Giving through your company? Why giving small can make a big difference

March 18, 2019


By Laura Blake, Development Director

Earlier this month, staff in companies from Lands End to John O’Groats went to work in fancy dress and baked millions of cakes of all shapes and sizes – all helping to raise more than £63m for Comic Relief. One supermarket in Newcastle has even started an annual staff tradition of creating their own version of famous music videos in the aisles (this year it was The Greatest Showman – what else?!).

It’s clear that for many employees, getting involved with giving back to charity is a fun and rewarding aspect of their jobs. Not only that, but doing good is good for business; research from the Journal of Business Ethics shows that workers in offices that do more for charity are more likely to agree with statements like ‘I would say this is a great place to work’ and ‘I rarely think about looking for a new job’.

It’s the time of year when many companies are reviewing their plans for charitable giving for the year ahead. For many, their first port of call is larger, national charities. These are household names, familiar and important to many of us and often have ready-made opportunities to engage staff in volunteering, fundraising events or fun runs.

But this means that small, local charities – who lack budget for advertising and marketing – are missing out on much needed funding. Data shows that just one in five corporate donations are given to a local charity.

Small charities are the lifeblood of our communities; the glue that holds our villages, towns and cities together. They work tirelessly to support people to fulfil their potential and tackle disadvantage, usually supported by dedicated volunteers who give their time to change lives.

Charities like The Open Door Project in Taunton, a homeless day centre which – with support from 30 volunteers – provides rough sleepers with hot meals, someone to talk to, and washing facilities. Our recent grant of just over £3,000 means that a new project worker can provide additional support, such as help to move into employment, get medical care and access housing services. I know from chatting to some of those using the centre, who have experienced huge hardship, just how important it is for them to have a place they can come to escape the cold and get a decent meal.

Small charities receive just 16% of their income from government funding, so donations are crucial – particularly at a time when demand for their services are increasing.  But, for companies who want to give locally, it can often be difficult to know where to start. How do you find a small charity that might not have a website? How do you know your money will be well spent? How can your team get involved?

At Somerset Community Foundation, we’ve just launched a new initiative to empower businesses to make a difference in their communities through small, local charities. The Somerset Fund offers an easy and rewarding way to donate funds, time and expertise. Even better, donations will receive matched funding of 50% meaning they make an even bigger difference.

All donations to The Somerset Fund will be awarded in small grants to local, grassroots charities, supporting everything from youth groups, to mental health, community centres to activities for older people.

Giving time and expertise is a really rewarding way develop your own skills and strengthen local charities. For companies looking to upskill their staff and boost employee engagement, we can offer opportunities for your employees to run expert skills workshops for local charities on topics like marketing or HR.

We can also help to connect your senior staff to local Trustee opportunities; a great way for aspiring leaders to get experience at board level. I’ve personally learned a huge amount from being a Trustee and have been able to bring a fresh perspective and specialist skills to the charity that they were lacking.

So, as you’re thinking about the difference your company wants to make through charitable giving in the year ahead, I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to think small and local. Even a small gift can make a really big difference.

For more information on The Somerset Fund, visit call Laura Blake on 01749 344949. I can also offer support to create a corporate giving programme, including a corporate ‘named fund’ which acts much like a charitable trust.

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