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Community groups call for shake up of business support

Businesses looking to support local charities and community groups must see past simple cash donations or unskilled volunteering to forge relationships which create a “Partnership of Equals”, according to new research.


Carillion, the construction, infrastructure and services company, commissioned the research to investigate the changing nature of the relationship between businesses and communities.


Four out of five charity or community groups (81%) believe that skills-based volunteering, where expertise such as business or HR planning is utilised, would benefit their organisation.


Community respondents listed the top priorities for business contribution as the provision of training/job opportunities for disadvantaged people and operational support such as help writing business plans - alongside traditional financial donations.


The research showed that businesses which invest in communities can achieve real cultural and commercial gains. Three quarters of all respondents (75%) believe that positive community engagement, such as partnering on local projects, makes a business more successful.


A further nine-in-ten (91%) stated that closer community and charitable ties directly benefits business employees, through the development of new skills and experiences.


In the ‘Partnership of Equals’ both businesses and communities gain. The research identified that the positive benefits businesses can achieve through community engagement included greater job satisfaction, morale and productivity amongst employees, and directly helping to recruit and retain the most talented people.


However, the report warned that there is a gap between business and communities with neither group knowing how best to join forces and reap the rewards of collaboration. More than half (55%) of businesses agreed there is a mismatch between what they offer charity or community groups and what they actually need, while 61% of charities or community groups agreed that they don’t understand how businesses can best help them. For example, less than half of businesses polled had supported communities through skills-based volunteering.


Richard Howson, chief executive at Carillion plc, said, “We are in the business of community, operating with the firm belief that profitable businesses have a powerful opportunity and responsibility to add value to the economy and wider society.


“A business shouldn’t be asking itself ‘how much does it cost to be sustainable or contribute to society’, they should understand that they can’t afford not to. ‘Business for good’ is no longer an intangible concept but something that is now expected, led by the millennial generation’s demand for greater social awareness across all businesses and brands. And business leaders must respond through their approach to community engagement.


“Although traditional contributions, such as local fundraisers and casual volunteering, are still worthwhile, businesses must look beyond this to provide a more professional level of support.”



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