This summer our CEO, Steve Butterworth, hosted a panel discussion with representatives from B&Q, Lidl and Gallagher looking at the ‘power of local’ and how these leading brands maximise their environmental and social impact by donating to local charities.
By connecting corporate partners with a network of over 20,000 vetted local causes, Neighbourly helps businesses to activate social purpose at a local level on a national scale.
But why is this important? And what difference does it make when businesses support smaller charities and local good causes? Here are some key takeaways from the panel discussion:
Supporting local causes increases employee engagement
Stores are located within the heart of communities which presents a unique opportunity to create impact in areas that are meaningful to employees themselves.
Employee-led nomination schemes engage employees with corporate donation programmes whilst enabling businesses to deliver funds to those most in need.
Local good causes understand the needs of local people
Local good causes and small charities are embedded in their communities, with a deep understanding of the needs of local people. This has become increasingly evident since the start of the pandemic as smaller organisations work on the frontline to support those most in need.
Supporting local causes enables businesses to tangibly help and connect with their local areas.. There is also evidence to suggest that supporting local good causes creates more impact through the ‘local multiplier effect’ which builds prosperous and thriving local economies by retaining and circulating money within communities.
Corporate giving programmes should be aligned with your businesses purpose
Implementing a corporate giving programme that aligns with business values and purpose helps to strengthen the message behind the scheme, whilst delivering ESG impact.
It is important to be really clear on what you want to achieve through corporate funding by focusing on a strategic objective linked to where help is needed in the community. The B&Q Foundation, for example, has created a giving campaign that improves community spaces and places. As a home improvement and DIY retailer, this programme makes sense for their business and keeps the focus on an area that is aligned.
Smaller grants can make a big difference to local good causes
Cash grants of varying amounts can make a huge difference to local good causes, perhaps more so than larger national charities, as they can channel funds to support beneficiaries at a much quicker rate. In this way corporate donations can have a big impact across a wide variety of impact areas and multiple causes.
“Sometimes people associate financial support with big chunky numbers [but] … we ran a very interesting programme during covid … [providing micro-grants of a few hundred pounds to keep the lights on … those low thousands or even hundreds can make a big difference and enables you to spread the love a bit further as well” - Steve Butterworth, Neighbourly CEO
In the context of the current cost of living crisis, providing financial support alongside volunteering programmes can make a big difference, helping to cover a charity’s overheads and volunteering costs.
An evident rise in social consciousness is intensifying the war for talent; transforming workforce expectations and driving an increasingly urgent need to improve employee engagement.
Employee volunteering programmes are being used to drive this engagement - and unsurprisingly so. Saying that your business has helped 100,000 people is a powerful way to show employees the impact they’re making, in turn helping them to feel more connected to the programme..
The most effective volunteering programmes enable staff to better connect with their local communities, igniting a sense of satisfaction from supporting those in need. In fact, YouGov research commissioned by Neighbourly in 2021 found that employees in organisations that offer volunteering programmes are happier and more likely to trust and recommend their employer to others.
However, recognising the link between volunteering and employee engagement is only the start.
Employee volunteering strategy
To move from planning to activating a successful volunteering programme requires a multifaceted strategy. The more that volunteering and community action are ingrained in the culture of a company, the easier they will be to execute and, in turn, foster greater employee engagement. Aligning a volunteering programme with company values will ensure it’s an integral part of your ESG plan as well as serving as evidence that the business is living its values.
At a time where businesses are often faced with staff shortages due to the ongoing impact of covid and Brexit, it’s important to consider how you can build an inclusive volunteering programme. For example, micro-volunteering takes into consideration that time-poor employees are more likely to volunteer their skills in small, convenient chunks, allowing them the opportunity to contribute to a larger community project in a flexible way. Remote volunteering gives employees who can’t or don’t want to leave their house the chance to make a difference in a way that is comfortable and, equally as valuable.
Companies that are particularly good at this will often include their volunteering policy in the job descriptions of all employees as well as job adverts, therefore new joiners know from day one that volunteering is important to their employer.
Overcoming barriers to employee volunteering
One blocker to the uptake of such programmes is the sense among employees that they require permission to take time away from their main work responsibilities to volunteer. However, the more they feel their manager is behind their volunteering efforts, the more engaged they will be.
Including these programmes within the KPIs that line managers actively and regularly check on further encourages employees to put themselves forward for volunteering opportunities.
The KPIs used to evaluate the success of employee volunteering programmes can also influence overall success in relation to employee engagement. The most successful programmes tend to report on the number of lives they have been able to positively impact, rather than focussing on the number of employees that have taken part or the hours they have clocked.
By focusing on human impact, rather than raw numbers, employees will feel more connected to the cause, fulfilled by their experience and thus motivated to partake in the programme repeatedly.
The benefits of an engaging employee volunteering programme
Creating a volunteering programme that your employees care about is an effective long-term strategy that improves talent recruitment and retention over time by demonstrating that the business values are integral to the culture. This ultimately feeds into the bottom line by ensuring that employees are better connected, happier, healthier and more trusting of their employer.
If businesses want their financial donations to charities to have the desired effect for the local communities they seek to support, as well as delivering on their ESG strategy, understanding the local multiplier effect is critical.
In research published in 2003, Ward and Sacks visualised a local economy as a leaky bucket with lots of holes. These holes are typically caused by a lack of investment, infrastructure and jobs, which only get bigger as necessary improvements to improve the local economy are not made. As employment depletes and services deteriorate, more people leave, leading to a downward spiral of decline.
This is a tale familiar to many areas that have fallen into deprivation over the years and the subject of the Government’s recent Levelling Up white paper published in February 2022. But the same principle flipped on its head also demonstrates how a local community can prosper by endeavouring to keep resources within that area.
For instance, if you spend £10 with the local greengrocer, they might put £7 in the till and spend £3 on lunch in a local cafe. The cafe owner might put £2 in the till and purchase a pint of milk from the local corner shop on the way home. While a simple representation, it shows how value can stay in the local community.
You might think you have only spent money with the greengrocer, but it has benefited the cafe owner and the family who runs the corner shop, thereby enabling all of them to continue offering their services to the community. By retaining and circulating money within our communities, we can help build prosperous, thriving economies across the country with more employment, better infrastructure and improved opportunities.
The local multiplier creates impact in three ways. Direct impact is spending done by a business in the local economy to operate the company, such as inventory, utilities, equipment and employee salaries. Indirect impact happens as the money local businesses spend in other local businesses recirculates. Induced impact refers to the additional consumer spending that happens as employees, business owners and others spend their income in the local economy.
The same is true for the benefit of donating to local charities with every pound donated to a local good cause potentially washing around that community multiple times before it bounces back out again. Local good causes are at the coalface of community action, made up almost entirely of workers or volunteers directly involved in frontline services. Rising social consciousness is making employees and customers increasingly adept at spotting attempts at CSR box-ticking or ‘purpose washing’, so it’s crucial that businesses are ensuring their donations are making the impacts they’re intended to make.
Localisation is critical for the future existence of all businesses. If they don’t look after the local community around them and the health and prosperity of the environment in which their customers and employees reside, their business will be negatively impacted. Healthy local communities ultimately enable everything else to function successfully in society.
Download our full report ‘Corporate Donations: The Power of Local’ for more on the business benefits of financial donations to local good causes.
We’re proud to announce that Neighbourly has been awarded the 2022 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category.
The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, established in 1965, are the most prestigious business awards in the UK - so it is a privilege to be amongst those recognised by the awards for their contribution within key categories such as International Trade, Innovation, Sustainable Development and Promoting Opportunity through Social Mobility.
The awards celebrate the success of exciting and innovative businesses which are leading the way with pioneering products or services, delivering impressive social mobility programmes or showing their commitment to excellent sustainable development practices.
Steve Butterworth, CEO at Neighbourly said: “It’s an absolute honour for Neighbourly to have been recognised with a Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.
“The last few years have been incredibly tough for local communities and businesses alike. To have been able to grow a technology solution that has helped organisations to have a positive impact at a local level during this time is testament to a changing world in which being a successful business is being one that is a force for good.”
The Innovation award recognises businesses that demonstrate strong commercially successful innovative products or services with the application covering all elements of business including sustainability, social value, technical development and profitability.
For Neighbourly this encompassed some of the company’s biggest achievements - from becoming one of the UK’s founding B Corps and partnering with M&S to launch the platform's first food surplus redistribution programme in 2015, to launching the £1.2M Community Fund in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and closing of a £3M round of Series A investment in March 2021.
Achievements aside, it’s equally if not more important for us to recognise the people and organisations that we would not have been able to do this without.
Steve adds: “Huge thanks must go not only to our corporate partners and investors, whose unwavering commitment to social and environmental impact in local communities has enabled us to build and scale an award-winning technology platform, but to our 20,000+ network of local good causes and our talented team who make critical local impact possible every day.”
Local good causes are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the compounding impacts of an economic crisis in the UK and global effects of the war in Ukraine.
With UK inflation at its highest since the 90s, the cost of energy and basic supplies rising out of control and the Ukraine war displacing millions, there is almost no one left untouched to some degree - with local good causes facing another sharp rise in demand as hundreds of thousands face the prospect of falling into poverty across the UK and Ireland.
The UK's Spring Budget, which presented an opportunity to introduce measures of support for those on low-incomes caused further frustration amongst anti-poverty campaigners. Dr Silvia Galandini, Domestic Poverty Lead at Oxfam told the Big Issue: “By only increasing benefits to 3.1 per cent – half the rate of inflation – [Rishi Sunak] has effectively cut benefits twice now in six months, risking an additional 400,000 people being pulled into poverty.”
This March, over 1,300 causes completed the Neighbourly Community Survey - sharing the impact of the cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine on their local communities and the people they support.
In the last 3 months, local good causes told us they are each supporting an average of 378 people per week. This represents an increase of 160% since March 2020 - and is expected to increase further in the coming months. To add to this, around 44% reported that they have seen a drop in charity income in the past 3 months.
“The rising cost of fuel to a rurally situated charity is painful”
As a result of growing concerns, 82% said they would welcome an emergency grant to help them deal with a rise in fuel, food and living costs and the impact of the war in Ukraine.
The rise in energy prices was cited as the greatest concern, with one small charity telling us: "The rising cost of fuel to a rurally situated charity is painful. We agreed a charity staff pay rise for the new financial year – but it has been swallowed up with the rise in heating, fuel and basic staples.”
Capacity for growth
The impact of this growing crisis is already taking its toll. Since we last surveyed our good causes in the wake of the last set of Covid-19 restrictions, their sentiment score for their current situation has dropped further - representing decreased optimism for their organisation and the people they support.
Despite this, local good causes remain resilient in the face of adversity and are still working hard to overcome challenges, many with capacity to receive further support across financial donations, surplus food and products, and volunteer help from businesses.
A future for all
Whilst the cost of living crisis continues to push people into poverty, and the war in Ukraine creates displacement for millions now seeking refuge across Europe, we need to be able to keep our local community causes not just afloat but thriving so that they are able to respond.
Local good causes have consistently demonstrated their ability to stand in where welfare leaves people stranded - but many local services are being stretched to breaking point.
In one of the wealthiest countries on Earth it seems inconceivable that so many households are needing to choose between heating or eating, small charities are needing to provide emergency aid and there remain no clear government policies for eradicating poverty.
In response, Neighbourly’s Emergency Fund is welcoming business donations which can be facilitated via the Neighbourly Foundation to support good causes and help tackle the impact of the cost of living crisis and humanitarian crisis.
Our Emergency Fund will look to help plug the gap for these charitable organisations, so they can fulfil their role of strengthening and supporting local communities. More details about our Emergency Fund can be found by clicking the 'Learn more' button below.
Millions are facing a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, with 12M at risk of becoming internally displaced. Meanwhile the UK is seeing an unprecedented cost of living crisis with fuel poverty predicted to double in 2022.
At Neighbourly, we believe that together we have the power to help. In the wake of a new crisis, at a scale we've never seen before, we are calling for businesses to offer their support, to ensure our local communities can face the future with renewed resilience to help those who need it most - from the UK to Ukraine.
There are currently 20,000 good causes registered on the Neighbourly platform, across the UK and Ireland.
34% are already supporting asylum-seekers or refugees, or supporting communities affected by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
97% believe the cost of living and energy prices will have a significant impact on their organisation and beneficiaries.
Charitable organisations are expecting a 30% rise in demand in the next 3 months.
Launch of a new Emergency Fund
In response, we are launching a new Community Fund for the cost-of-living crisis and Ukraine support which will be managed by the Neighbourly Foundation.
All businesses will be able to use the Neighbourly platform at no cost to make a donation to the Emergency Fund.
All donations made to this Emergency Fund will be disbursed as micro-grants to local good causes registered on the Neighbourly platform that are supporting with the Ukrainian crisis, refugees and capacity building for the UK's cost-of-living crisis.
This December Neighbourly has launched a film to celebrate and thank its corporate partners and the thousands of good causes that work tirelessly to support their local communities over the festive season and year round.
Winter can be a difficult time for the most vulnerable in our local communities - with small charities and causes often seeing a big spike in demand.
It’s a time where staff and volunteers alike work extra hard to make sure their communities are fed and supported over the Christmas period.
One month, 4M meals
During December alone, fourteen partners will donate over 4M meals worth of surplus food, 28,000 books, £300,000 in grants and 350 hours of employee volunteering.
A recent survey of over 1,200 small charities and local good causes in Neighbourly’s network has highlighted a rise in demand as the biggest concern this winter.
Whilst demand overall appears to be just over 2% higher than this time last year, with causes supporting an average of 372 people per week, it is 24% up from mid way through the first wave of the pandemic in June 2020 when the average figure was 299 per week.
Similar patterns have emerged from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest network of food banks, where its CEO Emma Revie recently told the Guardian: “Food banks in our network continue to see more and more people facing destitution” - after finding that their network had seen an 11% rise in winter demand when compared to the same period in 2019.
"More families are struggling to put on decent meals for the family during the Christmas holidays"
In particular for food banks in the Neighbourly network, a huge 92% believe that this will be their busiest Christmas on record. For many of the good causes with the highest concerns around demand, the story is the same. Families struggling with the impacts of the pandemic and rising costs of living simply can’t afford the basic pleasures of Christmas that many others take for granted.
Simple Norfolk is a charitable organisation providing services and volunteering opportunities to young people. Charity Director, Carla Barreto, said : “More families are struggling to put on decent meals for the family during the Christmas holidays. At the peak of winter with fuel costs and additional holiday spending, many just do not have enough money left for food.”
Compounding the concern is financial stability - the second greatest challenge for small charities and good causes, after rising demand. Almost half of respondents said they have seen a drop in income in the past 3 months, whilst two-thirds also expect demand to continue to rise in the next three months. Around 20% think the rise could be over 50% on current levels.
For Moorlands Community Charity, which supports older people, young people and those experiencing social isolation, funding is especially needed at Christmas to support those who might otherwise go without.
"We provide a great deal of social activities for adults, children, families and young people that would not normally have the means to access these," says Jacky Crawford, CEO at Moorlands. "We also provide Christmas presents to children and young people and our food bank is particularly busy as many can't afford food at Christmas."
With the £20 Universal Credit uplift now removed, 86% of causes are concerned about the impact this will have on their organisation and the community they operate in. The end of the furlough scheme and rising gas prices are also sources of concern, with 62% very or extremely concerned about the impact of increased fuel costs. What’s more, 69% are very or extremely worried about access to sufficient nutritious food for the people they support.
These economic concerns are all the more worrying for good causes that support local communities experiencing the highest levels of poverty and deprivation, where their services are critical for the health and wellbeing needs of the people they help.
"People have been struggling all year"
"Many people in the community are unemployed, working poor or have had their furlough payments come to an end," confirms Maureen Chaseley of The Marketplace community larder, for which this is the first Christmas they have been able to open since the start of the pandemic.
Yvie Bernett at Chirk Community Agent adds: "People have been struggling all year and are now being hit with reductions in universal credit and removal of furlough payments at the same time as prices are rising rapidly - particularly fuel and food costs."
An emotional toll
As a result, frontline charities and community causes are feeling the pressure. As part of this quarter’s survey we asked causes to rate how they are feeling at the moment. Using the net promoter score (NPS) framework to create a sentiment score which ranges from a low of -100 to a high of +100, we found the result was -33. Anything under a score of 0 is painting a negative picture.
When we asked a similar question about how causes feel things are for the local communities and the people they are supporting, the average score dropped to -77.
For secondary schools, where concern for the impact of the pandemic on teenage pupils is naturally evident, the score was -100. Similarly, mental health charities which are looking after some of the country’s most vulnerable people, reported this measure as -89.
As our previous survey conducted in early summer 2021 showed, mental health remains number one on the list of concerns when it comes to beneficiaries - with three quarters rating it as either very or extremely concerning.
Prioritising community impact
Charities and good causes operating at a local level are performing vital work and have stepped in to deliver front-line services that go way beyond their pre-pandemic remit at a time when traditional methods of generating income have been disrupted.
Many local charities have been forced to do more with less during the last two years and have demonstrated phenomenal agility and creativity - drawing upon local knowledge, resources and goodwill to deliver what communities truly need, and fast.
As a result, the need for financial support is greater than ever, particularly in light of the uncertainties of new Covid variants and the threat of further lock-downs. In the last six months alone, Neighbourly has disbursed over £1m in local community grants through partnerships with Sainsbury’s and Virgin Media O2, which has been amazing. This is in addition to support from Southern Co-op, RSA, Aldi, M&S, Lidl, Cadent, Coca-Cola EP, Danone, giffgaff, Heineken and the B&Q Foundation.
Businesses like these have huge potential to make a difference to local communities whilst meeting their own CSR and ESG objectives - linking up with the good causes that have the local knowledge and connections to make the biggest impact, at scale.
Today is Giving Tuesday - an international day where people are encouraged to take something positive from the year and make a difference by giving back to charity.
This Christmas is expected to be one of the busiest yet for the food banks, good causes and community groups looking after those most in need in our local communities - with rising fuel costs and the removal of the Universal Credit uplift tipping more families and vulnerable people into crisis.
Here at Neighbourly, we’ve been working with businesses like Aldi, Samsung, Sainsbury’s and Heineken to help them make a difference this festive season.
To celebrate Giving Tuesday, we’re highlighting some of these giving campaigns to help share what is being done - along with some tips on how individuals can offer a helping hand in their communities too.
Aldi - 1.8M meals
With a little help from Kevin the Carrot and Marcus Radishford, Aldi has pledged to donate a huge 1.8M meals through the festive season, made up of surplus food donations to the causes that are linked to individual stores, as well as financial donations to causes supporting families.
You can hear more about Aldi’s pledge (and see the Neighbourly delivery cart!) in their pun-tastic Christmas ad.
As well as Aldi’s individual pledge, supermarkets Sainsbury’s, Lidl and M&S will continue to run their food surplus redistribution programme through the Neighbourly platform - donating thousands of meals worth of food over the festive period, with extra donations on Christmas eve and New Year’s eve.
Christmas is often a time when people consider giving back by volunteering. But through Neighbourly’s employee volunteering programmes, staff from the likes of Danone, Samsung, Cocacola EP, Cadent and M&G have been offering their spare time to local good causes throughout the year. As we enter winter, many are encouraging even more employees to get involved and make a difference.
Staff at M&G will be partnering with causes supporting those experiencing loneliness and isolation this Christmas - taking part in Covid-safe card and letter writing to boost people’s wellbeing and make them feel cared for.
Meanwhile Cadent’s new social value volunteering scheme, launched this November, will see employees volunteering on everything from packing festive food parcels and restoring peatlands to transforming spaces into hubs for education.
As the UK’s leading pub, cider and beer business, Heineken is a passionate supporter of the great British pub and the important role pubs play in communities all around the UK.
Following a pause during the pandemic, Brewing Good Cheer is now in its fifth year, and is one the longest running community giving campaigns Heineken has run through the Neighbourly platform.
This year’s Brewing Good Cheer programme will see Heineken working with their pubs and with 140 good causes and their beneficiaries to support people that have experienced social isolation in the last year.
Penguin Book Donations
Since 2020, Penguin has been donating books to good causes, community groups and food banks to help provide equal access to reading.
So far Penguin has donated over 120,000 books and they are not stopping there. The publisher has already connected with a number of causes through the Neighbourly platform and will be donating hundreds more books to supplement festive food parcels this year.
Grants and funding
On top of donating surplus food to good causes, Sainsbury’s ‘Helping Everyone Eat Better’ grants programme has been supporting hundreds of local food charities and good causes as nominated by Sainsbury’s staff. These grants will continue to be paid out through December and beyond, helping good causes meet the demand of the festive season.
But as any hard working volunteer or charity staff member will know, funding and grants offer critical sources of financial support to keep services running throughout the year. In 2021 alone, Neighbourly has facilitated a number of grant and giving programmes, partnering with the B&Q Foundation, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Heineken, Virgin Media O2, Southern Co-op, RSA, Cadent, Coca-Cola EP, Danone and M&G to distribute vital funds to local communities covering a wide range of impact themes.
How can individuals support their local communities?
As an individual, there are plenty of ways you can support local good causes and people in your community. Here are two easy things you can do this Giving Tuesday:
Make a donation
Last year, following the success of the Neighbourly Community Fund which supported over 3,000 local good causes through the Covid-19 pandemic, we set up registered charity - the Neighbourly Foundation - which continues to channel funding and grants to Neighbourly’s network of over 18,000 local good causes.
If you usually make a charitable donation on Giving Tuesday or over Christmas, but aren’t sure where best to donate this year, donating to the Neighbourly Foundation is a great way to ensure you are helping local communities and people in need across the UK and Ireland - supporting everything from mental health services to food poverty and homelessness.
In addition, if you're an M&S Sparks member or card holder, you can set the Neighbourly Foundation as your charity of choice. Then, for every purchase you make at M&S, a donation will be made.
On your next trip to the supermarket, don’t forget to buy an item or two to pop in one of the many customer donation points available at Aldi, Lidl and Southern Co-op.
Aldi’s donation points also accept items from any brand of supermarket, so are perfect for those unopened and in-date dry goods and tins you might have in your cupboards that would otherwise go unused.
You can also donate directly to your local food bank or community group. Use the Neighbourly search function to find your nearest good cause. Those running campaigns for donations of food or gifts often share exactly what they need most via social channels like Facebook - so don’t forget to check them out to see what’s on their wishlist.
Thanks for getting involved in Giving Tuesday. To find out the latest Neighbourly news this Christmas and beyond, follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.