Charity days

Canopius is in the National Newspaper today:)

staff training?

staff training? (picture from Royal Gazette, Bermuda)

My Bermuda adventure is in part thanks to Canopius, since while I may be having what looks like a prolonged holiday my husband has to work. ( I refuse to discuss the perhaps traditional role-split we have fallen into, but will state I am more than happy to iron some shirts etc. ) You might have read a comment about them in the coffee post – Nathaniel Canopius brewed the first cup of coffee in England in 1637.  June 13th was the second company global community day – all the offices took part in some way or another and the purpose was to support local causes; so Canopius Bermuda found themselves cleaning windows at an elderly care home.

Nowadays many large companies will put a charity day into their corporate calendar.  The format might be that the office closes and everyone volunteers at one particular place, as did Canopius Bermuda, or it might be an in-office collection perhaps associated with casual dress or wearing specific colours. Something like this has been around for years though one British chap seems to be claiming the praise for devising “Giving Tuesday” in the US and is now lauded for bring the idea to England.  If you research the concept (I don’t really recommend this  – the last hour net-surfing has not enlightened me further) there are hundreds of web pages clamouring for your attention and ultimately your money.  I restricted my Googling to “Bermuda Charity Days” – 3,580,000 results.

How far back does it go? 

In 2500BC Hebrews had a mandatory tithe to benefit the poor. Tithing is popular within Christian churches, voluntary but expected to be around 10% of your income. In 387 BC Plato’s Academy set aside days for working to benefit others  – could this be the first instance of a ‘company’ charity day? (The original Plato Academy was more like an exclusive club than a school, men gathered together to solve problems – sounds like an office to me).

In the late nineteenth century corporate support focussed on charities that would benefit the workers directly, such as supporting the local town libraries and schools.  Not until the mid twentieth century was corporate social responsibility highlighted with several changes in US law to simplify the legality of financial donations. It is harder where the company has a responsibility to investors or shareholders as well as to the social environment within which it operates on a day to day basis.

Is it a good idea? 

I am going to risk being controversial here  – I am not convinced that it is necessarily the best way of giving to any particular charity. Before you all jump out of your seats in protest, consider this: last year a certain company closed the office and spent the day painting walls for a small charity, 10 people with variable levels of skill in home decorating armed with brushes (one of them was me and those who recall my attempts at painting my consulting room bright orange or trying out a patchwork tile effect in my bathroom ….)

Would we not have been more charitable to donate one day of combined office salary to a local skilled painter and decorator who would have at least left a professional finish?

Yes, yes, I can hear your defence – team building – but isn’t a day of golf or geocaching more cohesive?  I agree it is an individual choice and I do admire the people who throw themselves into such things and if I hadn’t been off-island on the day I would certainly have been with the Canopius team to clean windows, suppressing my polemical thoughts.

Corporate giving is just one aspect of corporate social responsibility, and would in my opinion be most effective if it is aligned with the overall company strategy.  One obvious way to do this would be to link the nature of the charitable work with the nature of the company, though a computer company giving computers to charity doesn’t somehow seem so worthy.  Lloyds recently held an abseiling event on their iconic building to raise money for disaster relief, that seems well aligned. Canopius head office is in the Lloyds building, were any of their staff brave enough to join the abseiling?

Benefits

Philanthropic companies are well respected  – Business Insider produces a top ten each year, though they rank on amount given rather than percentage of profit.  Credibility and authenticity are enhanced by a perception of generosity.

But then there is a tax benefit but only if they give actual money it seems – both US and UK enable companies to reduce tax payable on charitable donations, as can individuals.  I cannot find whether donation of a day’s work can be tax beneficial to a company, though the Americans can claim expenses of transport to the charity and any uniform required  (excluding t shirts with company logo).

Bermuda has many charities – 361 as of June 2014. Choosing a charity to support is always going to be an individual decision, and the choices aren’t always predictable – I will laugh out loud at funny cat pictures but probably won’t donate to cat charities. Companies with many employees are not going to reach a consensus in a short space of time.  Employee volunteer programs might answer that dilemma: allow staff paid hours on a regular basis to do charity work in company time, for example spending an hour a week listening to children read at a local school, though maybe an insurance company should spend time helping with Maths instead!

Links:

Royal Gazette

Centre on Philanthropy

HMRC Corporate Charitable Donations in UK

Charitable Giving in US

Canopius

Charities in Bermuda

 

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