Businesses provide an average of just £450 a year to charities, research finds

The figure is not much more than the typical amount of petty cash that is misplaced each year


Direct business support to the vast majority of social sector organisations works out at less than £500 per business each year, latest research shows. 

A report from the think tank Pro Bono Economics calculates that businesses in England contribute support worth about £2.4bn a year, which PBE said was just 0.06 per cent of annual private sector turnover. 

This includes £270m of in-kind support, £185m of pro bono support and £17m of employee volunteering help.

It equates to a “negligible” average of £456 per business per year, PBE calculated, which is not much more than the average of £355 that is lost from petty cash per business each year. 

PBE examined support provided to charities, community groups and social enterprises with annual incomes of less than £25m, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of social sector organisations in England. 

It says the contribution made by businesses to local social sector organisations is spread unevenly and that evidence from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said there was a bias for private sector organisations to support very large charities. 

The report, which is based on a long-term survey of 4,000 small social sector organisations, says smaller organisations serving people in rural areas, older people and ethnic minority communities appear to be “much less likely to be the recipients of private sector interest than organisations which serve people with learning disabilities, carers and the LGBT community”. 

It says: “The same is true for organisations which focus on improving health and wellbeing, reducing social isolation or enhancing the cultural and artistic life of a community, while those which focus on increasing employability, tackling poverty and helping people access basic services are higher up businesses’ lists.

“This suggests that, despite having increasingly concurrent objectives about building a better world, businesses and civil society appear to be striving for purpose in relative isolation from each other. 

“They are running on parallel tracks, but the junctions at which they intersect are few and far between.”

It says that when businesses and civil society do work together, “the benefits can be manifold, with evidence that encouraging employees to volunteer, for example, can result in reductions in absenteeism, increases in productivity at work, lower staff turnover and improved employee wellbeing”. 

It says there are strong reasons for civil sector organisations and private sector organisations to work together. 

“Bringing these two sectors… together onto a single journey towards purpose in a meaningful way promises to generate gains not just for organisations in both sectors, but for society as a whole.”

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