Imagine spending the company’s annual day celebrations at an orphanage, singing and dancing with kids who are ecstatic at your presence, rather than doing the usual party drill at a hotel! For a long time, CSR was a strictly budgeted and compartmentalized activity with most employees not even aware of what noble causes their organisation supported.
At most, a mailer would be circulated now and then, to keep everyone informed of the charity being done. Today, in many organisations, ideas are invited from all quarters and fund-raising takes the form of collaborative activities.
Take the case of Kalpataru that has collaborated with NGOs to celebrate Children’s Day, Environment Day and Raksha Bandhan. For Children’s Day, the initiative focused on ‘The Joy of Giving’ wherein wishes of more than 100 girls from the age group of six to 14 years residing at Ma Niketan (an orphanage in Thane, Mumbai) were fulfilled by the employees of Kalpataru. The wishes of these girls were shared through ‘The Wish Tree’ and the employees were free to select the wish of a child and fulfil it.
There are many others like Sapient that has ‘Sapient Silent Auction’ a community fund raiser programme with a difference. The event is organised every two years across all the offices of Sapient in India.
Some of the unique offerings that have been on bid include breakfast cooked and served by the India leadership team, a stand-up comedy act and a dance performance by the Gurgaon leadership team on a popular Bollywood number. The amount collected is donated to the NGOs that Sapient India is associated with across Delhi NCR and Bangalore.
Apart from a desire to leverage CSR for brand-building, this trend is also a reflection of the changing aspirations of today’s workforce. As Meena Sinha, VP and head, HR and communications, global outsourcing, RR Donnelley says, “The young generation is restless and wants more out of their lives.While they expect employers to offer better career prospects, they are also keen to be associated with organisations that truly articulate their care and commitment to the society.
It is not about providing support in terms of funds and material anymore; this generation seeks a greater degree of ownership and involvement in community outreach activities” RR Donnelley’s ‘Project Bridge’ initiative enables different business divisions to choose a CSR project of their choice, and over a few months, be actively involved in spreading awareness about the good cause and participating in various pertinent activities.
Rachna Mukherjee, CHRO, Schneider Electric India lists some advantages of a CSR–inspired company event: ( 1) Increased awareness amongst a larger target audience – such events help corporates transcend the traditional barriers and reach out to a wider audience (2) Active participation of employees – CSR activities can be made a part of employee training programmes.
Employees can be educated that participating in such activities could help make a difference to the society (3) Association with government initiatives; for example, a number of companies have linked their CSR initiatives to the Swach Bharat Abhiyaan (4) Opportunities to be more creative, thereby helping employees enjoy a break from their routine tasks and also share small joys
All the experts we spoke to agreed that CSR-inspired events are not a passing trend but rather, a long-lasting priority for organisations and employees alike.
(This write-up of Ankita Shreeram first appeared with Ascent. The author can be reached at ankita.Shreeram@timesgroup.com)
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