Creating shared value
At LEAP, we focus not only on developing our students academically, but socially and emotionally as well. This holistic approach makes the importance of connections central. LEAP has a code of conduct which all LEAP staff and students are expected to live by. Some of it is easy enough: be kind, honest, healthy, and punctual, look good, word hard. But some of them are a bit harder: working together and sharing as much as possible are two which spring to mind.
Although we work closely together as the external relations team, we sometimes to forget to really connect with our students and donors. We serve both groups in different ways but are we sharing as much as possible? Are we truly working together as a team?
As fundraisers we talk a lot about building relationships with donors. But how many of us have the kind of relationship that we would choose in our personal lives? It can be rather transactional – they give you money, you thank them and provide them with the relevant certificates and progress reports. Similarly, when you are immersed in budgets and proposals all day, opportunities to connect meaningfully with beneficiaries are minimal.
But we all want something more meaningful and fulfilling, a chance to understand the person we are connecting with. What we as fundraisers and donors and beneficiaries are really looking for is a space to create shared value.
At LEAP, we are tying lots of ways to make better connections with our donors, to bring them into a partnership so that they can see the real benefit of supporting LEAP through the connections they make with our students and their communities. We have developed a document called Creating Shared Value in which we explain the benefits beyond the tax deductions and B-BBEE points: including profiling and branding and opportunities for employee volunteerism including tutoring, mentoring, and even painting our classrooms.
We have found that many donors grab the opportunity not just to give financially but to learn and engage with our students. It has also enhanced the way we as LEAP staff interact with our supporters.
One example is our work with Herzlia United Schools which was instigated by LEAP funding partner, the HCI Foundation. The initiative is simple enough: a group of LEAP and Herzlia students work together on outreach projects in Gugulethu. So far, they have set up a reading club at Litha Primary School, including painting and decorating the reading room and doing fun activities with the young students to develop a love of reading. But what strikes me about the partnership is the way it connects our funding partner, LEAP and Herzlia students and the learners at Litha who so look forward to Thursdays when the students arrive.
Fundraisers don’t have an easy job – we need to build relationships with donors, understand our beneficiaries and work towards hefty financial targets. It can be hard to build connections between all these things but developing real relationships helps us grow, both personally and professionally. So the more we can create real personal interactions, the better we will be at achieving shared value and being true to the LEAP Code of Conduct.