There is a perception that not-for-profit companies are not businesses. Dispelling that perception is Tamzin Ractliffe, a former stock exchange investment analyst, who, together with business partner Carol Tappenden, has founded a not-for-profit business which not only delivers a sound value proposition, but also ensures that the people it employs are well paid for their services.
This company is GreaterGood South Africa. It offers a selection of bona fide non-profit organisations for businesses and individuals to engage, and the South African Social Investment Exchange (SASIX) which provides detailed investment analysis of specific charities or causes. Ractliffe says that while she was working at the JSE and later as an analyst at a venture capital company, she had a strong sense of the disparity between the privilege that surrounded her and the suffering of others. “I wanted to heal the world,” she says, a little drily. Having spent three years in the United Kingdom, Ractliffe returned to South Africa a decade ago. With degrees in Commerce and Psychology, she wanted to do something which would enable her to make use of both skills sets, while also giving something back to society. “The idea behind GreaterGood was to facilitate giving and social investment. We needed to establish a mechanism to see what was being done; everyone has something to give, but do companies and individuals know where to go, how to go about giving,” she says.
SASIX took that a step further. A SASIX report modelled on an investment report provides a full due diligence study of the charity or institution to which a contribution is being considered. Concepts that apply to any other investment decision, such as risks, reward and value, are presented. “You wouldn’t make an investment without this information. Why should CSI (Corporate Social Investment] be any different?” Noting that any entrepreneur starting a business should have the confidence in it to invest their own money, she says initial funding came straight out of her bond. “I was working in a consultancy business at the same time, so GreaterGood was a night time job for which we developed a system which allowed us to cope.” Ratcliffe says it was never frightening to have her house at stake. “We never experienced this as a gamble but rather as an obvious thing to do, which someone else would get started if we did not. The stakes have become higher though,” she explains, “As we now have 23 staff members.” Stressing that the business model for her organisations are based on sound commercial principles, Ractliffe points out that many people believe that non-profit organisations should not pay staff. “We cannot be here purely out of the goodness of our hearts. We have homes to run and kids to feed and we provide a service which offers a clear value to our clients and which is performance-driven. We’re also not ‘holier than thou.’ We work very hard and the profit we show is a social, rather than financial one. All of our people are remunerated for their efforts, and I can assure you that like any other business, we value and demand high productivity from each and every staff member.”
This is a model she feels should be applied to any charity or non-profit organisation. “Investors in charities have a right to know the value they are getting. The charities too, have a responsibility to make the best use of their funds, and even to look for opportunities to earn by creating services or products which can be sold. This is how sustainability can be achieved,” she says. Applying this logic, SASIX generates 25% of its own revenue; within three more years, it should be self-sustaining. Perhaps the greatest challenges faced by her organisations are the reality of wanting to do more for society with limited resources. “We seek to make meaningful and lasting changes in the lives of those who are less fortunate,” she says. Furthermore, the ‘welfare’ sector tends to have a perception that it is ‘deserving’. “That is not enough. There has to be more, such as the willingness to help oneself and to demonstrate the return. Also, we face difficulty sometimes since some elements of business and non-profit seem to believe that the normal rules [of society and business] don’t apply.” Contact: +27 21 794 0580; www.GreaterGoodSA.co.za & www.SASIX.co.za
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