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What’s Wrong With Corporate Giving?

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City London by Ben Sutherland via flickr

Large companies give huge amounts to charity. Last year the FTSE 100 handed over a combined total of £2.1bn in charitable giving, approximately 1.6% of their pre-tax profits. And companies are doing great things for, and with, charities – Sainsbury’s alone has donated over £100m to Comic Relief since 1999. Lots of money flowing, professionally managed relationships and plenty of good ideas. All at a time when the charity sector is feeling the pinch. What is not to like?

Quite a lot. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the system is broken, and at risk of being first in the budgetary firing line during turbulent economic times. Nothing which follows belittles or denigrates the good things which companies and charities do together. Corporate giving does a lot of good. But it could do so much more. Here are three things that are wrong with corporate giving:

1. The “Charity of the Year” model is a lottery, and one that only millionaires can play.

The nearest thing to a lottery win in the third sector is being picked for charity of the year by a major retailer. The typical approach is one of leveraged giving: the corporate provides seed funding and, by enabling fundraising through its customers, staff and suppliers, significantly more is raised. Multiples of 20:1 are not uncommon, leading to donations in the £ millions rather than thousands.

However, this golden ticket is only available to charities that meet strict requirements such as wide appeal, national reach, professional pitching skills and a heart string-pulling cause. Kids, cancer and animals preferred.

At a time when large charities are experiencing growth at the expense of shrinking small-medium sized charities, the same big charities win again and again and again.  Most eligible charity partners have an annual income of at least £5 million, which means that the charity of the year model excludes around 98.7% of UK charities.

2. Corporate volunteering paints the windows shut, leaving valuable skills at the doorstep.

Most major companies have employee volunteering programmes in place. The UK government has even pledged to introduce a standard three days of paid volunteering leave. This amounts to a huge investment by business, and by the ‘receiving’ charities.

However, when corporate volunteers wearing identical t-shirts decorate school halls and revamp community gardens, the standard of their work leaves much to be desired. The impact is far greater when volunteers give the skills they have spent years honing in business: be it as coaches, marketing consultants, business mentors, trustees or school governors. This pays back to the employer too. Volunteers learn new perspectives on their day-to-day job: seeing first-hand why SMEs struggle to pay invoices on time, what marketing techniques work best in local communities, or finessing their coaching skills with a young person struggling to access the job market.

Companies should accept unskilled volunteering for what it is – not an exercise in social impact but a fun, culture-building day out with a social element – and, accordingly, pay fair, commercial rates for the privilege.

In the UK, recent research by Three Hands suggests a big discrepancy between what charities really want from corporate volunteers (support with fundraising!) and what they get (unskilled team projects!). But beggars can’t be choosers.

3. Community investments attempt to pay shareholders’ returns in warm feelings.

Community investment, done right, produces business benefits: improving employees’ skills and their company’s reputation, giving access to new markets, bringing people into employment, to name a few. However, sloppy thinking has created a perception that social investment is a ‘good thing’ and therefore impact measurement is simply a nice to have.

By focusing on inputs (say, £s invested) and outputs (say, the number of beneficiaries) rather than impacts (what has actually changed), companies have about as much of an understanding of their community impacts as a theatre critic would have of a play by studying the price of the ticket, the number of actors and the duration of the performance.

“Measurable”, of course, does not always mean numbers. Lives transformed, or even saved, cannot always be successfully analysed by questionnaires to tell their story (“Please tell us, on a scale of 1-10, how hopeless and depressed you felt before your visit. And, again on a score of 1-10, how hopeless and depressed were you afterwards”).

Becoming a bit more serious about measuring impacts not only provides an incentive to do better in the future, sharing findings openly can help others make smarter decisions too. In a brave move, and frustrated by the lack of openness among charitable foundations, Shell Foundation tracked the impacts of $78m worth of its grants. The conclusion: 80% of the projects it supported failed to achieve either scale or sustainability.

What to make of this?

Just like “no one ever got fired for buying IBM”, by overly limiting their charity choices, companies miss out on a world of wonderful partnership and impact opportunities.

Our contention is that for the corporate-giving Cinderella to attend the fundraising ball, and significant investment to flow, partnerships must be strategically important. It is hard to shake the suspicion that some charities just managed to get their proposal onto the right desk at the right time. There are some excellent fundraisers out there, able to pitch schemes to excite community managers, even with tenuous fit.

Companies must think laterally and deeply to tackle social problems, which may lead to counter-intuitive pairings:

– Deutsche Bank helps art school graduates act more like entrepreneurs, growing the SME market that is a mainstay of their banking client base;

– Samaritans partners with Network Rail to identify, approach and respond to potentially suicidal people on the rail network; and

– Timpson’s, the key-cutting and shoe repair business, works with prisons to give ex-offenders a ‘second chance’ and in return gets more loyal employees.

Ultimately, for corporates to realise the potential value of community investment, they need to have honest conversations about impact rather than inputs. Only then can they build a robust case for deepening relationships and for maintaining, or even increasing, the level of giving. And that is something worth fighting for.

Simon Hodgson, Rosie Towe, Christian Toennesen – Carnstone Partners LLP

 

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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