Cash-strapped business giving less to charity

Charity donations from businesses may fall by almost £500m this year as a result of the downturn.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

According to a YouGovStone survey of 450 senior business leaders in the UK, corporate giving is expected to drop by 34% over the next 12 months. That's proof that recessions really don't have a conscience - the altruists are taking a hit to their pockets like so many others.

British business donates an estimated £1.4bn a year to good causes, but with traditional big givers like the financial services industry now relying on hand-outs themselves, that total is on the wane. Just look at a few of the country's principal donors in years past: RBS and HBOS gave £57m and £55m to charity in 2007; Lehman Brothers donated $39m (£28m).

The research, commissioned by the Social Investment Consultancy, found that 83% of bosses believe that reducing corporate giving was ‘a necessity' in times like these. Indeed, one can't expect businesses to go around giving loads of money to 'chaaaaridy' when they're uncertain about their own financial health, or at least having to do a lot of explaining to shareholders. And yet the need to help others hasn't gone down - it may, in fact, have gone up. Time, then, to rethink where the money comes from.

Jake Hayman, the chief executive of the Social Investment Consultancy, said the changes would either ‘expose corporations as fair-weather donors,' or be a chance to develop ‘more innovative ways of supporting communities'. These alternatives could include helping staff volunteering, offering the use of their function rooms for events, or donating products and services rather than money.

But the fall in corporate donations isn't the only problem facing the third sector. Investments are declining in value, the cost of fundraising is going up, and the average man on the street may now be thinking twice about the £10 direct debit he has set up. In January, Christian Aid described the situation as ‘an Icelandic banking crisis for aid organisations', with the weakened pound buying up to 30% less in some aid-receiving nations than it would have a year ago. A bleak picture indeed. Still, charities are going to have to work that bit harder to attract their share of consumer spending, just like everybody else.

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