Collaborators: An alternative to corporate PR

Property sector charity LandAid supports homelessness agency Centrepoint.

LandAid is a small charity for a very big industry. It channels the charitable aspirations of the property sector - that means not only property development companies, but also estate agents, architects, surveyors, house builders, investment banks, accountancy firms and the property departments of major law firms. In financial terms, the sector is worth 7.5 per cent of the UK's GDP.

But LandAid, now more than 20 years old, is something of a sleeping giant. Inspired by Bob Geldof, the charity originally contented itself with raising £100,000 a year for homelessness charities. But two years ago the trustees decided that a more ambitious approach was needed.

Funding was obtained from the six largest property development companies, and a chief executive, Julian Smyth, was appointed. One of the first tangible signs of the new regime is a £4.5m four-year partnership with homelessness charity Centrepoint, launched at the start of this month.

Foundations for Life will involve LandAid supplying the resources to upgrade Centrepoint's hostels, providing rooms and facilities for the skills development of young homeless people. The property industry wil- provide follow-up apprenticeships and work placements.

"Being unashamed capitalists, most of the guys that support us were looking for a solution rather than palliatives," says Smyth. "But we are not a service-providing charity, so we decided to have a beauty parade of the major homelessness charities and asked them for something visionary that we could sell to the industry. Centrepoint won that beauty parade."

Johanna Holmes, director of Foundations for Life, says that forCentrepoint the partnership represents a "unique chance to develop a whole-programme approach to expanding our service to young people". Foundations for Life will draw in other charities to fill gaps, particularly in the north-east and London.

Smyth sees LandAid as a disinterested alternative to PR-driven corporate social responsibility departments. "Whereas we do have an eye open to what's in it for the property industry, we are not in it for anybody's agenda or to make them look good," he says. "You can give £10,000 away and spend more on the press release."

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