Cathy Pharoah: We need a new set of indicators for giving in the workplace

There are 20 million private sector employees, and we know precious little about their charitable activities at work, says our columnist

Cathy Pharoah
Cathy Pharoah

A range of data on US corporate giving was published recently in the annual report of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy.

The report is impressive, not only because it shows that in 2012 the giving of more than 200 large US corporate donors was worth £13bn - just under half of which is cash - but also because of the wide array of figures it provides.

These cover corporate foundations, matched giving or employee volunteer programmes, the nature of causes supported, the amount these causes received and the contribution of various industrial sectors - not to mention the value of matched employee giving, the amount routed through foundations, pro bono giving, administrative overheads and the predicted outlook.

This shows the importance and pride attached to corporate giving by recipients and companies themselves - the CECP has a Wall Street address. And it's not only the CECP that highlights corporate giving. The US Foundation Center produces a profile on the giving of corporate foundations every year. What is the UK model for celebrating corporate giving? Data is patchy, but thanks to the Directory of Social Change, we know that corporate giving is worth £762m, of which £512m is cash.

Meanwhile, the same advice about raising funds from firms through sycophantic applications targeted at the company's core business has been trotted out with dismal frequency for the past 10 years. Corporate fundraisers must be tearing their hair out with frustration that this just doesn't work. Corporate giving has barely grown for a decade. Is it time to develop a new set of indicators for measuring corporate contribution?

We know little about what percentage of UK corporate giving consists of employee or customer donations. Behind the 1.2 million private sector employers are 20 million employees. Payroll giving has not been adopted by more than 2 to 3 per cent of that workforce since it was set up. But millions of people give at work through individual self-generated collections, fundraising events and national initiatives, marathons, sponsorships by colleagues and relatives, and many other ways. How many employers actively promote employee giving? How many match or boost employee giving? And what are the trends?

In the US, 83 per cent of firms offer at least one matching gift programme, and such gifts form 12 per cent of company giving. How many UK companies thank clients and customers through charity gift cards or provide opportunities to donate through ATMs, cash and hand-held tills? How many customers do they reach? How many include charitable giving options in employee reward packages?

The cash from corporate giving is a drop in the ocean compared with the opportunities companies could offer. Let's have new corporate giving indicators based on opportunities, access and aspiration, rather than on a percentage of pre-tax profit.

Cathy Pharoah is professor of charity funding at Cass Business School

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