Monday, 30 January 2017

Is CSR A Planned Or An Ad Hoc Activity Of The Company?

Mandatory CSR giving is still new for most companies. CSR giving is largely an ad hoc activity. If this were not so, why do many proposals get selected merely because the founder of the NGO knew the CEO or the Head of CSR while others get rejected summarily in the absence of a properly planned  and transparent screening process? 
Viney Kripal
 The present approach generates a feeling of bias in the selection process because though a proposal is innovative and well-designed, it gets rejected for lame reasons such as ‘We have already tied up our funds’. I believe that greater transparency and a well- planned system of grant allocation must be initiated across companies. That would remove this feeling in NGOs ‘that only if you know someone you are given grants’ Hence, I am sharing below some ideas for the readers’  consideration and improvement.

Firstly, all companies must provide complete information on their websites about their CSR policy and strictly state that Proposals designed around them alone would be accepted. Next, all necessary Proposal templates and -this is very important-amounts available for grants should be provided. Further, a list of mandatory documents that an NGO should possess must be posted.  This would help NGOs send in complete proposals and not waste the time of the funding body. 

Secondly,  the method of Proposal evaluation, the names of the CSR Committee as also core screening committee and the selection process - - beginning with the  dates of application and deadlines for different levels of selections  and selection criteria-- should be .openly mentioned. In addition, the dates by which applicants would know whether or not they have been selected to the next level must also be made known. The date by which the list of the finalists/grantees would be announced must also be declared. Majority of foreign granters display such Calendars routinely on the website. High time we too did so. This would usher in transparency as well as a system.

Besides transparency and timelines, timely announcement of grant-allocations is also very important. This calls for consciously linking the time taken by the screening process to the ground realities of the project under consideration. Let me elaborate. Suppose an NGO works in the education sector and had submitted its proposal in April as asked, of what use are CSR funds to the NGO if they are disbursed in the month of December because the members of their CSR committee were too busy to meet? A little consideration of the fact that the academic year in schools in India begins in May/June/July in most parts of the country would ensure that proposals are invited well in advance so that MoUs are signed in March, and grants are disbursed in April of the new fiscal year. NGOs can then begin their school projects on time.

Companies must understand that grants given late have diminishing returns. Planning for CSR grant disbursements must be regarded as akin to planning a mega Project of the company instead of executing it as an ad hoc activity.

This article was contributed by CAP member & newsmagazine reader Viney Kirpal, Executive President GREAT Foundation, Pune. All views expressed in areticles contributed by readers are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of CAP.

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