It’s All for a Good Cause

“We are the makers of our own state and individuals who realise the fact need not, ought not, wait for collective action”. Nelson Mandela.

I believe that the most effective and meaningful giving becomes possible when you stop and think through what your approach to giving is and why, and have a proper strategy in place. This is something I have personally and professionally put some time and effort into.  

I was walking to a meeting in London recently and met a chugger.  This was on a busy street and she had two or three “partners” prowling and stopping workers, shoppers and unsuspecting tourists. They were collecting signatures for regular donations to a world renowned foreign aid organisation.  What I said to her when she had finished her initial speech was, in a self managed and appropriate way: “I support specific charities and community organisations and have worked out why I do this and which ones I am prepared to support and yours is not one of them.”

My chugger continued with her “script” apace getting up close and quite passionate, not really paying attention to my response, fixed grin in place.  I stopped her and said “I do not agree that you should be begging on the street in this way and you are not giving the charity a good image”.  Without pausing to take in my feedback she said “That’s awesome, have a great day!” and walked away.

What I like about Mandela’s statement is that he points to individual responsibility.  This applies to giving to our communities, indeed society, if we want it to be a better place for everyone.  Giving to TV telethons seems to bring in more money each year and suggests social responsibility in the UK is alive and well and that the tradition of giving to charity continues.

Conversely perhaps, newspapers have been reporting that over half of Britons polled didn’t donate after the ice bucket challenge.  A third did not know what the challenge was in aid of and a third admitted they did it to gain attention on social media.

Social responsibility is an accepted practice in business as well as individually.  The traditional “corporate” pre-fix to this is not one I ever use, as many business owners and individual freelancers I know are committed to it. Gone are the days too when this meant giving up a day to paint a youth club, take old folk out for the day, clear a community garden.

Being a socially responsible person or business is about really doing something that is connected to society, your values and connecting the impact your business has on them.  Yes, deliver profitable growth, but at the same time do "the right thing“ for society.  You create value through the development of innovative solutions to environmental, social and governance challenges that face your business – not just your bottom line.

I have spent considerable time and thought about my social responsibility as a human being and as a business owner and purposely give my time to youth projects, have in the past been a trustee, and I am mindful of my environmental practices.  In more recent times I have visited a third world country and spent time there volunteering my skills.

I strive for lasting business success while acting with honesty and integrity.

This is the first line of my responsible business statement.  It shows that values are important when thinking about what ones actions are going to be.  And the point is, it is thought out and planned and it connects to my purpose as a business as well as a person.

So I tend to cringe when people just seem to throw money at those who to my mind are “begging” on the street and particularly when it is justified as being a good cause.  That puts all the responsibility and thinking back on to the charity and requires no thought from the individual giver. 

The challenge should be for everyone to really take the time to think about what their values and skills are and how they can be put to best use.  Then go out and find an organisation, locally if possible, and make them an offer.

And, really important, if you have worked out why and who you are giving to, then you can give a reasoned response to a chugger and not feel guilty or irritated.

Back to Nelson Mandela’s words. He makes the point that we are all responsible for getting on and DOING something. At a surface level I guess if you want to throw some money in a tin or sign up with a chugger then by all means.  But if you actually associate meaning – your values - with giving then isn’t it better to think through why you want to give and for whom do you want the benefit. We are indeed the makers of our state and so why not have an effective approach that doesn’t rely on being stopped in the street.