In the UK, we can spend hundreds of pounds on Christmas gifts for family and friends, but miss the need that is on our doorsteps.
Businesses are uniquely placed to practically respond to need, thanks to both their human and financial resources. A group of people in a business that get together to support a cause will almost always be able to achieve more than one person doing it all themselves.
There’s so much that we could do, but it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve found seven different areas that your business could focus on this Christmas. Have a read, and choose something to get on board with – the best place to start is something that you believe in and can support wholeheartedly as a business.
Volunteering at a winter shelter
Every city in the UK will have homeless people who will be outside in the freezing cold this winter. However, many of these cities have winter shelters that will be offering people meals and a safe place to sleep in the coldest weeks.
The problem is, winter shelters will often be volunteer-run, and they need to find people to help out every evening. This is the perfect opportunity for a group to get together and encourage each other to give up a couple of evenings to help out a local cause. Search for winter shelters in your area to see what’s around.
Helping someone to eat this Christmas
Another big problem in the UK is food poverty. There will be people in your area wondering how they’re going to put any food on the table on 25th December, let alone a turkey.
Thankfully, charities like The Trussell Trust have established food banks around the country to provide food for those without it. Why not challenge your colleagues to bring in a can each? Or run a competition for who can find the best tin of food? You can then donate everything straight to the food bank.
If you live in Oxford or London, innovative charities like the Oxford Food Bank and the Felix Project are delivering surplus from the food industry to charities that can use it. A group of you could volunteer on their vans to help them out in a busy period.
Furniture for the newly housed
Thousands of people in the UK, including asylum seekers and refugees, are put in houses which are nothing but a roof and walls. No paint, no carpet, no furniture.
That’s where charities step in. Organisations like The Arches in Nottingham and The Storehouse in Cardiff take furniture donations and give them to people who have nothing. If your office has spare chairs that you don’t use, or any employees are having a clear out, this could be a great opportunity to make a real difference to someone.
There are charities like these in several cities – get on the phone to the city council and ask them to point you in the right direction.
Reaching people in a lonely place
A hospital like Great Ormond Street will have hundreds of families in over the Christmas period with seriously ill children. It is so easy to get in touch and send them some toys and games to help them get a bit of joy from a tough season. It doesn’t cost much to help families feel some love this Christmas.
Reaching out overseas
There is need all over the world, and there are so many different ways that you can make a difference. Charities like Oxfam and the Red Cross are very well-known, and do great work all year round that your donations could support.
If you want to encourage your workplace to do something Christmassy, getting involved with something like the Shoebox Appeal is a really easy way to do so. Get people to fill up shoeboxes with fun gifts for children, and you could make a lot of kids around the world very happy.
Making the most of your professional skills
It might be that the thing you’re in the best position to give is your professional experience. Pimp My Cause is leading the way in pro bono work, giving professionals the chance to offer their skills to great causes to get them some more exposure.
Particularly if you have experience relating to marketing, strategy and PR, this is a great way to be generous with your time and skills, and affect a great cause in a real way this Christmas.
Michelle Wright is the CEO of Cause 4, an organisation dedicated to supporting charities, social enterprises and philanthropists in their development and fundraising capabilities. She offered some advice on how to find a cause to get behind, and some examples of companies that are already out there getting involved:
“A great thing about running a business is being able to give generously to charitable causes and community organisations that matter to you. Choosing the perfect organisation to support will involve a bit of research and strategy – making sure it’s a good fit with your company’s brand, your values, and that your support will help in a way that has a positive impact.
There are some great examples out there from the simple to the more complex. For example, Fourteen Birmingham businesses took part in Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s Big Give Challenge enabling hundreds of local disadvantaged children to enjoy a trip to the theatre during the festive season.
Another simple but high impact initiative is Asos’ support of homeless young people’s charity Centrepoint, where it will supply 800 Christmas presents for homeless young people.
On a larger scale, Matalan is collaborating with Alder Hey Children’s Charity this Christmas for the third year running. The ‘Get your Stripes’ campaign will be selling red, white and green striped pyjamas, available online and in stores. The price ranges from £2-£10 will 100% of profits going to the charity.”