h1_bkg

Corporates: charities want decorating with cash instead of paint

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.

  • James Potter

    Whilst I think you make some good points about the cost of staff time, you are incredibly naive when you write:

    “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. ”

    Corporates are profit-seekers. Full stop. Any and all support they give to charity IS about improving their bottom line. If they want to be about charity, they would BE a charity.

    Seriously, you are incredibly naive to think that any corporate entity thinks with anything other than its bottom line!

    Of course, individual staff within corporates may be more kind-spirited and/or incompetent at realising when their proposals are no use for charities and their bottom line.

  • Sophie Hudson

    Thank you for your comment James.

    The main point here is that corporate entities do not think. The people who run them do.

    Some (or many) of these people indeed are, as you put it, kind-spirited. It is therefore more than within their capabilities to display this thought for others at a higher level through the approaches the company as a whole takes to charity work.

    Just because something is accepted as standard in our society, or even within a company, it does not mean we cannot question whether it is right.

    I’m not however saying it is advisable, or indeed even possible, to run an entire business in such an altruistic way.

    Overall, I am merely calling corporates out on this and suggesting they should stop hiding behind team-building days as a satisfactory effort to engage in charity work and realise that many people out there can see through this for what it is.

  • Chris Taylor

    At the Third Sector Corporate partnerships Conference yesterday I heard corporates bemoaning the lack of volunteering opportunities they could access for their staff. Corporates didn’t want to pay an intermediatary to arrange these. They saw their volunteering offerings as a benefit to the voluntary sector whereas they didn’t seem to appreciate that there is actually a cost to voluntary organisations in aranging and managing volunteering days.
    It seems to me the main winner here is the corporate who can allocate their daily rate to volunteering to make their CSR ‘voluntary donations’ look good without actually handing over any cash.

    I am not knocking corporate volunteering as I think it can be immensely valuable but it needs to be part of a broader engagement and without funding voluntary organisations won’t be able to continue their vital work in delivering services, campaigning and offering support to individuals and other organisations in our communities.