Community groups call for shake-up of business support with research demonstrating its role as a key driver for UK business growth.
Businesses looking to support local charities and community groups must see past simple cash donations or unskilled volunteering to forge relationships which create a “Partnership of Equals”, according to new research launched today.
Carillion, the construction, infrastructure and services company, commissioned the research to investigate the changing nature of the relationship between businesses and communities.
Four out of five charity or community groups (81%) believe that skills-based volunteering, where they tap into expertise such as business or HR planning, would benefit their organisation. Community respondents listed the top priorities for business contribution as the provision of training/job opportunities for disadvantaged people and operational support such as help writing business plans – alongside traditional financial donations.
The research showed that businesses which invest in communities can achieve real cultural and commercial gains. Three quarters of all respondents (75%) believe that positive community engagement, such as partnering on local projects, makes a business more successful. A further nine-in-ten (91%) stated that closer community and charitable ties directly benefits business employees, through the development of new skills and experiences.
In the ‘Partnership of Equals’ both businesses and communities gain. The research identified that the positive benefits businesses can achieve through community engagement included greater job satisfaction, morale and productivity amongst employees, and directly helping to recruit and retain the most talented people.
However, the report warned that there is a gap between business and communities with neither group knowing how best to join forces and reap the rewards of collaboration. More than half (55%) of businesses agreed there is a mismatch between what they offer charity or community groups and what they actually need, while 61% of charities or community groups agreed that they don’t understand how businesses can best help them. For example, less than half of businesses polled had supported communities through skills-based volunteering.
“We are in the business of community, operating with the firm belief that profitable businesses have a powerful opportunity and responsibility to add value to the economy and wider society. A business shouldn’t be asking itself ‘how much does it cost to be sustainable or contribute to society’, they should understand that they can’t afford not to. ‘Business for good’ is no longer an intangible concept but something that is now expected, led by the millennial generation’s demand for greater social awareness across all businesses and brands. And business leaders must respond through their approach to community engagement. Although traditional contributions, such as local fundraisers and casual volunteering, are still worthwhile, businesses must look beyond this to provide a more professional level of support.”
Carillion is creating a national network of charity ‘ambassadors’ as part of its five-step Partnership of Equals Action Plan, comprising at least 50 volunteers from within the business. The ambassadors will work with partners across Carillion’s supply chain to help nurture and improve UK community-business relations. This will focus on skills-to-need brokering, with Carillion working alongside Hospice UK initially to implement a series of ‘match-making’ trials nationwide from summer 2016.
“Developing a Partnership of Equals, where businesses and communities work together to fully understand what the other has to offer, is essential for building meaningful relationships and sustainable communities. The same is true regardless of the organisation’s size – with the largest of corporates able to glean vast potential from the experience of the smallest of groups. If the right balance is achieved, shifting from the traditional give-and-take approach to a model that inspires more ‘give and gain’ interactions, a strong level of trust can be developed to the long-term benefit of both groups.”
The research has been launched to coincide with Carillion’s annual sustainability report. This directly attributes a return of £33.8million as a result of the company’s sustainable and community initiatives, which is reinvested to support Carillion’s long term sustainability ambition and partnerships.
Catherine Bosworth, director of income generation at Hospice UK said: “The hospice movement began when local communities saw a need to support people at the end of their lives with compassion and skill. The money and momentum to establish these services came from local groups that recognised the importance of what they were striving to do, and together these strong local relationships made world leading hospice care a reality.
Today, businesses large and small are still central to local communities, and it is clear that what these companies offer can also benefit society at large through shared expertise, resource and goodwill. But this is not an old model of benevolence. Charities too have recognised the opportunity to help businesses engage with their staff and share their expertise in exciting and valuable ways, building equal, long-lasting partnerships for a greater good.”