There was a very loud groan from a room full of fundraisers at a recent conference when they were asked whether any corporates had offered to paint some walls for them recently.
They rolled their eyes as they grumbled that they didn’t have any walls left to paint, explaining that this was one of the main offers of support they were repetitively receiving from companies wishing to engage in corporate social responsibility.
When it comes to corporate-charity partnerships and CSR, it seems that there has been a slow but steady shift away from companies raising vital funds for charities to instead offering them help with, often unnecessary, tasks.
I think it’s time for corporates to take a step back and remember the reason they are supposed to be engaging with charities. It should not be to make themselves feel better as individuals or to improve their image as companies in some way.
It should be borne out of a genuine desire to help a charity better serve its beneficiaries.
And if charities say that the best way to help them do this is by giving them money, then this is the kind of support corporates should be striving to offer.
I realise the argument against this is that in the wake of the recession companies find it harder to raise the levels of funds they used to donate to charities.
Perhaps instead then they should be calculating the cost of their very expensive staff spending an entire day out of the office painting a wall and just give this to the charity.
Even half a day’s wages would probably add up to a lot when it comes to the kind of money bankers or lawyers or consultants are paid.
Obviously, the offer of volunteering where it is needed, especially when it utilises a very specialist skill that the volunteer has to offer, in conjunction with fundraising is to be applauded.
It is just where corporates seem to think it is satisfactory to replace large amounts, or even the whole of their fundraising efforts with volunteering that I think a real problem is occurring.
If charities want and need cash, then perhaps that’s what they should be given. A lawyer or a banker using ‘charity work’ as an excuse to go off on a jolly for the day just isn’t going to cut it, even if it does give the volunteer involved a warm sense of self-satisfaction.