Philanthropy is alive and kicking

24th of May 2018
Philanthropy is alive and kicking

Philanthropy is not dead. Corporate charitable giving fell away dramatically across Europe during the worst years of the recession. But the sector is bouncing back strongly, thanks in part to small business owners increasingly looking to ‘give something back’ to the communities they serve, writes Hartley Milner.

The Winter Olympics in February wowed us with amazing displays of sporting prowess across the disciplines. And few will have had us on the edge of our seats quite like the spectacle of those daredevil sliders hurtling through ice tunnels at speeds topping 90 mph.

Great Britain’s sliding team picked up one gold and two bronze medals at PyeongChang, helping GB finish its campaign with five podium places and in 19th position on the medal table…its best ever showing at a Winter Olympics. However, one of the most inspiring stories to come out of the games was of heroic determination and commitment played out on neither snow nor ice.

Last autumn, the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association stripped the women’s bobsleigh squad of their funding and chose instead to continue supporting three men’s teams because it deemed them more likely to win honours. It looked like they would not be competing in any of the upcoming world-class events over the winter period, or at the Olympics itself.

Powered by people

On top of her training commitments, team driver Mica McNeill set about raising money through sponsorship and crowdfunding, ending up with £41,000 to cover transport and training costs. With brakewoman Mica Moore, she went on to take eighth place in the Olympics bobsleigh final and had been as high as sixth fastest. The pair, who won the world junior title earlier in 2017, produced the best ever result by a British women’s team.

“We are powered by the people,” McNeill said at the time. “Of course, we are a little disappointed at not having achieved a higher placing in the final, but without the amazing response to our appeal we would not have got here in the first place. So we have a lot to be grateful for. Everyone was so generous. It was quite overwhelming really. I hope we have done enough here to get official funding without having to go to the people again.”

Among those whose altruism helped get the GB women bobsledders back on track was travel money comparison site “When I read the team had lost their funding, the first thing that struck me was the injustice of it, that all the money was going to the three men’s teams and the women were getting nothing,” said financial director Peter Rudin-Burgess.


“The team needed the funding to complete the Bobsleigh World Cup circuit and be in with a chance of qualifying for the Olympics. It just seemed so unfair that they had put in all that training over the years only to have their chances of competing put in jeopardy. So when we saw that the team was still short of the almost €35,000 they needed we decided to make a donation of €5,800, which helped bring the total to well over their target sum. We dealt with the team directly to ensure they received maximum benefit from the money by avoiding crowdfunder fees.

“We gave the money to help right an injustice and with no expectations of receiving anything in return. A team preparing for something as intense as the Olympics does not need any other distractions. If people who visit our site see the blog we posted and it creates a little goodwill then that will be reward enough.”

Storing up goodwill will have stored up goodwill in spades over the years through its charitable giving and sponsorship of an array of other national and local causes such as the England women’s football and rugby squads and Guide Dogs UK. In January, it struck up a deal to sponsor the Falmouth Falcons, who play quidditch, a fast-paced and rapidly growing sport adapted from a game dreamt up by Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

In return for helping with the team’s kit costs and travel expenses to away fixtures, the players will run out with the CompareHolidayMoney,com logo emblazoned on their shirts.

“The Falmouth Falcons send us regular updates on their progress and we give them space on our blog,” explained Rudin-Burgess. “That costs us nothing but it helps them promote themselves. It is good PR for both of us.”

Individuals and businesses in the UK give around €15 billion a year to charities, of which more than €2.3 billion is donated by FTSE 100 companies, primarily to the more high-profile institutions. But Britain’s thriving giving culture owes as much to the SME sector coming to the aid of worthy local causes in crisis after seeing their official funding reduced or withdrawn altogether.

Serial philanthropist Jan Burnett, who owns the Head Turners chain of beauty salons in the North of England, made charitable giving a lifestyle choice more than 15 years ago. “Like most people, I had always been happy to drop a few pence into a charity collection tin or buy a raffle ticket or two,” she said. “Then one of my employees announced she was taking part in the Great North Run half marathon in support of a community-led appeal to rescue an outreach centre that was losing much of its local authority funding.

“Of course, I was more than happy to sponsor her, but as I had done a little running in my youth I decided to take part too, and then members of my staff asked to join us and so we got a merry little team together. It turned out to be an amazing day. There was a real spirit of cameraderie among the runners and fantastic support from the crowds lining the route to cheer us on. We had great fun and raised a goodly sum as well.

“Since then we have supported numerous worthy causes, ranging from disability groups, school appeals and amateur theatre groups to hospices and the homeless. We also regularly visit local care homes to provide the residents with free makeovers. All this has created heaps of goodwill around our brand in our local communities and among my employees, who are more engaged and motivated.”

Burnett reckons she has either donated or raised almost €30,000 for worthy causes over the past decade. “In monetary terms, I cannot imagine we will ever see a return. But that is not the point…it really is all about corporate social responsibility (CSR), giving something back to our communities, especially in this time of austerity when so many charitable organisations are struggling.”

Tax incentives

So corporate philanthropy is in robust health. But for those businesses that need a bit of a nudge, most EU states offer a range of tax-based incentives to promote charity giving.

In Britain, limited companies can get tax relief when they donate to a UK, EU, Norwegian or Icelandic charity or community amateur sports club that is registered with HM Revenue & Customs. Companies can claim tax relief by deducting the value of donations from the total business profits before paying corporation tax. Qualifying gifts may comprise:

• Money
• Equipment or trading stock
• Land, property or shares in another company (shares in your own company do not qualify)
• Employees (on secondment)
• Sponsorship payments.

However, businesses cannot deduct payments that are loans to be repaid by the charity, payments made on the condition that the charity will buy property from the donor company or anyone connected with it, or payments that are a distribution of company profits (for example. dividends).

Charity sponsorship payments are treated differently to donations for tax purposes because the company gets something related to its business in return. In which case, sponsorship payments are still deducted from business profits before tax but are treated as business expenses. Payments qualify as business expenses if the charity:

• Publicly supports the donor company’s products or services
• Allows the company to use its logo in printed material
• Allows the company to sell its goods or services at their event or premises
• Provides links from their website to the donor’s site.

Consumer approval

Consumer approval provides another powerful driver of CSR. Donating up to five per cent of annual profits would give 43 per cent of consumers a more positive opinion of the company, according a study by socio-economic development charity the Greg Secker Foundation. Twenty per cent said they would use the company instead of its competitors and 17 per cent would be more likely to do so. Forty-two per cent went even further, saying charitable giving should be required by law.

Founder Greg Secker said: “UK businesses are already doing excellent work for the third sector, and the government’s tax relief incentives are certainly a step in the right direction. However, what these results show is there is public appetite for more, both morally and legally. By simply donating a small percentage of annual profits to charity, businesses are able to increase brand loyalty, positively shift perceptions, and increase their potential customer pool, all the while helping a good cause.”


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