Champions Round Table
Organisations in the charity and voluntary sector, both locally and nationally, change lives every day. However, these organisations also contribute significantly to the economy year-on-year.
The charity sector has more than 760,000 paid employees and in 2017/18 around 168,000 charities generated £76 billion of income, larger than the annual income of Tesco and Universities.
With social responsibility high on the business agenda these days, it’s never been more important for companies – large and small – to consider their impact on society. Not only do these partnerships enable businesses to ‘give something back’, they can actually end up boosting their own profits.
Collaboration is of particular importance to smaller charities who are looking for ways to create a sustainable long-term future.
With a largely SME economy, where time, resources and money can be limited, the question on everyone’s lips at this round table this month was ‘how can small businesses and local charities work together in a way that is mutually beneficial?’
Hosted by BHP Accountants, this month’s round table, organised by Destination Chesterfield in conjunction with the Derbyshire Times, brought together key figures from Chesterfield’s charity, voluntary and business sector to discuss the burning question.
HF – Heather Fawbert – Chief Executive, Fairplay
JM – Jane Marshall – Partner and Head of Charity and Not-for-profit Team, BHP Accountants
DS – Dominic Staniforth – Partner, BHP Accountants
IB – Ian Bates – Sector Forum and Representation Manager, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire)
LM – Linda Moore – Vice Chairman of the Board, Citizens Advice Chesterfield
AR – Alice Round, Procurement Manager, Ashgate Hospicecare
How can businesses give charitable support to benefit the wellbeing of their workforce as well as deliver benefits to the business?
IB – The Chamber’s quarterly economic survey found that 56% of the respondents do some form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity. I think businesses do see the benefits of charitable support, particularly where recruitment is concerned. When younger people are looking for job roles, they do look for employers that are undertaking CSR activity.
DS – When we tender for a piece of work, often one of the requirements is to be able to talk about our commitments to CSR activity. The fact that we do so much charitable work and do things like training trustees does set us apart from other businesses.
JM – I think it’s expected these days that when people join a business, there is going to be some sort of CSR activity. With BHP Accountants, we don’t just do CSR for the sake of it. Our staff really want to be in involved with CSR and it was because of this the firm established its Charity of the Year around eight years ago. We’ve since developed that to support staff in their own charitable giving. For example, if someone wants to run a marathon for charity, we will pay the entry fee and we will expect them to raise a certain amount of money based on what we’ve put in. That has worked incredibly well. Over the last two years, we’ve raised £50,000 for charity.
We’ve now taken it one step further and have offered our 330 staff the opportunity to volunteer for a day and we will pay for that day. We’re now seeing teams of people going off to volunteer for a day together so it’s not only supporting charities, but also helping our staff to bond with each other.
IB – It does have an impact where young people are concerned. They are more inclined to buy from charitable and ethical businesses. Young people consider things like whether a business is low carbon, offers flexible working, what its gender pay gap is like and much more.
DSte – As well as practical help, businesses can also support charities and groups by offering their advice and expertise. For example, it could be marketing advice or offering time to proofread documents. There are many ways we can work together and support each other.
JM – We send out a newsletter three times a year to all our charity clients asking them to come forward and let us know of volunteering opportunities because we have staff that want to volunteer. Unfortunately, there has been minimal uptake.
IB – The Chamber also offers a certain amount of time for staff to volunteer within schools, charities and trusts. The dialogue between employers and employees is important about what they can do for charities and voluntary organisations in their community and how they can encourage them to take up the opportunity to get involved.
LM – CAB is organising a fundraising abseiling event at the town hall and we desperately need people to help us with things like general organising, meeting and greeting and signing people in.
How can businesses integrate support for charities into their sales and marketing activity?
IB – The most popular form of charitable support from businesses is donations. It’s good for businesses as there’s no commitment and they’ve still helped a charity, however charities are now looking for more longevity when it comes to support. It’s important for both sides to see the benefits of a long-term relationship.
LM – It’s about building relationships and that takes time.
DS – I think that businesses think they know what charities want, but actually each charity will want and need different things. CSR will mean different things to different people. Somebody’s idea of CSR might be just to recycle throughout the year, but to someone else it can mean so much more.
HF – We’ve just set up a monthly eshot explaining what we’ve done that month with the money that’s been donated – it’s a good way to say thank you and promote the businesses that support us by giving them mentions in those updates.
LM – I do think it’s crucial to get that information across in the right way to the right people.
IB – The top three hurdles for businesses not getting involved with charities are: not enough resources/too busy, not considered it and not part of the strategic plan.
HF – It can be quite difficult to find the right thing for businesses to be involved in. For instance, at Fairplay we have vulnerable children in the building frequently and it wouldn’t be appropriate to have untrained volunteers around them. However, it can work really well. In June, a team of builders and decorators from Avant Homes are coming to Fairplay to decorate throughout the building. Because we’ve had a lot of notice, we’ve been able to let everybody know that the centre will be shutting that day.
AR – Just looking at how charities and businesses can work well together, would there be any appetite for businesses to say: ‘we’re experts in x, if a charity ever needs us just give us a call.’?
JM – It would be great to see a list of all the volunteering opportunities available and put out there for businesses and individuals to see and, hopefully, trigger a deeper relationship between the charity sector and businesses.
Destination Chesterfield is part funded by contributions from local businesses, Chesterfield Borough Council and the European Regional Development Fund. The project is helping to improve the economic prosperity of the town through a campaign to promote Chesterfield.
The local business community plays a central role in its success by both leading an independent Board of Directors for Destination Chesterfield, as well as businesses pledging their support to become Chesterfield Champions.
For more information about becoming a Chesterfield Champion, visit https://www.chesterfield.co.uk/destination-chesterfield/champions/sign-up/