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Business Charity Awards: Business Charity Champion - Winner: Michael Robson

Third Sector, 17 May 2011

Michael Robson

Michael Robson

For the business leader who has done the most to harness or increase corporate support for charities across the private sector

Estate agents are often seen as among the most unpopular professionals, but the work of one of their number puts the industry in a more favourable light.

Since 1989, Michael Robson, chief executive of the estate agents Andrews & Partners, has acted as chairman of the Christian Initiative Trust - a homelessness charity set up by the founder of the Andrews Group - and as a trustee of the Andrews Charitable Trust. The two trusts support individuals and organisations that have ideas that are "innovative, sustainable and replicable".

The organisations that ACT has helped to establish in recent years include the social enterprise Digital Links International and the international development charity Basic Needs. Robson is responsible for governance and grant-making at both trusts and has used his business experience to help small organisations by providing advice and support on strategy, vision, governance and accountability.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the company five years ago, Robson led Project60, a year-long fundraising initiative that aimed to encourage employees to support charitable causes. The project encompassed events such as the Bristol Half Marathon, in which 60 members of staff participated, including Robson. A total of £66,000 was raised by Project60.

In 2008, encouraged by the success of Project60, Robson co-founded the Estate Agency Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting homelessness in the UK. Initially, this foundation raised money by holding coffee mornings in Andrews' 60 branches in southern England and football tournaments involving teams from estate agents' firms.

In 2010, the EAF raised a total of £45,000 and the target for 2011 has been set at £100,000. The charities it has supported to date include Help for Heroes, Shelter, the Salvation Army and Crisis. Robson has played a key role in encouraging other industry leaders to join the foundation, which now comprises 40 estate agents.

Robson's current priorities include organising fundraising activities to mark the company's 65th anniversary this year, one of which will be the Chief Executive's Challenge, an initiative to encourage staff involved in charitable causes outside work to apply for small grants for their chosen charities.

Eileen Donnelly, group corporate responsibility and sustainable development manager at Virgin Management and one of the judges of the award, said: "Michael has used his influence not only to encourage others to fundraise, but also to set up long-term commitments such as the Estate Agency Foundation to ensure the future sustainability of fundraising within his profession."

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