Sunday, 19 May 2024
Sunday, 19 May 2024

What is social value and why is it so important for charities?

By Sarah Stone, director of Samtaler

Samtaler recently held a charity workshop to show them how much they could benefit from the social value revolution.

The focus of the event was to encourage third-sector organisations to make a shopping list of things they want and things they need.

The reason for this is not to begin a new fundraising drive or to attract more volunteers.

It is to capitalise on the fact that social value is here to stay – and as a feature of industry is only going to get more common.

With the cost-of-living crisis, recovery from the impact of the Covid pandemic, and global instability proving, at best, a distraction for fundraisers in the UK, it’s easy to see why the climate has never been more challenging.

But in social value, there is a solution coming to the fore right now.

Social value – where a company gives something back to the community as part of its work in their area – now features in most public sector tenders.

Anyone wanting to supply the public sector must detail the economic and social benefits they will create through the delivery of the contract.

These commitments are known as ‘social value’ and are worth a minimum of 10 per cent of the total marks required in the bidding structure; which means it can make the difference between winning and losing a contract.

It’s a serious business and Britain’s charitable sector can reap the rewards.

Some businesses have a clear idea of what they can do to create social value, but many others will not.

What is social value and why is it so important for charities?Risk management professionals will be on hand to ensure companies align with legislative requirements, but there are very few professionals within firms to ensure that non-legislative requirements are followed.

This is where great social value professionals and the third sector come in.

Many third-sector organisations are working directly with communities most impacted by various issues – so who better for a business to ask about what they could do to create or add value for certain communities or groups? And who better to partner with to deliver that value?

In our work, we often come across firms who think they know what charities want, but soon find their ideas are unpopular and unproductive both for the third sector organisations and communities who are supposed to be benefiting – not to mention the staff who are giving up their time to assist. 

It’s time for charities to get more brazen about telling businesses what they need. After all, they are the ones who know exactly what the specific ‘need’ is.

By reaching out to local big firms and being unabashed about what they require, everyone stands to gain.

This is where the ‘shopping list’ we spoke of in our workshop became particularly valuable.

Companies the country over are becoming more aware than ever of their duty in social value. 

Yet many opportunities will be lost if they can’t match that eagerness up with the right recipients.

To harness this fully, there are four things charities can do now.

Firstly, make that ‘shopping list’ of the things you need support with – start with things that you might be allocating budget for next year. Don’t ask for money – ask for the things you would spend the money on.

Put together that list and keep it ready for when people contact you.

Importantly, keep it a live list – you might have to ask for the same thing from several different companies before one of them gives it to you – and they won’t give you an answer immediately so knowing who you have asked for what will be helpful, and not relying on any single one of them.

Secondly, think about the support you offer your service users – is there any way it could be turned into a paid-for service? Don’t think about sponsorship – instead of seeking funding so that you can run employability workshops for example, is there any way you could ‘sell’ your employability workshops – so that companies could pay you to run them?

Service users would still get them for free, but there would be the added link of a connection with an employer’s hiring programme afterwards.

Thirdly, look at the social value model – there’s information about this on our website – and think about the things that companies are being asked about and how that aligns with the work you do.

Finally, sign up for organisations like What Impact – which matches third-sector organisations who need support with corporates who are looking to offer them. Contact your local authority’s procurement team and tell them what you need and ask if they have any suppliers who are offering social value that might be able to support you.

This year won’t be without its difficulties for the charitable sector in the UK. 

But tapping into this newfound goodwill from the corporate world can go some way to easing that.  

In short, charities should be making a shopping list of what they need, and then reaching out across their area to see who’s there to tick those items off.

Increasingly, they will find a number of willing takers.


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