“Wake up, S.A. Marketeers - your country needs you” by Sarah Cornaby



South Africa, by anyone’s definition, is a country with real social needs. A country where the state purse and processes cannot possibly deal with the need for help.

Poverty, poor health, homelessness, lack of education, crime...we all know what the problems are, and how they are inter-related. It’s how they are addressed that interests me - and why I have come to South Africa from the UK as a volunteer for the Heart Foundation.

Most corporates in South Africa appear to accept that the sector has a role to play in the community. This is evidenced by the admirably-named Social Responsibility budgets held in most major companies.

But sadly, all too often these appear to operate as handouts. An NGO applies for and is awarded a grant for a piece of work – all very noble I’m sure – but a lazy and complacent transaction.

It’s a sticking plaster on an open wound. Because next year, the same appeal and transaction will no doubt ensure.

And yet for any other business transaction, how much more closely the company would question its validity, necessity and likely outcome – and measure and monitor the mutual benefits.

Yes, giving without expecting something in return is a wonderful philanthropic act – but when doing that stimulates dependency, in the long run its not helping anyone.

In the UK voluntary sector, instead of seeking donations from companies, we target the marketing budget.

Known as ”cause-related marketing” this method of working originally came from the US where businesses were quick to see that a successful marketing promotion with a charity would give them benefits that can’t easily be bought, such as media interest and improved image in the public and shareholders mind.

We negotiate a contract with each company, agreeing what each party will contribute.

The company will integrate the charity throughout its culture, communications and products, while tracking customer awareness of the relationship. Meantime, the charity has the surety of an underwritten long-term financial contribution.

And the two parties will develop a committed partnership that attacks a social problem in an intelligent and meaningful way, collectively scrutinising the results – and hey who knows – sometimes being a little bit brave and jointly squaring up to pioneer something new.

So I’ve just arrived in Cape Town, the most beautiful city in the world, to train staff at the Heart Foundation in this kind of corporate fundraising.

And I’m rapidly learning that sunny weather for a photocall is expected not celebrated, that wet weather contingencies aren’t needed, that a ramp is a slip-road and not building works, that robots are traffic lights, that Cape Town city shops shut on Saturday afternoons, that you don’t do vegetarian, and that cheering when England scored a try is a capital offense because sport is Very Serious!

And there is a cause for hope. In the poorest communities the Heart Foundation funds work in crèches and primary school, educating children about exercise and healthy eating.

To round this off, we are launching ”Sow a Seed”, a programme to plant vegetables at the schools so that the staff can provide the kids with a healthy mid-day meal. The school can sell surplus veg and give surplus seedlings to the poorest families to grow at home. And in the midst of the taxi wars and all their trouble – Golden Arrow buses have said that they like the idea....and they want to get involved in the programme – recognising that it serves the community they operate in....and maybe they could help us transport the potting soil and gardening equipment....and form small acorns.....

So come on, corporate marketeers. Don’t get caught napping. A brave new world is yours to forge....South Africa expects you to do your duty and this is your call to arms!