Guest contributor Danny Witter talks about how giving back to some can be of benefit to all
Reputation is everything when it comes to making a business work, and nobody knows that better than a small business. If your customer sees you in a good light, then you are halfway there.
Larger corporations are moving rapidly down the ‘purpose-driven’ route and using Corporate Social Responsibility as a marketing tool to attract and retain customers who want to spend with brands that align with their own values.
Businesses with a clear ‘Brand Purpose’, those seen as making lives better, grew three times faster in value on average over the past 12 years. Many smaller businesses do want to give to back to society and make a difference, but it’s not always easy without designated CSR resource. Everyday pressures take over. And when time and money are tight, good intentions can fall by the wayside.
But what if all sizes of businesses could give to charity in a way that’s good for their business too?
We wanted to find out directly from the very businesses and charities themselves why charitable giving seemed to be the preserve of the large enterprise, so we surveyed people from both businesses and charities to see where the disconnect was.
Firstly, one in four businesses surveyed have yet to give, with a failure to see the benefits being a significant factor in making this decision.
Increasing your bottom line, elevating customer perception and retaining and attracting staff are just a few of the fundamental aims all companies have, and have many tactics to achieve, but charitable giving may not be considered as one of those tactics or credited with helping to drive any of those success measures. Yet out of the businesses who do give regularly to charities, two thirds saw noticeable positive impacts on their profitability, and the more they give, the more benefits they report. Those that donate over 0.5% of turnover were twice as likely to report enhancements in company reputation and nearly 50% more likely to see it help recruit and retain staff.
For most, giving doesn’t seem to be all that regular. Aside from the occasional charity bake-sale or ad-hoc donations, giving is often not part of company strategy, especially in small to medium business where margins can be tight and overheads prohibitive. However, it doesn’t require big bucks to make a difference.
Alone, small business may feel just that…. small. Yet small businesses make up 99 per cent of the 5.7million businesses in the UK, and each have huge potential to be a force for good. In fact, enabling every business to donate in manageable increments when revenue allows could lead to a ‘give to grow’ movement that could really change things.
So we can see the benefits to business giving, but what are the other barriers?
With only 2% of charities’ income coming from the business sector, something is amiss. Well for starters; regular giving is a pain. For a business to donate off the back of their sales, there must be a Commercial Participation Agreement (CPA) in place which involves negotiations, admin and legal issues. This can actually result in charities having to turn down donations that are under a certain threshold, simply because it’s just not viable for the amount of time spent (average of ten hours to secure one donation from an SME) and businesses have enough on their plate without philanthropic efforts actually costing them time and therefore money.
What a waste. Charities lose out on vital funding and businesses lose out on long-term benefits of valuable PR, reputation building and profits.
So out of this, we created another small business to add to the UK’s 5.5 million in order to solve the problem. The Work for Good platform was created to make giving easy, flexible and beneficial, both to SMEs and the charities they choose to support.
BTE Automotive is a family-run garage service business based in Hampshire. Started by husband and wife team Jan and David Parker 27 years ago, day-to-day operations are now run by their son Barry. BTE Automotive have recently signed up with Work for Good and are building giving into their business in a serious way. Barry comments, “As a family run business, our values are at the heart of what we do. As well as offering our customers the best possible service, we also want to give back to the community we serve and the causes that are close to our heart. By donating a £1 for each MOT undertaken this year, we’ll raise more than £3500… and that’s just the start. We’re looking at giving through product sales and ways to get customers involved in choosing which charities we support. It’s a great way to develop trust and develop relationships. Work for Good makes it easy for us to build giving into our business. They really connect with the charity and take out the legal and admin hassle. We can focus more time on doing what we do best – serving our customers, supporting our team and growing our business.”
An earlier version of this article appeared in Generation Magazine
About the contributor
Danny Witter is co-founder of Work for Good. An investment banker of 25 years turned social entrepreneur, he was also Chair of the UK Corporate Citizenship Committee. Passionate about giving back, his non-executive directorships include Shakespeare’s Globe, The Microloan Foundation, and Shape History.