have their websites bragging about their ongoing or completed CSR programmes. But they often deliberately skip details on how to apply for grant. The information is mostly concentrated on answering “Where did our money go?” and “What did it accomplish?” rather than “Why and how do/did we make our funding decisions?”
With opaque or in some cases translucent process of grantmaking, the CSR leaders have acquired celebrity status often seen being wooed by grantseekers.
Middlemen have made this process messy. Irony is that these so called ‘CSR Consultants’ with NGOs as their ‘members’ are often seen speaking in conferences claiming to make CSR selection process ‘transparent’.
HCL Grant: A model to replicate
CSR boards need to learn from HCL Grant. The recipient NGOs are selected through a structured process, that measures in detail and depth, the impact of the NGO, its governance and capacity to deliver.
The screening model deployed is simple yet robust, scientifically formulated, with multiple levels of assessments.
Parameters include the originality, relevance and impact of the idea, the project’s scalability, and how replicable and feasible it is.
The history, social audit, and stakeholder engagement of the entity is vigorously investigated. Quantitative parameters include comparisons of coverage versus depth, financial allocations and more.
Need process not coterie
Lets for a moment agree that companies have the legal right to say little more than what is actually been accomplished with their CSR endeavour, but for the companies to engage in with purpose driven CSR and with civil society, it is important to have an open and transparent system accessible to all and not a coterie accessible to a few.
There has always been trust deficit between corporate and civil society, the primary stakeholder group. Before it becomes wider, CSR boards have to wake up!
Apresh Mishra is Editor of India CSR Network. He can be reached at email@example.com.