Two-thirds of business leaders volunteer at charities

A new survey reveals that while 80% of senior executives got involved with charities to ‘give something back’, over two-thirds (68%) said it was a desire to develop their skills in a different environment that was a key factor.

The report, Philanthropic Journeys, commissioned by the charity Pilotlight and carried out by Dr Beth Breeze from the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, includes a survey of over 225 business leaders and philanthropists across England and Scotland.

The research shows that structured skills volunteering through organisations like Pilotlight, not only changes negative attitudes about charities but also nearly doubles people’s intention to volunteer (from 32% to 63%), significantly affects people’s desire to make substantial donations worth £1,000 or more (from 29% to 41%), and leads to a three-fold increase in the willingness to serve as a charity trustee.

Dr Beth Breeze, report author and Director of the Philanthropy Centre at the University of Kent, said: “Modern life is complicated - people are busy getting educated, buying a house, having families, starting businesses and dealing with innumerable other demands on their time and money.

"Giving people the right support at crucial junctures, when they are ready to engage with good causes, can make all the difference.

"Many non-donors are not ungenerous but rather they lack confidence - either in their own ability to make a contribution, or in the ability of the charity to use that contribution wisely, and we need to address that.”

The study highlights the need for charities to better understand donors, especially as nearly half (44%) of those questioned were reluctant to get involved because they thought charities were badly managed.

Although 80% of business people said that work commitments were a major barrier to volunteering, two-thirds (66%) of executives also revealed that they weren’t aware of the opportunities to use their skills to help charities.

Sam Berwick, former chief executive of Mizuho International, added: “In a different way to writing a cheque, giving my business skills meant that I engaged with charities in a much more meaningful and rewarding manner.

"It’s not only made me more thoughtful and strategic in the way I give but I’m now a trustee for various charities, something that I wouldn’t have considered before. Through working with charities I’ve also improved my own business skills and it’s given me a totally different perspective outside of my working life.”

Pilotlight, which has been working for over ten years to bring together senior business leaders with small charities to make both more effective, believes the report reinforces the need for government and employers to make it easier for mid-life professionals to volunteer their skills and time.

The research builds on the recent Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) report, which highlighted the need for more businesses to create giving programmes.

Gillian Murray, Pilotlight’s chief executive, added: "Having worked with hundreds of senior business executives over the past ten years we have seen the incredible benefits of people using their business expertise to help coach small charities to plan and think strategically.

"Not only do these business leaders learn more about the challenges facing small charities they also improve their own skills, such as mentoring and problem solving, which they can then take back into the workplace."

The report’s recommendations include a need for politicians and policymakers to shift their focus to growing life-long givers to establish a stronger culture of philanthropy in the UK and for employers to encourage staff to undertake structured volunteering opportunities that make use of their business skills.

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