A £10bn funding shortfall. Up to 60,000 job losses from the pandemic. These are the bleak headlines about the UK’s charitable sector, comprising more than 166,000 charities and millions of employees. What we seem to hear less about is the adaptability of the industry – how businesses and charities can collaborate to strengthen both sets of interests.
At the beginning of the pandemic, charity shops were closed and fundraising events cancelled overnight. This was coupled with a huge increase in demand for the services that charities provide in communities. Despite the challenges thrown at them, local charities have been able to adapt the way they work to meet the needs of those they support.
Although businesses nationwide also felt the pinch, many were already well established to deliver their services remotely and have been fortunate enough to thrive as a result. These companies have the potential to make the difference between survival or collapse for many charities, and could also help alleviate some of the problems created by the coronavirus pandemic. In turn, donations from businesses can add corporate value through improved brand awareness, increased customer loyalty and positive employee engagement, and help to promote key environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives.
From an investment perspective, it’s a ‘win win’ scenario. With issues like climate change, pollution and biodiversity thrust into the spotlight, organisations are increasingly keen to ensure that their investment portfolios make a social and ethical return as well as a financial one. One example of this is Foundation Scotland: the first community foundation in the UK to adopt an impact investment approach. Working with EQ Investors, Foundation Scotland launched its own impact fund, which uses capital to achieve social and environmental good in addition to providing a long-term sustainable funding source for the local communities they serve. Investments are made in companies that deliver a positive societal impact through their goods and services, while also helping reach ambitious ESG goals.
Partnering with charities is equally beneficial from an employee engagement and social responsibility perspective. By working alongside our national network of 46 community foundations, businesses can achieve local reach in the areas that are important to them.
Our network’s local expertise and unparalleled grassroots connections enable us to facilitate and distribute much-needed funds to the areas that will create the most impact, meaning every penny works as hard as it can for both beneficiary and donor. One example of this is Barclays, which provided a £100m community aid package for charities supporting people affected by Covid. By supplementing its corporate contribution with a commitment to match personal donations made by employees to charities, Barclays put employees at the forefront of making a significant and lasting improvement to the lives of its local communities. As a result, £1m has been distributed through the community foundation network, helping to alleviate social and economic hardship caused by the crisis.
For many charities, it’s currently a question of survival. Core funding, which enables them to continue to pay staff, maintain their premises and deliver vital day-to-day services, is essential if charities are to continue delivering vital services in their communities.
By engaging with their local community foundation, businesses can support these charities and the local causes that need most help. Involving their employees in the choice of charity partner will also encourage them to support the organisation’s priority initiatives and allow them to enable tangible benefits for their local community.
By working in tandem, businesses and charities can begin to build a road to recovery. There’s no doubt that it will be a bumpy one, but the outcome – an economic boost, spark in community spirit and lift in employee engagement and morale – will by far outweigh any challenges. All that remains is to take the leap.
Rosemary Macdonald is CEO of UK Community Foundations