We need a revolution in British businesses to place charity at the heart of company cultures

09 June 2014

UK businesses need a radical overhaul to create more opportunities for employees to connect with charities, says a report we’ve published today.

The report, the result of an all-party parliamentary inquiry chaired by Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, Baroness Tyler of Enfield and Andrew Percy MP, urges businesses to look at the commitment of candidates to charity work as part of their criteria for hiring senior executives.

It calls on business schools to include courses in philanthropy as part of MBA programmes, so future business leaders can think about the value of creating social good through their work.

The report also calls on the Treasury to reshape incentives for businesses to drive up support for charities by matching donations made by their employees. It urges businesses to create ‘giving circles’ in the workplace and allow employees a range of ways to support good causes.

The proposals aimed at businesses are among a raft of recommendations aimed at encouraging more people to support good causes at different stages of their lives.

The call comes at a time when company ethics are becoming increasingly important to the British public, especially among younger people. A survey we conducted found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of 18 – 24 year olds said they would be more inclined to buy a product or service from a company that makes donations to charity, compared with 51% of the general public.

The survey by ComRes also found young people are more likely to want to work for a business that supports charities, with 61% wanting to do so, compared with 45% of the public.

Today’s Inquiry report makes 18 recommendations aimed at increasing giving time or money by people throughout their lives.

Other recommendations include:

  • TV channels giving up a mandatory time commitment each year to give charities and causes air time
  • A social action section being added to UCAS forms
  • A post-careers advice service being set up for older people
  • Charity work becoming an integral part of careers advice, citizenship and personal development at schools
  • Student Unions increasing their promotion of volunteering programmes
  • Younger people being given more opportunities to shadow charity trustees
  • Will makers prompting clients by mentioning that they can use their will to leave a legacy to charity
  • The Government establishing a task-force of leading professionals to drive developments in digital giving
  • The introduction of Living Legacies – which provide people with tax effective ways to give to charity while they are still alive.

The Growing Giving Inquiry was established following the publication of research we commissioned in 2012 showing that fewer households are participating in regular charitable giving. Whilst 32 per cent of households donated to charity in 1978, in 2010 only 27 per cent donated, according to research we conducted with the University of Bristol.

The research showed that the share of donations received from under-30s has also fallen in the last thirty years, from 8 per cent in 1980 to 3 per cent in 2010. Yet the willingness of young people at school to raise funds remains impressive. Removing barriers and providing incentives to giving of time and money is vital, as is maintaining that desire to contribute throughout life.

The cross-party Inquiry held a number of Parliamentary evidence sessions over the past year, each focussing on a different life stage and how to better engage these age groups with charity work.

The sessions featured contributions from organisations such as BT, Google, NUS, Age UK and the Citizenship Foundation, as well as from members of the public.

The Growing Up Giving session looked at charity in education, the ways to engage young people and how to make giving fit for the digital age. Giving At Work focussed on giving in the workplace and Going On Giving looked at giving in later life and retirement.

The chairs of the inquiry will today announce a series of recommendations based on this evidence. This will form part of a parliamentary event, with Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd MP also speaking and Shadow Minister for Civil Society, Lisa Nandy MP attending.

Rt Hon David Blunkett MP said: “Businesses are so influential in our society – in the communities they work in, in their conversations with customers and with their own employees.

“Ten days ago, the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney called for greater investment in ‘social capital’, and one key way to achieve this is to stimulate greater Corporate Social Responsibility. Jointly with employees, as well as directly, businesses can contribute to the broader wellbeing of society.”

“Many companies do an excellent job supporting charities. But by making it easier for ‘corporate Britain’ to do more, we also need to recognise that some business leaders think this should be left to government alone, whilst some in government think it should be left to philanthropy.”

“At a time when the recession has left people sceptical of many corporate institutions, we hope that our recommendations will help build trust in business, provide a vital boost for charities and stimulate giving in the workplace.”

Baroness Tyler of Enfield said: “We need a shake up in British businesses to make sure that employers give their staff the time and opportunities to support charities. However a genuine change in corporate culture must come from the top. We need business leaders who are passionate about bringing out charity support in their workplace and can show leadership in charity work and philanthropy. Today’s recommendations suggest some straightforward changes, including tax incentives, that would help to bring about this change and to encourage more employees to give of their time and money through their workplace.

John Low, our Chief Executive said:  “We are seriously worried about the falling number of households giving to charity, which could result in a big drop in donations in the near future.

“People spend a huge amount of time in the workplace, making it the ideal place to get people to rally together around a cause. 

“A wide range of organisations have shared their views as part of the inquiry over the past year on how to tackle this issue, and we hope turning our recommendations into actions will help better engage people with charity at every stage of their lives.”

“Businesses, charities and government now need to work together to help create real behavioural change in the UK and embed charity ever more deeply into our culture.”

Rt Hon David Blunkett MP is the Labour Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough and was formerly Home Secretary.

Andrew Percy MP is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Brigg and Goole. He previously served as a councillor and teacher.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield is a Liberal Democrat life peer in the House of Lords, and sits on a number of APPGs including those on social mobility and parents and families.

ComRes interviewed 2,066 GB adults, including 285 aged between 18 and 24, online between the 26th and 27th March 2014.  Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available at http://www.comres.co.uk/

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