Increasing giving to charities

By Brian Chernett, Founder, The Academy For Chief Executives

On Saturday 21st May 2011, the Daily Telegraph reported that restaurants and shops will be urged to round up customers bills to the nearest pound and give the increases to charity under new plans to bolster David Cameron's Big Society Initiative. The same article quoted Cabinet Office estimates that 8% of the population contribute 47% of Britain's total donations to charity. There is clearly a need to reach the 92% who contribute the remaining 53%, especially those who currently give little or nothing (Read: Shops urged to round up your bill and give the cash to charity).

On Monday 23rd of May 2011, David Cameron launched the government’s Giving White Paper which sets out the government's ambition to "make it easier to give". Government ministers Francis Maude and Nick Hurd in the foreword to the White Paper suggest that "Britain is a generous country. Up and down the country, day in and day out, people give their time and money to help others.”

The White Paper sets out a framework for the government approach and priorities to increasing charitable giving.

- introducing new incentives for giving

- supporting innovators and leaders

- making it easier to give

- providing better support to those offering a managing opportunities to give

- helping to build new social norms

- focusing extra support of vulnerable communities

- helping to channel the energy and creativity of partners across society

The introduction to the White Paper notes: “As we highlighted in the Giving White Paper, the evidence shows that the UK is a relatively generous society. However, we cannot afford to be complacent – levels of giving have flat-lined in recent years. This could prove very difficult for the charities and community groups that do so much good in this country, and which we believe have the potential, with the right support, to do even more. The level of economic confidence is clearly a very important factor in determining the environment for giving. This social agenda is therefore inextricably linked with the Government’s priority, which is to reduce our borrowing and restore economic growth and confidence.”

They do, however, also see significant potential to increase participation:

- Although the majority give, a minority contribute much more than average. We think there is potential to encourage more people to give more generously, and to persuade those who do not give to start.

- Donors in the poorest income brackets give more as a proportion of their income than those in middle-income households and the wealthiest. We think there is significant potential for the better-off to give more.

- Many businesses in the UK do a great deal to support their communities, but many others do not. We think more companies can learn from the example of their peers here and from the culture of corporate giving in the US – not least by understanding the great commercial benefits that can flow from supporting communities.

- We can do a better job of matching people with valuable skills to the organisations that need them – by, for example, encouraging more professionals such as accountants or lawyers, and others with specialist knowledge or experience, to use their skills to help charities.

Although much of the focus of the attention has been on the idea of giving at Cashpoints or rounding up restaurant bills, I think the important areas of this White Paper will be in the emphasis on incentive and on support to leaders and innovators.

If we think in business terms, payment methods are a necessary part of a process and that process first needs customers to buy the products and services that the company offers. Simply making more payment channels available will not increase charitable giving. People need to understand the services provided by the charity that and be emotionally drawn to them, there needs to be trust that the charity will do what they say they will do and that as much money as possible will be used towards the purpose for which it is given. In business those messages would be provided by product branding and product/service information and by a clearly efficient organisation that demonstrates delivery.

In a further article in this newsletter, I will be talking about developing and nurturing the future leaders of social and charitable enterprises. As charities grow from being an idea of an individual or small group of individuals into a service-providing operational charity of growing size, so the need to develop good leaders grows.

I welcome this White Paper as a good start in an ambition to improve the effectiveness of our charitable giving. I quote again from the foreword to the White Paper. “Despite a long history of government interventions, the giving of both time and money has flat-lined, and some in the voluntary sector warn of decline. We do not accept that this is inevitable. We believe that people want to do more, and could do more. There are still too many things that get in the way.”

One the ‘things’ that needs to be removed is the need for better trained and supported leaders and it is towards this that I am striving.

Brian Chernett - brian@chiefexecutive.com- is the founder of The Academy for Chief Executives and Chairman of Academy Group ACE2. Having stepped down as Chief Executive of the Academy, Brian is now developing his own coaching and mentoring business – Wisdom Forums - for senior executives and building a new charity, The Ella Foundation, to coach and mentor Chief Executives in Charities and not for profit business.

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