Corporate giving 'not good enough', Growing Giving inquiry hears

Catherine Walker of the Directory of Social Change tells inquiry run by the Charities Aid Foundation that the key is how much of their profits companies give

Catherine Walker
Catherine Walker

Company giving to charities is "not good enough", the Charities Aid Foundation’s Growing Giving inquiry heard yesterday.

The inquiry, which is being chaired by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett, Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, heard evidence about giving in the workplace at the House of Commons yesterday.

Representatives from companies including McDonald’s, Morrisons and BT spoke about the various schemes they run to get their employees involved in charitable giving, including payroll giving.

Catherine Walker, head of sector trends, evidence, analysis and metrics at the Directory of Social Change, presented the findings of a report she wrote recently, the Company Giving Almanac, which shows that financial support for charities from companies fell by 27 per cent in the past year. The almanac is based on data in the ninth edition of the Guide to UK Company Giving, published earlier this year.

Overall corporate support for charities was 2 per cent of the sector’s income and amounted to only 0.4 per cent of pre-tax profits, she said. Company giving was focused on causes such as social welfare and education, she said, which meant that unpopular causes such as human rights, equal opportunities and women’s issues missed out.

Walker said the research suggested that company giving was focused on areas where companies were based rather than where there was need.

"Payroll giving, customer donations and employee donations – to me that is not company giving," she said. "Payroll giving and employee fundraising are important parts of engagement and engaging individuals in giving; but individuals are already engaged in giving – they give 43 per cent of charities’ income.

"What I’m concerned about is the percentage of profits the company is giving, and that comes from decisions at board level.

"Company giving is not good enough. We need to have some more clarity about what company giving is and who is doing what. There are some absolutely brilliant examples, so how do we get those companies to be these beacons of light for everyone else – not just big companies, but small and medium-sized enterprises as well? It is dialogue; we need to keep the dialogue open and keep everyone on the same page."

Adam Pike, co-founder and chief executive of Young Philanthropy, which brings together young professionals to create giving circles, said: "Corporates do not do giving well enough.

"There is enormous opportunity, loads of schemes, match funding and volunteering, but the utilisation is terrible. The take-up and the encouragement of that is important.

"Companies can be good at shouting about what they do, but it’s the value and whether there’s an impact that really matter."

Pike said that payroll giving was not flexible or agile enough and direct debit was proving much more effective.

Louise McCabe, head of corporate responsibility at the online clothing retailer Asos, spoke about how the company had engaged its predominantly young workforce in payroll giving and charitable activities.

"As an engagement tool, payroll giving is great," she said. "People really love it once they are aware of it and see how easy and straightforward it is. Our employees like to have an emotional link to the charities they support, so we don’t force people to give to a corporate charity."

McCabe said Asos staff liked to get involved with fundraising campaigns they could tweet about, such as Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day.

Peter Barron, director of external relations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Google, spoke about the tech giant’s global giving – £100m a year to support charitable causes and £1bn of in-kind support, including free online adverts, known as Google Grants.

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