Charity often operates under the surface of society, helping to run some of its most important functions – but despite their best efforts, charities often face significant hurdles and challenges in their philanthropic mission. Here, we explore why charity is so important to life in Britain today, and how businesses can play their part in supporting it.
Charity in British life
From its earliest incarnation as religious groups set up to offer comfort and assistance to the poor, charity has always been at the centre of British life. The most extraordinary work is done by well known and world leading names such as Barnardo’s, Oxfam and the internationally renowned British Red Cross. In fact charities are so central to the very makeup of UK society that increasingly they are being contracted by the government to provide valuable public services on behalf of the state. Consider the social housing delivered by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, or the life-saving search and rescue efforts of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. If you are unfortunate enough to require an ambulance in the near future, it may well be a charity, such as St John’s Ambulance, who respond.
The challenges faced by charities
Despite being an integral part of life in Britain, charities are struggling. Even the charitable organisations most favoured, and officially backed by the state, need significantly more support if they are to continue carrying out their services. Many are struggling financially, due to a lethal combination of austerity, budget cuts and shortfalls in funding. According to a report by New Philanthropy Capital, nearly two-thirds of charities in the UK have been forced to use money from public donations to carry out the public services they’ve been contracted to provide.
The issue of underfunded charities is a serious one, encompassing more than a simple inability to carry out their functions. Without the necessary funds and support, businesses are increasingly forced to pay too much consideration to market concerns – often having to make concessions on their work in order to stop themselves from going under. Turning to government for assistance does not always offer a solution either, as their important work is diluted and modified to satisfy partisan concerns.
What can businesses do to help?
The part that businesses can play in helping Britain’s charities extends far beyond financial support. Businesses have access to the sort of infrastructure, resources and expertise that can elude even the biggest names in the charity sector – and it is these areas that business can bring to the table, granting charity access and helping them to take their work to the next level.
However, the relationship between business and charity should not be a question of one-sided reliance. Business should not dictate the direction of a charity’s work in exchange for access to vital funds and resources. Instead, businesses should realise the benefits that charities can provide for them – namely the opportunity to form lasting partnerships in which support is met with advice and guidance on ensuring business practices are kept charitable and ethical.
For our own founder Tej Kohli, charity and business are not separate concerns, but inseparable disciplines that can each elevate the other. Through his various ventures, including his work with the Tej Kohli Foundation, he has been dedicated to using the lessons he has learned from a lifetime of business success to charitable ends – creating a blueprint for future ethical businesses and entrepreneurs to follow.