Another thought provoking blog post from Rachel Mallet at Agenda, our long term business partner discusses the benefits of ‘giving back’

How responsible are you?
With great power comes great responsibility.
Sorry for getting all ‘Spiderman’ on you – and don’t worry, this article isn’t about donning a blue suit and saving the world. Well, maybe in your own small way…
In our businesses as well as our lives generally, we’re all busy chasing the next thing. At work, we’re trying to win new customers, market our businesses effectively, ensure internal operations are running smoothly and manage and maintain a productive workforce. In amongst all of this, it can seem like there are simply not enough hours in the day.
But by focusing so internally, you could be missing a trick externally. When was the last time you looked at how your business appeared from an external perspective? How do your clients and contemporaries view you?
Closer to home, how do your colleagues view you? Are you fulfilled in your work or does it feel like there’s something missing?
One way in which you can work to develop a more ‘rounded’ perception of yourself and your business, whilst also benefiting others, is to engage with the third sector. In these times of scarce financial resources for charities, making time to ‘give back’ has never been more important.
Here are three things to consider in relation to being ‘corporately and socially responsible’ in your business.
Can you give your time or expertise?
Although we tend to associate supporting a charity with giving money, this isn’t the only thing charities are on the lookout for. They are often desperately in need of people’s time – either in the everyday running of their work or when they’re holding fundraising events.
Something else that charities need is expertise. If you specialise in a particular area in your day job, perhaps you could offer these services to a charity on a pro bono basis? Many people that ‘donate’ in this way find the experience extremely rewarding; not just because of the warm, fuzzy feeling of giving back; but via the friends and contacts they make on the way.
Make the most of your contacts!
As above, supporting a charitable cause doesn’t just mean dishing out money from your business’ bank account. There are many ways in which you can use your position as an established business to help and support those in less fortunate positions. Perhaps you have a loyal following of clients that would be willing to show support to a cause you were involved with. Even if you don’t want to ask them to donate monetarily, would those clients be willing to donate something else – perhaps their time or else the products/services they supply? One thing is for sure, you don’t know if you don’t ask! I have always been so pleasantly surprised just how happy people are to help when asked to show their support to an event or cause I’ve been involved in. So swallow your pride and ask!
Work on that profile!
Whilst it would be foolish (not to mention shallow) to support an event or a cause purely for promotional purposes, it shouldn’t be forgotten that by lending support to a charity, you are simultaneously adding to the perception of your organisation. People generally prefer to engage with businesses that have a story to tell and a well-rounded ethos. There’s also a growing audience of people out there making choices about who they do business with based on their ethical beliefs.
Support a cause you’re passionate about
Your business may have a ‘corporate social responsibility’ policy in place, but are you fully committed to it? Having a CSR policy shouldn’t just be a box ticking exercise. In fact, if it is, you may find that it actually has the reverse to the intended effect; people aren’t daft and can tell the difference between a genuine passion and something you are simply paying ‘lip service’ to.
You may choose to work with a charity based on your own personal experiences. Alternatively, it can be a nice idea to get your staff involved in choosing a charity – perhaps if a member of the team has been affected by a certain issue in their personal life – providing a real impetus and motivation for everyone to get together and show their support.

Many of my clients and contacts will be well aware of the work I do with Cancer Help in Preston. Cancer is a cause I am extremely passionate about and as Treasurer of the charity, I enjoy and thrive on using my expertise to be able to ‘give back’. Find out more about the charity and their work here.

Words by Rachel Mallett of Agendahttp://www.preparetoplan.co.uk/

Image by Jenny Heyworth and Catherine Connor of White Feather and co. http://whitefeatherand.co/ Shot on Aspire’s recent Italian Retreat course

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