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What’s Wrong With Corporate Giving?



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



What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?




shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy



Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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