Richard James is Director at Jolly Good Communications, a social enterprise providing a full range of communications and public relations services to charities, social enterprises and other not-for-profits. They also work with start-ups and SMEs, helping them to operate in a socially, environmentally and ethically conscious way. Below Richard explains why your company should at least consider supporting small charities.
The benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and charitable initiatives are well documented, from advantages in recruitment and employee engagement, to improved positioning in the marketplace, with over half of British adults more inclined to buy a product or use a service from a company that donates to charitable causes. But how do you choose which charity is right for you?
There are over 160,000 registered charities in the UK, with roughly 97% of them having an income of less than £1m a year. Yet when it comes time to pick a charity to support, businesses all-too-often opt for the biggest, best-known organisations. It’s a problem over 50% of small charities believe is their main obstacle to raising funds – and it’s not just a matter of perception, either. Household names such as the RSPCA, NSPCC, Cancer Research UK account for almost half of the total £37bn raised ever year by the charity sector.
The reasons are obvious. Brand visibility and exposure help to cement their place in the public’s consciousness, and tackling universal issues like cancer or child abuse gives them widespread appeal. But if you look beyond the big names you’ll find small charities have a lot more going for them than you might expect, and present a great opportunity for any company looking to change or introduce an approach to CSR. Here’s why.
You’d be surprised what they can achieve
More and more small charities are broadening their areas of operations. Between 1999 and 2014 there was over a 250% increase in the number of UK charities working overseas, a great example being Music as Therapy International. Despite a modest budget last year their music projects reached over 17,000 vulnerable people in eight countries worldwide, including several communities within the UK.
Just because a charity is small, doesn’t mean it can’t have impressive reach and impact.
It could be the start of a beautiful relationship
The bigger the charity name, the more likely it is to already receive support from other companies. Choosing a lesser known, smaller cause can help to differentiate you from your competitors, and build a genuine connection between your organisations.
This is significant because a strong relationship between a charity and sponsor can be the gift that keeps on giving – for both parties. They might not have the biggest turnover or profile today, but a well-run small charity has bags of potential to grow in size, stature and influence. If you can play a major part in their story, their success will be yours to share.
Your donation really will make a difference
The purpose of charitable giving is to make a difference, but is your contribution a game-changer, or just another drop in the ocean to finance large salaries, marketing and admin budgets?
One 2015 report found over 1,000 large charities spent less than 50% of their income on charitable activities, which should be a cause for concern for anyone serious about CSR.
By comparison, many small charities are run by dedicated trustees and willing volunteers with no wage bill to speak of. This is the case with dog rescue and re-homing charity Finding Furever Homes, who in their first three years have re-homed almost 500 dogs, and donated over £100,000 to cover the vet and food bills of dogs in rescues throughout the UK. Organisations like these are run on a shoestring; so if you want to know your support is really going to make a difference, think small charity for a big impact.
Where to start?
Picking a charity can be a very personal choice, but once a decision is made on the type of cause, there really is no substitute for doing your homework. A charity’s recent accounts can be found through the Charity Commission, or you could simple call or pay them a visit to discuss their needs and how you could help. But remember, regardless of whom you choose to support, it’s doing it that counts.