Panellists discussing the concept of conscious giving at the Trialogue CSI Conference, held in Bryanston on 24 and 25 May 2016, were asked to define the term.
“It’s active intent – achieving some kind of purpose through the act of giving,” said Salma Seedat, the managing director of GreaterCapital.
“For me, it would be striking a balance between the donor and the end beneficiary, and ensuring that when the donor donates, that they are aware of the needs of the end beneficiaries so that there’s no mismatch between the two,” said Tobeka Madiba Zuma, founder and patron of the Tobeka Madiba Zuma Foundation.
Gary Shearer, head of the Saville Foundation, raised the point that the national philanthropy group that he is part of tries to get people and organisations to be more conscious about what they do. “We don’t like the word ‘giving’, so we try to look for new language in everything that we do.”
Taddy Blecher, CEO of the Community and Individual Development Association (CIDA) and founder of the Maharishi Institute, agrees that language is important. “We use the word ‘impact’, but it’s often used to dodge speaking about human beings. If we want to have a real impact, we have to directly engage human beings. We can tick the boxes of philanthropy, BEE targets and requirements, but the impact is very low. Conscious giving is thoughtful and goes to the heart of the issue about human beings.”
Zuma agreed, stating that the private sector can play its part consciously, not because they need to tick boxes. “If it comes from the heart, it makes all the difference.”
When the panellists were asked why CSI budgets are often not spent in a truly conscious way, Seedat answered, “leadership needs to have a kind of conscious thinking that filters down into the organisation. You don’t see much of that in the corporate sector. There is probably someone in the CSI marketing side – several people – who have a lot more passion than in the C-suite. If it’s not being driven from the top, it’s not going to shape the organisation.”
She urged leaders to consider their intention when they get up in the morning. “Why are you in your position in your organisation? What is your purpose? The minute you discover your purpose, that’s when the consciousness comes through, whether you want it to or not. People living a purposeful life give off energy. It filters down through the organisation and filters through the corporate sector. Those are the entities that thrive. Organisations that are thriving give off energy. If you can get people to think in that way, you’ll have a scale of impact.”
Given the compelling reasons for consciousness and purpose, why then do organisations not act in this way? Blecher provided insight. “The only thing that blocks conscious giving is that people are afraid. They don’t want to do something too risky, too out of the ordinary. People think, I need to spend R100 million, get that tick on the scorecard, it looks good for me if I fund that charity because everyone else does, the CEO says I have to.”
Instead, he says organisations and leadership should concern themselves with shared value. “They shouldn’t see that they make money and give it away to other people in a disconnected way. They should look at every aspect of the business and think, how do I make a change in the world using cash resources, technology, people skills – whatever I’ve got. Shared value helps the organisation as well as the community in a real and meaningful way. Nothing is stopping anybody from being conscious.”