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Donating as an Investment

Charitable donation can be good for businesses large and small

In a world where we increasingly choose to drink our lattes out of reusable cups, we tut (shamefully — but we do it) at those who don’t recycle and feel like we are part of making a difference. Our clients and customers are noticeably more discerning about their choices too; they choose brands and providers who do more than just sell us something. And whether you’re a one-person-band or a new brewery, this affects you.

One solitary cup is not going to change our problem with plastic, but you feel like your cup may influence a passer -by, that it matters. It matters. Small actions become revolutions. Revolutions change the way our world works.

We know why we do these things. Because at our core, we know (unless you’re Nigel Lawson or other climate change deniers) that the environment and social issues matter to the overwhelming majority of us.

This is part of the reason why, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Adidas, the list goes on and on, donate time and money to cause. But wait. I deliberately chose these names because they are the big dogs. The ones people are really looking at when we say “companies should do more!”, but why?

Yes they have enormous footprints across the UK (and the globe), but we have 5.7 million SMEs on this tiny alien-shaped island with the big bum. It’s these SME communities that really have the capacity to be the biggest force of change.

But each one of these MDs/CEOs/Founders, is a business owner/director first and foremost. There are priorities: cashflow, funding, payroll, budgets for marketing and software and office space etc.. Understandably, even though the stats show giving intent is huge, it rarely makes it onto the agenda let alone the priority list.

For most small business owners nothing is scarcer than cash and the last thing they are likely to be thinking about is ‘giving some of it away.’ But, as mad as it might seem it often makes sound commercial sense to do so — what if you looked at giving in the same way you looked at your marketing spend?

Rather than it being something else that is ‘taxing’ on your business — it’s an investment. An investment in your reputation, an investment in your customers, an investment in your employees — an investment in your business. And with any investment you expect a return. So let’s take a look at the research:

87% of businesses said corporate responsibility activity had a positive impact on their company’s reputation. The Charity Aid Foundation’s Corporate Market Study (2012)

55% of online consumers around the world surveyed said they would pay more for products and services from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility (2014)

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.Millward Brown BrandZ Index (2017)

And for all those big enough and ugly enough to have employees…the Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement study revealed that 64% won’t take a job if a company doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility values and that 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues. But it isn’t just about the millennial, the biggest contributors to cause are older people and women.

So there it is — your ROI. So we built Work for Good for vast majority of businesses who don’t have the resource to implement changes like this. Work for Good is a vehicle – a plug and play CSR tool if you will. We help businesses donate to cause, help them with their promotion of their activity, give advice where needed and provide an ever growing network of like-minded businesses for them to engage with.

Businesses aren’t able to support charities commercially unless they are compliant with the Charities Act as a Commercial Participator. Briefly, a business must make an agreement with any charity it intends to give to. As a result charities understandably don’t engage much with SMEs in this way but lament the loss of unrestricted income (their lifeblood). Here’s the “short” version of the Commercial Participator clause and if that wasn’t enough to get you revved up, here’s the mind numbing full version.

Our platform solves the CPA issue and tax headaches and businesses donate to causes they want in a smart way that is good for their business. There is no set structure, no minimum donation and no agreed causes. It’s your business (figuratively and literally), so do your thing!

About the author:

Tinashe Sithole is SME Business Giving Manager at Work for Good, a UK-based social enterprise on a mission to unleash the giving power of the business world. He’s been involved in a number of sectors including, CSR, tech, not for profit, politics and news media and uses that experience of varying environments to helping businesses give to causes in a smart way that helps them grow.

A version of this article previously appeared on LinkedIn