Nicky Goulder: Collaboration is key to working with companies

Charities need to design corporate responsibility programmes that inspire and engage employees, says the chief executive of the arts charity Create

Nicky Goulder
Nicky Goulder

People disagree about millennials: the newspaper columnist Daisy Buchanan thinks they’re healthy, resourceful and purposeful, but the journalist and TV presenter Piers Morgan thinks they are a bunch of slacking, whinging losers.

Deloitte’s more evidenced-based Millennial Survey 2017, which gathered the views of 8,000 millennials across 30 countries, shows that they’re also demanding of business, which is good news for charities.

The report shows that although they view business positively, they also believe multinational businesses are not fully realising their potential to alleviate society’s biggest challenges.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (86 per cent) believe the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just financial performance. They also intend to stay working for longer with employers that engage with social issues.

That 77 per cent of millennials have involved themselves in charities or good causes shows they back their sentiments up with action. These attitudes, and an expectation to be contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, point to a strong incentive for companies to demonstrate authentic purpose and commitment to delivering impactful social engagement. The days of tokenistic, superficial corporate responsibility programmes appear to be numbered.

If charities can be collaborative when working with companies to design corporate responsibility programmes that are inspiring and engaging for their employees and deliver authentic purpose and tangible benefits, these can lead to long-term partnerships and sustainable funding.

Rather than approaching potential corporate partners with off-the-peg projects, the key is to look at what the company is trying to achieve through its corporate responsibility objectives. Does it have a specific group or cause that staff want to engage with? Can you deliver a project in the community in which its office is located? Can you utilise specific skills that its employees possess?

Of course, there needs to be a synergy between the company’s corporate responsibility aims and your charitable purpose. By identifying organisations with aims in line with your charity’s you can avoid mission drift while opening up opportunities to reach new participants and communities, help the business give depth to its employee engagement and recruit philanthropic people as supporters of your charity.

Since 2008, Create, the arts charity I co-founded, has partnered with the law firm Reed Smith to design and deliver free creative programmes with disadvantaged and vulnerable adults. Reed Smith had an existing partnership with the U-Turn Women’s Project, providing it with pro-bono legal advice. But we saw that we could add value by delivering confidence-building creative workshops with the marginalised women who attended the project. By supporting these workshops, Reed Smith staff added value and deepened their engagement.

The success of the U-Turn programme led to Reed Smith funding and supporting two more programmes: one with adult carers in Newham and another with vulnerable women attending the Inspire Project, a community resource promoting the wellbeing of women at St Hilda’s East Community Centre in Tower Hamlets.

These projects are delivered in disadvantaged areas on the doorstep of Reed Smith’s offices. By painting, taking photographs and making music with Create participants, Reed Smith’s staff have become more involved in the communities close to its offices and experienced first-hand the contribution the firm is making to society.

Businesses do want to engage in meaningful social action and engage and retain the best employees by bringing their values to life. If your charity is adaptable and collaborative, you can form successful, long-term partnerships that make a significant impact.

Nicky Goulder is chief executive and co-founder of Create

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