Small business: Working with charities - Liz Gibbs

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Liz Gibbs, Chief Executive, Philanthropy New Zealand on SMEs working with charities.
Liz Gibbs, chief executive of Philanthropy NZ. Photo / Supplied
Liz Gibbs, chief executive of Philanthropy NZ. Photo / Supplied

Why should SMEs become involved with charities?

Traditionally, the role of business is to maximise return to shareholders. However, business has extensive reach and ability to influence the world, and gain the hearts, minds and loyalty of employees, shareholders, consumers and communities. Great companies build enduring institutions that are part of the fabric of society and the people whose lives they touch. SMEs make up the majority of New Zealand business. One of the largest areas of investment for many SMEs is recruiting and retaining talented staff and maximising their productivity. A strong differentiator for SMEs can be smart engagement with charities, to deepen employee and customer engagement and loyalty which will positively impact their bottom line.

What can it do for their businesses?

Leverages the reputation and brand of the business by aligning with a relevant charity that has shared values. Westpac Rescue Helicopter's reinforces Westpac as a trusted brand.
Engages your customers with authenticity.

Plunket's Pick Me Help Plunket campaign uses Plunket's brand on products to enhance sales of selected products with a percentage of the purchase price donated to Plunket.

Improve staff engagement and retention. A supermarket chain in the UK selected five charities that had the closest fit with their values, then asked staff to vote to select the one charity the company would support. Staff retention improved and staff engagement with the charity partner was high as the organisation's values and work resonated with the staff.
Alignment with a charity partner can promote and differentiate your products and services from those of your competitors. Unicef's Change for Good programme with Qantas is an example for a large corporate.

How should small businesses choose the right charity to work with?
It is important to develop partnerships with shared values and a close strategic fit. New Zealand has over 24,000 registered charities so this is no mean feat. However, there are organisations that can help. Philanthropy New Zealand has a broad range of contacts and can assist in connecting organisations.

Our website, Thoughtful Giving, provides information for businesses on corporate philanthropy. Philanthropy New Zealand is currently considering extending our advisory services in this area to enable thoughtful generosity.
Sustainable Business Council and Funding Information Services also offer information for businesses to assist with this process. The Department of Internal Affairs Charities division has useful resources too at

How can SMEs make sure the charity work aligns with their business values?
Firstly, businesses need to have clarity on what their objective is in engaging with charities, including their drivers, motivation and the level of resources they wish to commit. Following that, select a shortlist of charities which fit in terms of your businesses objectives and shared values and vision. At that stage, meet with the shortlist of charities and have an open and robust discussion on your objectives and identify if there is common interest and opportunity.

Do charities want more than a business writing out a cheque once a year?
Yes. Issues that philanthropists and charities are tackling are complex, for instance in New Zealand, one in five children live in relative poverty and 30,000 children truant from school daily. Clearly, a healthy, educated population creates a skilled workforce, which is essential to business success. So it makes sense for business to engage with charities for improved social outcomes.

Good corporate philanthropy builds the capability of the charity or social enterprise for the long term, rather than a band-aid approach for short term fix ups. Westpac in Australia provide organisational mentoring to charities, using the expertise of their staff to increase the capability and capacity of the charities they partner with. This is a win-win, as it expands the experience of Westpac's staff, as well as building more robust charities.

- NZ Herald

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