The Step Changers Model
What is Step Changers?
Step Changers is a registered non profit in New Zealand that is working to match businesses with relevant and validated community projects. Our vision is to make corporate social responsibility normal by making it as easy as possible for businesses to give back meaningfully to their communities.
How does Step Changers work?
We help businesses develop smart corporate social responsibility mixes. We look at a business' background and do the necessary research to help them find the best community projects to support. We then help them find out how exactly they can help, we organise content to be developed for them to use in their marketing, and we evaluate the impacts of their funding on their behalf.
For smaller organisations, we also offer giving circles. This means businesses can join forces to give to local causes regularly, so their own backyard gets looked after first. This is a new programme and something we are looking forward to launching later this year.
Why would we use Step Changers?
For a business to find out all of their relevant options for CSR, it's a lot of time and effort. For every donation, there are so many deserving charities that could really use the funding. We help businesses navigate the needs so they can choose to align with community projects that best suit their team and their audience.
For grassroots projects, it means we can advocate for them without burdening them with cost. For businesses, it means they form strategic partnerships based on good alignment, and not just on the philanthropic will of their CEO. For more creative businesses, we can also identify projects that have good volunteering opportunities available for teams, or that would be interested in other forms of support, such as time in kind, use of event spaces, or product partnerships.
We also evaluate projects on behalf of all of our businesses. We reduce the admin headache for them, and make sure that the projects they're partnering with do what they say they will with the funding. If not, we flag it and remove the project from our system. But to avoid this happening in the first place, we use stringent criteria to vet the charities we work with carefully.
Lastly, we help businesses to collect the content they want to use from the charities they partner with. We do regular content trips with our charity partners and share raw content with businesses so they can use this to share their own CSR stories with their audiences.
Is Step Changers a business?
No, we are a registered charity that runs off the good will of our volunteers. We do receive some support from our principal supporter Metro Marketing.
Can we sponsor Step Changers?
Yes, we would love that. Please contact our General Manager, Rosie Collins, via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to arrange a meeting in person.
Financials & Reporting
Who receipts our donations via Step Changers?
If the charity you choose to partner with is well-established and based in New Zealand, we let them take care of receipting your donations. However, a lot of our projects are grassroots and based in the Pacific or Asia. In some of these instances, Step Changers will be accountable for transferring funds directly to the project and for ensuring it is used appropriately. In short, it depends on the size of the organisation you choose to work with! However, because Step Changers is a registered charity in New Zealand, all donations will be tax deductible according to New Zealand law. Our charities number in this instance is CC54711.
How much of the money we give ends up with the project?
100% of what a business gives goes directly to the projects they wish to support. We are supported by businesses that instead opt to support us directly, so we can enable more community projects in the long-run.
How do you know these projects are legitimate?
We visit our community projects and assess them off a list of criteria that looks at how long they have been running for, their existing sponsorship history, their proof of concept, their reporting mechanisms, and their willingness to be transparent with their progress. Projects that we select must be registered in their country of operation, established, and working in an area of health, education, conservation, or equality. It's also important to us that our charities are secular, so we know the support they are giving is not tied to any ulterior motive.
Once a project is on-boarded, we pay attention to their reputation, and also revisit our projects regularly so we can track their progress. Where possible, community evaluations are also organised so their downwards impact can be assessed. Step Changers is also committed to evolving our monitoring mechanisms as we learn more about the industry. We currently take advice from industry professionals and academics to ensure we keep up to date with accountability standards and expectations.
Who funds Step Changers?
We primarily run off volunteer power, but we're always looking for business partnerships to help us grow even more. If you're interested, you can meet with our General Manager Rosie by contacting email@example.com to find our more information.
Where can I find your annual report?
Step Changers has only been operating since September 2017, and so we are expecting to publish our first Annual Report in September 2018 according to our commitments made under New Zealand's Charities Register.
How can I get involved?
Have a look at our volunteering page to find out more about our existing opportunities, and send an email through to us if you're keen to talk more about what volunteering might involve. We try to get back to you within 48 hours and to tailor your role to suit the hours and skills you have available to give us.
Do volunteers get to visit projects?
Some do! Our Partnerships team work in different regions around Asia, the Pacific, and New Zealand, and look after 5-10 community projects each. They find these, visit them, evaluate them (and are given training to do all of this), and where they can, photograph or film them too! If this sounds like a role you would be keen on, please get in touch and indicate your interest with us.
Am I qualified to help?
Probably! Our volunteers are predominantly young, but we have a really diverse group of people helping out. Some are university students, some are business professionals, some are graphic designers or photographers - it really depends. Reach out and we can talk through your background and find something suitable if you are keen on making corporate social responsibility normal. Passion is most important!
Where are you based?
We are a New Zealander run organisation, but we all work online from different parts of the country and sometimes of the world. Most of our base is in Wellington, but we also have volunteers in Auckland, Christchurch, and Hamilton.
Who started Step Changers?
Our General Manager, Rosie Collins, started Step Changers at age 19 after working for UNICEF for 2.5 years. She saw an opportunity for match-making between businesses and community projects and decided to pursue it. After two years, the organisation has grown to a group of 20 volunteers and continues to gain momentum.
You can read more about Rosie's story here.
Corporate Social Responsibility
What about other areas of corporate social responsibility, like sustainability and equal pay?
You're right to ask this - we know that CSR isn't just about community giving and donations. It's also about being a crash hot business that aligns its sustainability objectives with its operations so that it isn't doing more damage to the world than what is justified. In time we hope to talk more about areas of sustainability and business leadership, but for right now we're focusing on making community giving easier for businesses. This isn't to say that these other areas aren't important or that they aren't CSR though! There's more than one way to skin the cat.
Why 2% of profits?
2% is what businesses in India are asked to commit to, and we don't think it's that unreasonable of an ask. It's useful to refer to as a guide, but it's not a rule. It's just helpful because it ensures businesses with bigger scales are stepping up, but also that smaller businesses don't fall into the trap of thinking that they're 'too small' to help. Some of our projects only need $800 to make a tremendous impact, which under this rule equates to a business earning about $40,000 in pretax profits.
What's the difference between social enterprise and what you are proposing?
A social enterprise might be looking at committing anything from 30 to 50 to 100% of its profits to charitable purposes, whereas we're working around getting more businesses to do a small amount of giving, at a level about 2%-10% of pretax profits.
Isn't community giving the Government's job?
This is a matter of perspectives and values really! From an economist's point of view, perhaps - it's often argued that a businesses' one responsibility is to make a profit so the invisible hand of the market can drive everyone towards efficiency. While this may be true, we're also currently living in a world where 1 in 4 New Zealand children grow up in material poverty and our oceans are littered with plastic. Given that, we don't think a little voluntary community giving is too much to ask. CSR is also proven to be great for staff wellbeing, brand image, and profits. We think it can be win, win, win when it's done well.
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