International Day of Charity: How can companies give back?
by Nicole Malick
The UN International Day of Charity was established to raise awareness and to encourage all echelons of society – individuals, communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or companies – to help others through volunteering and charity. It is held yearly on 5 September, a highly appropriate date that commemorates the anniversary of the death of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, the world-renowned nun and missionary who dedicated her life to helping the poor.
Our parent company NRS International has long-recognised the importance of charity and in supporting those less fortunate in the local communities in which it operates. Our family-run charity, the Bilqees Sarwar Foundation (BSF), works tirelessly to improve education and healthcare in Pakistan and abroad.
Such private sector charitable roles, as embodied by BSF, have increasingly come into focus with the launch of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While the new 2030 Agenda fully recognises the potential of the private sector, companies themselves need to think strategically about the ways that they give to charity, so that that the desired global change can be achieved.
What is corporate philanthropy?
Firstly, it is important to understand the terminology. Corporate philanthropy is often equated with corporate social responsibility (CSR). While CSR can incorporate charitable activities, its remit is much wider and includes many diverse issues that affect the environment, consumers, human and labour rights, supply chains and transparency. Corporate charity is more limited in scope and primarily refers to financial and in-kind donations made to communities, NGOs, or humanitarian causes.
While corporate philanthropy is performed without the expectation of direct financial gain, there are tremendous rewards for companies that give. In the Middle East, the private sector often sets up charitable campaigns around the holy month of Ramadan. Companies engage employees through match-donations or volunteering activities, and which often boost employee morale and simultaneously help the community. Moreover, while some companies may not directly publicise their charitable work, their reputation still improves. Bill Gates is no longer synonymous with computers but instead with his charitable work creating a polio and malaria free world.
How should companies give?
- Find a cause close to your heart, which means something to you and your stakeholders. There are many domestic and international charities that are doing great work.
- Charity begins at home. Find ways to engage staff and their families. It’s a great way to build team spirit and company morale.
- Obey the law. Be sure to follow the guidelines for giving.
- Think long-term. While one-off charity campaigns still do good work, consider investing for longer periods of time.
- Be creative. Charity does not mean only giving money. Find creative ways to help others. For example, staff can donate time to use their technical expertise.
- Don’t make it a PR stunt. While everyone loves a good hashtag, think about ways your organisation can make a difference.
- Think global but act local. There are wonderful international platforms that can help you think strategically about your local giving. Check out Global Business Coalition for Education, Impact 2030, Global Giving, and UN Global Compact.
The true spirit of charity
This blog opened with mentioning Mother Theresa, and it is fitting to end with one of her best-known quotes. Summing up the true spirit of charity, she once said: ‘Do things for people, not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.’ If we bear this in mind, whether for our individual or corporate philanthropy, we can continue together to make the world the world a better place.