Focus: Finance and Governance - Outlook - People are more generous than firms

Chelsea FC's support from Roman Abramovich has transformed its performance in recent years. A single individual worth £7.5bn has altered the prospects of the entire organisation.

This calls to mind the current number of charities developing their major donor fundraising capacity, fine-tuning their contact databases and searching for that holy grail of an unrestricted million or two from wealthy individuals.

But why aren't we spending more time focusing on the companies behind the individuals? We have access to plenty of public information on their finances and they are making large distributable profits.

Well, this summer the Charities Aid Foundation's Charity Trends 2005 reported that only 52 of the top 500 corporate donors gave more than 1 per cent of their pre-tax profits to good causes. Compared with the 44 that did so in 2002/03, this represents the first increase in this number since 2001.

With corporate giving continuing to languish at the bottom of the generosity table, it does seem that the best way to get large donations out of corporates might be to filter them through an employee first.

Individuals are far less likely to give to a charity in a way that requires detailed tax advice on trading issues and legal advice to check contract clauses, as is so often now the case with corporate gift relationships.

A corporate donation can be eroded by advisers' fees.

Of course, working with corporate contacts to build relationships with successful individuals can draw on the best of both worlds. Jewish Care has certainly enjoyed success with this approach.

I would not turn my nose up at corporate volunteers - as long as you don't mind them paintballing before adding the final coat to your church hall makeover, that is. But the reality is that individuals who volunteer in their own time are likely to be a higher-value gift. Self-motivation often results in a longer-term committed gift of time.

With the Charity Commission pushing for us all to work harder for sustainable income, and to put away the fundraiser begging bowls and start being more commercial, what we should be asking is how much the Home Office can influence the Treasury to help us on our way.

Some believe that the straight philanthropic corporate donation will soon be a thing of the past, with the future lying in contracts for exchanges of benefit.

If this is to be the case, then - unless our tax legislation becomes a lot more self-explanatory - we are surely going to be better off persevering with major donor programmes and wealthy individuals rather than the companies that have supplied them with their wealth.

KEY POINTS

- Only 52 of the top 500 corporate donors give more than 1 per cent of their pre-tax profits to good causes

- Corporate donations are often eroded by advisers' fees

- It is arguably better for charities to focus more on wealthy individuals and major donor programmes.

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