It’s that time of year again… comfy sofa, glass of wine in hand, fire on, the family sat around wide eyed ready for the evening’s entertainment, wondering if this year ‘they’ will beat the target of last year, watching as people do a host of ridiculous stunts to try and raise just that little bit more for a worthwhile cause, giggles, smiles and then… it gets to 9pm and you find yourself sat, cheque book in one hand, phone in the other explaining to the family that presents are off this Christmas because we all have more than enough and should recognise the fact, our problems are nothing like those of others and for one year we can all just go without – it will do us some good. We then fall collectively (the women mostly) into a sniffling heap, promising the world to be a better person, to love our family more and to appreciate our children and step children even when they do all the things that make our blood boil every morning – yes folks, it’s Children In Need time!
I have to admit that despite my often hard exterior, I am one of those people. I will be sat sniffling in the corner, explaining to my long suffering husband that it’s just not fair and can’t we do a bit more and just live in a smaller house and do without wine – while he tops up my glass.
We both give to charities that are close to us on a regular basis (me Cancer Research UK and my hubby Barnardos) and we aren’t averse to helping out and volunteering when needed, in fact far from it, so I don’t harbour any guilt towards our philanthropic efforts – geez I even gave more than the usual £1 for a poppy this year, deciding that actually folding money would probably do more good.
However I often wonder, like most people, where the money really goes. Does it actually get to the people who matter? After working for a charity I completely understand the need to run these organisations like a business, otherwise they just don’t work, but it would be good to know how much of the donated pound we give, gets to those who matter.
More importantly I have found myself wondering more and more if there are other ways that people can do their bit without having to dig deep – especially when during difficult times every penny counts. Just because people don’t have a huge disposable income it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to help and that they have nothing to offer.
I notice that recent reports on the news have announced that there has been an increase in the number of local organisations offering food parcels to those who need them most, which I think is a great idea. If those who are able can add an item or two to the weekly grocery shop to donate to a food bank then we know that we are doing our bit. It may not change the world but it will give someone a meal for the evening. What I like all the more is that you know that your donation will help someone locally.
I do think that supermarkets are missing a trick though. Why hasn’t one of the top four created a charity or worked with an existing organisation to simply ask that if people want to donate a tin or a jar of something that they pass it to the customer service counter. Would this be so difficult to administer? It seems like a wasted opportunity. Part of the reason people won’t donate to a food bank is that they won’t have the time to visit, so make it easier for them. You are also communicating with those who can donate at the point of purchase, what could be better?
Supermarkets may ask what they will get out of it but let’s be honest, they could do nothing and have a fantastic PR story that would support the food bank, raise the profile of the retailer and ensure that someone who needs it most is fed and watered. All good.
And so, now on to business.
Yes, my thoughts about charitable giving didn’t stop at individual giving but also at business. As a member of the Yorkshire Mafia, a local networking group with more than 12,000 approved members, I was aware of a concept called Skill Will. At first I wasn’t so sure what it was all about but the idea is really simple; rather than giving money you give time.
As a small business there are lots of things that we would like to do for charity but the problem is who do you give to, where will your pound make most difference and how can you decide just how much is enough? Also, unlike large corporate businesses we don’t have the big budgets to donate but what we do have is our skill.
Skill Will asks that businesses and charities come together to spend time providing advice and guidance to those who can benefit from it. Going back to my earlier point, charities have better things to do with their budgets than pay for PR, marketing, finance and legal costs, so if there are organisations who can offer these services for free everyone is happy.
As a business this idea works perfectly for us. We give our time out of hours, so that our commitment doesn’t impact on clients, and away we go. Not only can we offer professional advice but we can know that we are doing something that will add value and help.
So in the spirit of charitable giving and knowing that for today at least charity is at the forefront of people’s minds, can I please ask that all those businesses who feel that they have a skill to offer speak to the Yorkshire Mafia about how they can help? It would be fantastic if we could use this opportunity to make Yorkshire a shining example of how working together can make a genuine and very real difference.
Ok, so that’s my thoughts. Now for one final word and this time it’s advice, get your hankies at the ready folks, Pudsey the bear may look cuddly but he’s going to make you cry!