EDITORIAL: Help companies meet their goals to fulfil your own


Why is corporate giving so much lower in Britain than it is in the US? Can it really be true that companies, and the people who run them, are meaner here than in the home of self-interested capitalism? Perhaps, if addressing social needs is assumed primarily to be the role of government, then it is easy to see this as not being part of the realm of business, unless of course somebody - probably the Government - will pay businesses to do so.

Then again, maybe fundraisers in the US simply understand businesses better and so are able to press the buttons that unlock the money.

A study by Karl Mitchell, director of fundraising at the Woodland Trust, launched at the National Fundraisers' Convention, suggests there might be truth in both these views. He found, unsurprisingly, brand awareness, image and reputation are key drivers of corporate giving. Philanthropy doesn't rate very highly at all. No surprises there. But it would be a mistake to allow this simply to reinforce our cynicism about business.

Look at it for a moment from the point of view of a business executive.

It's fine to give away your own money; when it is shareholders' money you had better be able to account for what you've done with it.

The key to unlocking corporate giving, therefore, is to be able to show companies how you can help them to meet their business goals. There is no shame in this, and nobody is suggesting that charities compromise any of their principles. If anything, having something more to offer than simply a cap in the hand puts them in a stronger position to ask businesses to behave in a certain way.

This goes against the grain for many in the voluntary sector. After all, it isn't really giving if there are strings attached. But with increasing pressures on income, can charities morally justify failing to engage with potential sources of funding? What good is your virtue if you do not have the means with which to do good?

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