As Accountants we quite often get asked what are the taxable benefits of having a corporate charity. However, it’s not a question that has a truly tax saving answer. If a company makes a donation directly to the charity then the company can claim tax relief on this donation. This will mean that gift aid cannot be claimed by the charity.
So what are the benefits to us in supporting a charity and what could be the benefits to you?
First a bit of background history to what we do… We started having a charity of the year several years ago but have moved recently moved to supporting a charity for a two-year period. We found that there was an initial period of getting to know each other and after 12 months we had just built some momentum and had really got to know the people involved. It didn’t seem to make sense to stop at that 12 month point and start again. Two years allows us to develop a proper relationship with each charity because we don’t want this to be a cold fund-raising exercise, we want to work with a charity and make each two year period really count.
Firstly there are 57 of us here and we all have the chance to nominate a charity in the spring before we make our selection. This is important to us as we need everyone on board. We have an initial vote to leave us with three and then the individuals who put forward these charities make a presentation at a staff meeting, after which there is a second vote to select the winner. The purpose from the outset is to engage everyone in the process so everyone feels part of it rather than me dictating what we are going to do.
After selection everything passes to our marketing team, Fiona and Jo, and they go to work with the charity arranging events for us all to support. This is where they get creative and where help is needed from the charity. It’s important not to rule anything out, within reason, especially when it comes from one of our own team. We have done race nights, quizzes, dress down days, dressing up days, cake sales, raffles, sponsored walks, the list goes on. Rumour has it there has even been a swear box!
The impact on well-being
Whatever it is, it’s these events that produce the real benefits. Statistics tell us that accountancy is the second most stressful occupation behind the medical profession. Whatever line of business you are in the proportion of time spent at work represents a huge part of our weekly time, so anything we can do here to reduce the stress levels and make our working lives more enjoyable has to be a good thing for all. The chance to do something different at work, out of the normal routine, and to have a bit of fun at the same time does wonders for all. Coming in to work on 31 October to see an office full of Halloween costumes does wonders for your mood, even after passing the grim reaper on the stairs.
Increased engagement levels
These events put all of us here on a level, we might all make fools of ourselves or join in making and eating cake. That time is so precious, we learn a little more about each other, likes, dislikes, hobbies and families. The working environment improves for all and everyone becomes more engaged – inclined to go that extra mile to help out with a client, or with something for the business as a whole, or become more than a work colleague and be that person to talk to when needed.
But to make it all work everyone has to feel involved and to have the opportunity to join in if they want to. It won’t work if people are told what to do, that precious engagement will not occur and may even have the opposite effect.
Where we have been able to get clients involved we have also done so. Engagement doesn’t end with the team here, if we can get clients working with us too then that not only helps boost funds raised but also helps strengthen our client relationships.
Being part of your local community
Businesses should also not lose sight of their place in the community. We all consume resources, clog up the roads with our people, generate waste. Putting something back should be important and if you can work with a local Gloucestershire charity so much the better.
There is another benefit in that done the right way businesses can get a great deal of coverage through the press for their fundraising efforts. I stress it has to be done the right way, it has to promote the charity as well as the business and must not be used to say look how good we are. Coverage can show the human side of a business, important for us as accountants aren’t always thought of as having ‘personalities’, and it can help win clients perhaps, but it can also open a window into life inside the business. These days almost everyone I speak to has difficulty with recruitment and that little glimpse into life inside the business can make a difference if people are thinking of applying for a position whether it be here as a trainee here or a more senior position or for a role in your businesses.
Working with your chosen charity
Throughout though, this does have to be a two-way thing. To be really successful it does need the charity to get involved and we have been really lucky to have worked with the Pied Piper Appeal. We had an excellent relationship with Julie and Cathryn and the team and with their help we raised enough money to give Belmont School a new playground. Very kindly they nominated us for the Local Business Charity Award which we were delighted to win and gathering everyone together the morning after and letting them know what their efforts meant was great for all. The looks of satisfaction on everyone’s faces for a job well done was something not to be missed. We all wish the Pied Piper Appeal well for the future. Our relationship with SCOO-B-DOO kicked off in July and has started off in the same vein and we are all looking forward to working with them for the rest of our time together. A month or so ago we did a sponsored walk from here to the Gloucestershire Royal raising a good sum of money, rewarded with cake. I realise I have mentioned cake several times which isn’t the reason we do things, so I am delighted our efforts are continuing in the same way. SCOO-B-DOO for those that don’t know, supports the Neonatal Unit at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in caring for sick and premature babies from Gloucestershire and beyond. With three members of our team having direct experience with the charity, there were some very touching stories during the selection process.
So to the businesses who are thinking of supporting a local charity I would say do it, your team will benefit, your business will benefit from better engagement and you will all be doing something good. And throwing yourselves into it, half-hearted doesn’t work for anyone. To the charities go and talk to your local businesses, stress the benefits, get them to speak to us if you want to, and if you get support, work with that business to make it successful. It took us some time to realise the benefits. If your supporting business hasn’t done this before they will need a guiding hand. Make it win win for everyone!