Does Your Company’s Holiday Charity Turn Sour In The Mouth?

Dec 23, 2016 1 Min Read


Seeking integrity in our corporate giving

I like that we give at Christmas, although it’s only a recent development. But it feels fraudulent; I cringe when the e-mail goes out “announcing” our gift.

The company doesn’t particularly care for the employees or the people we engage with daily. If I was in need they wouldn’t help.

So, although I think we should do it, it actually makes me feel less valued and, I hate to admit it, a bit cross. I know it shouldn’t, but it does.

All giving, however small, is worthwhile. At this time of year, corporations up and down the country are kindly putting their hands in their pockets to help those in need through their respective corporate social responsibility programmes.

That should be applauded.

But how many people would relate to the sentiment I quoted above; where a cheque becomes a de facto whitewashing exercise for a culture or leadership structure lacking consideration or compassion?

When those holding the purse strings illustrate they do, after all, have the budget, time and capacity to be generous, it inevitably prompts the question: “What are their reasons for doing so, and would they extend the same level of care towards me?”

If the answer to that is “mostly for appearances and, no, they probably wouldn’t” then you potentially have a situation where your donation has the unfortunate fate of being both a gift and a toxin.

The damage can even extend beyond your employees. I know of a businessman whose public and generous gesture didn’t go down well with the host of small suppliers he’d been asking for mercy and keeping at bay whilst he attempted to rescue his business. They had families to care for too; that was the end of him.

Although an extreme example, the message is in there: people want integrity. They want acts of kindness to be genuinely motivated and aligned with the giver’s corporate character.

And seeing straight through anything to the contrary, they’ll not only struggle to feel loyal but also miss out on the fullness of enjoyment that a giving process should bring.

As an exercise, ask yourself these questions; “if we discounted everything we gave to registered charities this year, what remains to demonstrate we’re a considerate, compassionate business?”

What stories can we collate? Where have we intervened? Who have we sacrificed for? Where have we gone the extra mile? Who is on our radar for next year? Who am I investing time in?

At any given time, someone, somewhere in your ranks or in your chain of relationships is in need – perhaps desperately so.

Don’t be fooled by size – the largest of organisations can be the loneliest: so much noise, so little listening.

If you recognise a problem, use your Christmas giving as a launch-pad.

See it as the start of your most compassionate year yet, not the end of a year of misalignment.

Because if you do, next year your giving will not be a toxin, but a joyous expression of who you are as a business. That is something your people will want to get behind.

John is the founder of UK BCorp, a non-profit organisation dedicated to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. To engage with him, e-mail us at

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