British people and businesses have contributed more than £800 million to charity since the start of lockdown, as the third sector has come under enormous strain due to the exceptional circumstances driven by coronavirus.
Supporting the community is a key part of life at BGL. It’s at the heart of our culture, and for a very good reason. Even before coronavirus, we were increasingly seeing people wanting to work for a company that has values and ethics aligned with their own. It’s one of the first questions we get asked at graduate recruitment fairs and it’s a clear driver of colleague engagement. It’s also equally important to our partners and customers who want to do business with a company that has a clear social purpose and is rooted in its communities.
Working closely with charities throughout my career, I’ve come to see it’s much more than a transaction; relationships are formed, networks are created which in turn enable greater collaboration. While donations are undoubtedly an important part of charitable support, businesses today now recognise far more is needed to create lasting change than an annual cheque presentation.
Over many years, BGL has forged strong relationships with its charity partners and our colleagues have worked exceptionally hard to volunteer and fundraise. However, in 2018 we moved to a true partnership model for our charity relationships.
Partnering with a charity allows an even deeper understanding of its needs, and ultimately creates a bigger social impact by working collectively towards a shared, and often more complex, objective.
Currently, BGL has six charity partners with whom the business works closely. Chosen by our colleagues across the UK and France, partners include national charities like Sue Ryder and the Sick Children’s Trust, as well as smaller community causes staffed entirely by volunteers.
In just two years, together, we have:
Funded accommodation for parents who need to stay close to their child’s hospital bed
Granted the wishes for people living with cancer and their families
Built three schools and a clinic in Zambia – and one more is under construction
Paid for a clinical educator at our local Sue Ryder hospice
Funded a bereavement suite for parents experiencing the loss of a baby to be built at North Durham University Hospital
It’s because of these close relationships we were able to see early on the impact that coronavirus was having on the charities we work with and, in conjunction with our shareholders, we were able to enhance our existing CSR programme to provide an extra £1.5 million in vital funding.
To some, that financial support has brought them back from the brink of collapse and means they can continue to provide essential services.
Not every situation, however, warrants a financial response. It could be something as simple as giving up your people’s time to volunteer - that’s why all colleagues at BGL are encouraged to spend at least one day a year volunteering in their community.
Every business is unique so, to have maximum impact, consider the skills you can offer which a charity might not otherwise have access to. For instance, as a digital financial services company, we have many experts across our business highly-skilled in using data to understand customer risk profiles and insurance needs. Our Data Team at comparethemarket.com spent a day with four charities, advising them about their data use and how they could extract the biggest amount of value from this insight.
Crucially, it’s about listening and responding to the charities and working with them to identify what they need. Businesses should see their role as being the wind behind the sails – deploying resources and skills to where their charity partner needs them, at the right time.
I’m often asked how best to measure the impact of your interventions - and it’s not about how many volunteering hours you have logged or the amount of money pledged. The best way, in my view, is to try to quantify the human impact of your activity. It’s not always easy but being able to see how your actions have had a positive effect on the charity’s users makes it all worthwhile.
Our colleagues regularly tell us how rewarding they find our charitable initiatives - giving them a sense of personal fulfilment, cultivating pride in individual and team achievements, or an opportunity to enhance their skills and confidence. Our approach to CSR has always been about empowering our colleagues to make a difference, be that giving them the time to volunteer, supporting their fundraising by match funding or making it easier for them to donate.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus, our colleagues have been doing whatever they can to help others, volunteering in a whole host of settings. As a business, we have been supporting them to make a personal difference, connecting them with volunteering opportunities, and bolstering our existing payroll giving scheme – offering to maximise our colleagues’ donations to charity by matching any donation up to £50 per month.
It’s clear that as well as the direct impact on the nation’s health, this is also throwing up a whole host of social issues – food poverty, domestic violence, unemployment and many more. Now, as many charities’ crucial services face bankruptcy, it’s time to act.
While financial support is clearly needed right now, skill-based volunteering and the sharing of resources can have a huge impact as charities look to secure their long-term future.
I’m committed to continuing our progress and doing our bit to bring businesses and communities closer together.