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The Big Charity Cheque is Dead: 7 Modern Ways for Businesses to Donate

We wrote last week about some of the lesser known benefits of corporate giving and entering into charitable partnerships.


In the past, corporate giving might have consisted of large donations – funds raised by employees or a share of company profits – presented to the representative of a chosen charity in the form of a comically large cheque.

While the big cheque made for a great photo opportunity for the CEO (and presumably felt to the charity’s representative like the closing moments of a daytime TV gameshow), this kind of charitable giving feels, in the modern day, slightly hollow.

It’s common knowledge that large charity donations confer large tax breaks, and the discerning public is rightly sceptical of the engineered, theatrically-staged photo opportunity – oftentimes serving as a mutton dressing, behind which lurks a corporate wolf.

In today’s modern world, corporate charitable giving should make a clear, demonstrable difference. Here are just 7 ways that modern businesses can donate – without a comically large chequebook in sight.

1. Skills and Experience

If your business employees a particularly skilled workforce, allowing them to donate their skills and expertise to charitable causes or local non-profits can often provide more benefits than simply donating funds (which may then be spent on the same, expensive services).

Examples include Microsoft and Google, where employees are encouraged to donate their time and expertise to local and international causes, and Boots, where pharmacy staff provide advice and makeovers, in partnership with Macmillan, to people living with cancer.

2. Premises and/or Location

If your business owns a piece of land or a large premises that isn’t always in use for commercial purposes, there’s a good chance that it could be used for some other productive purpose.

Examples of this might be a café or restaurant that opens as a soup kitchen on certain days, or allow their kitchen to be used to prep meals for an event elsewhere. Similarly, fundraising events may be held in offices or in the grounds of private property owned by businesses.

3. Equipment

Just as property is an asset businesses are able to donate, so is equipment. This can be highly specialised equipment unique to your industry, but it’s also the case that businesses are likely to have a lot more stuff than you or I as individuals.

As in the previous entry, a commercial kitchen may allow the use of large pots, knives and catering supplies to prep for an event. Another example might be a company providing a fleet of vehicles to transport supplies or volunteers.

4. Employee Volunteers

The biggest asset any business has is its employees. Workplace volunteering programmes are a great way to mobilise your workforce and make a huge impact. Most schemes involve offering paid time off for employees to support a fundraising event or donate their time to a charity partner.

Employee volunteering programmes have a perhaps surprising additional benefit, in that they have been shown to increase retention, with staff turnover decreasing by as much as 57%.

5. Free Services and/or Products

If your business sells a particular product or provides a service that helps those in need, and you can do so without harming your company financially, then you might consider providing products or services free of charge to a charity partner, or directly to those in need.

Examples include dry cleaners who offer to clean clothes for free after a clothes drive. One dry cleaner famously offers to dry clean suits for anyone who is unemployed prior to a job interview. On a larger scale, digital software developer Sage announced last year that its people management software would be made available for free to eligible charities.

6. Sponsorship

At first, sponsorship might seem like just another version of the big cheque. It is, superficially, another example of providing a large amount of funds to a charitable endeavour.

In some cases, this might be true, but truly valuable sponsorships of charity events or campaigns involves so much more. Most importantly, it involves throwing the weight of your own business’s marketing team behind the promotional work.

Sponsoring puts your own brand reputation on the line. It can be extremely effective and you may reap the benefits.

7. Sale-based Donations

Some businesses go further than fundraising or donating assets. They donate or use a portion of their profits for charitable causes, typically a proportion of each and every sale.

Wapikka is a business built around donations. They sell teddy bears and, for each sale, provide a  free school meal for a child in Malawi. Similarly, Stella Artois’ “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign donates a share of profits to help end the global water crisis (which disproportionately affects women). Other companies, such as Velvet, whose products use large quantities of wood product, promise to plant three trees for every one they use.

Does your business support a charity partner in an interesting or unusual way? We’d love to hear about it. Let us know in the comments.