How does South Africa’s largest retail bank with over 18 million clients create a culture of giving back for the long-term? Capitec Bank has managed to mobilise its fleet of 15 000 staff members to commit to volunteerism through ongoing partner-run programmes. Just this year, they are aiming to give R53 million back to the community through various initiatives from food aid and support after the flooding in KwaZulu-Natal to their ongoing school and tutor training programmes to sustainable investments with key NGOs and NPOs such as Gift of the Givers, WWF, Meals On Wheels and others. The secret? Linking corporate social responsibility to an overarching purpose to help all South Africans to live better.

Leela Moodley, Head of CSI at Capitec, says, “Volunteerism makes a major contribution on multiple levels. It’s cathartic, offering people another perspective. It plays a huge role in mental health and motivating people. It breaks job monotony with inspiring acts and ways to make a personal contribution to the country. It also aids skills development. In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there’s a need to focus on emotional intelligence. Volunteering is a meaningful way to foster EQ.”

Moodley – one of the founding members of the Capitec Foundation – has served on multiple boards. This has given her deep insights into how to create cultures of kindness. The approach needs to be very intentional. Here are her suggestions:

  1. It needs to come from the top: CSI needs to come from the top down, written into a business’ strategy. A ‘profit with purpose’ philosophy must be prioritised, with an emphasis on shared value.
  2. It needs to be deliberate: How a business gives back should be one of its key performance metrics, embedded at an operational level.
  3. It needs to be easy: It takes serious strategic thinking to create ongoing volunteering opportunities for 15 000 employees across the country. That commitment is essential. Capitec has key partners, like Gift of the Givers, the WWF and more, that enable it to offer its team year-long volunteerism programmes, nationwide. Staff are also given three days a year to dedicate to doing good. That’s over 360 000 hours collectively across the team.
  4. It needs to be collaborative: Many of Capitec’s initiatives are staff driven. Team members motivate to support causes they care deeply about. For example, lots of senior citizens come into the bank’s branches at pension time. Many have mobility issues. So, Capitec staff members have raised funds for wheelchairs to make the experience easier for their older clients.
  5. It needs to be its own entity: It’s very important how CSI is positioned in an organisational structure – plus, how it’s integrated across the business. It’s critical it has influence and buy-in from stakeholders at every level. It should be driven by the board and C-suite, with a dedicated owner to push the agenda and keep projects on track. For example, Capitec has a CSI team, with ambassadors in every province.
  6. It needs to be measurable: It’s crucial that the volunteerism framework is very structured, with clear baseline and end-line measurements. Capitec’s work and investment in education has been extensive – especially upskilling young people in improved numeracy and financial literacy – where it’s essential to have project plans, with defined deliverables, in place.

Moodley adds, “We are seeing the evolution of business, from a strong profit focus to a profit with purpose approach. As resources get eroded and people and the planet take strain, corporates are more conscious than ever before of our impact and need to give back.

“At Capitec, we are fortunate to have an innate organisational culture of kindness. That’s made it easy to roll out our volunteerism and keep the momentum going. A large part of this links back to our purpose. The drive to help people live better. All our employees share this mission and have a deep desire to make a difference on a personal level.”