How do companies support the community?

We've all walked past a food bank collection point at the end of our grocery shop or handed over change to a charity pot at a till, but you may not know the many other ways in which companies provide support to charities and communities. In DSC's latest Guide to UK Company Giving, we ‘lift the lid’ on the giving habits of over 400 companies.

Delving into the world of company giving is no easy task. Since reforms to the Companies Act 2006 came into force, companies no longer have to report their charitable donations. This, combined with often inconsistent reporting practices, means it is very difficult to assess support given by companies in terms of cash giving alone. It’s likely that companies are donating more than they are reporting, which seems strange. Why wouldn’t companies want to report all of their cash donations? Greater transparency is not only beneficial for charities that are searching for corporate funding, but it also makes it easier to see the full impact that companies are having on the charity sector as a whole.

Although it can be difficult to assess financial contributions, cash donations are just one of the many ways a company can offer support to a good cause. They also provide in-kind support such as pro-bono services, like free legal advice and skills-sharing. In our latest guide, we assessed available data on 235 companies and determined that collectively they contributed over £480 million in UK cash and in-kind donations, with the top giver contributing around £78 million alone.

It’s clear from our research that company giving is now much more focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR), which includes initiatives like charity partnerships, educational outreach and environmental sustainability. Many companies involve employees in CSR activities, offering paid days off for volunteering, matching staff fundraising efforts or allowing staff to nominate charities close to their hearts.

But which causes are receiving support? While education and health were among the most supported causes, support for community services reigned supreme – with 45% of companies providing support towards such causes. Community services includes any projects that benefit a local community, such as clubs and community gardens.

As well as CSR programmes, many companies, like Innocent and Cadbury, channel their charitable giving through a grant-making corporate charity. These charities are usually established by the company and receive annual donations or other support, such as free use of office space. Although associated with a company, corporate charities usually operate independently, running their own grant programmes and providing their own support. Out of the 401 companies included in our guide, 33% had one or more UK-based corporate charity. Collectively, these corporate charities provided grants totalling £262 million to support charitable causes across the UK.

We have touched on general company giving, but how do the companies we use every day offer their support? The UK’s major supermarkets, including Tesco and Sainsbury’s, contributed around £34.6 million in community support across the country. Our data shows that supermarkets most commonly supported community services, followed by general charitable purposes and social welfare.

High street retail stores, including Marks and Spencer’s, Next, and Holland and Barrett, contributed a similar amount, around £27.7 million. They most commonly supported community services and education and health support.

Banks such as Natwest and Barclays contributed over £119.4 million in community support. Banks most commonly supported education causes, money and debt advice, social welfare and community services.

The Covid-19 pandemic will inevitably affect the giving habits of many companies. Some may have less money to spend on charitable activities, and others might temporarily change their giving to support initiatives they have identified as paramount during the crisis. In turn, these changes may have an impact on charities that rely on corporate giving. However, as with many aspects of Covid-19, the full extent of this impact is yet to be seen.

Many people don’t realise that the brands they shop with have such a considerable impact on helping those in need, whether through cash donations or increasingly wider in-kind or pro bono CSR activities. So, when you’re choosing where to spend or save your cash, consider the charities that you are also helping and the many ways that support is delivered to those who really need it.

The Guide to UK Company Giving – 2020/21 is available to order now and contains information on over 400 companies that collectively give over £480 million in cash donations and in-kind support. Both voluntary organisations seeking support from corporates and companies looking to develop their community giving strategy should own this indispensable guide. Research organisations and individuals investigating UK corporate giving and CSR will also need this key resource.