How Local Businesses And Charities Can Work Together
Brand activism is one of the most overused corporate buzz phrases of recent times. As the public becomes evermore likely to spend their money with companies proclaiming a social conscience, so big businesses are tripping over each other to align themselves with a deserving cause. But consumers are increasingly savvy and can sniff a cynical marketing ploy long before they’ve even opened up their Instagram.
Fortunately, living and working in Brighton, we at PLATF9RM see businesses reaching out to charities for all the right reasons: the city is a hotbed for community projects and company owners doing their best to support them.
We spoke to a couple of PLATF9RM members about their work with local organizations, how they’ve made it a part of company culture, and got some advice for businesses looking to do the same.
Brighton has a thriving community spirit, so we spoke with Vicki from @FuguPR and @Emma_Betty about how local businesses and charities can work together. 🙌
Viki Hughes - Fugu PR
Fugu’s emphasis on community is something that’s very visible. Where has that come from?Having a positive impact has become a central part of our company culture – it’s a team thing. As we have grown, we’ve taken the time to look at things that are important to us. We want to look after each other and help build local communities.
How have you put that into practice?We try to make sure our values inform our decisions and we look at ways of helping where we can. Sometimes this can be hard when faced with the pressures of the day to day, so we provide allocated time to work on some of the things we feel passionate about. These have included projects for charities, such as Same Sky, Little Green Pig and Brighton Housing Trust. Our support can either come in the form of pro-bono work – offering our communications expertise and network – or as an advisor trustee, and sometimes it’s a more straightforward cash donation.
How do you decide on your method of support?By listening to what people need and thinking about how best we can help. For instance: with Brighton Housing Trust we helped create a Christmas fundraising video because they really needed donations at that time. We were also thinking of taking hot drinks to homeless people in winter but they suggested we help fund the supplies they need at First Base – their drop-in centre in Seven Dials - so we now make a regular donation to pay for their coffee supplies year-round.
Surely time is an issue? You have a business to run…We want to run a healthy and sustainable business, but there are more ways to measure success than just profit. We have developed a model that hopefully allows us to stay true to our values whilst keeping things rolling along!
How should local companies get involved with charities?Just get out there and do it! There are lots of gatherings and meet-ups where there will be people crying out for help. Or just reach out in an email.
Emma Lewis-Griffiths (aka Betty) – [The Social Club]
Can you detail some of the pro-bono projects you’ve helped, and what the work entailed?
Last year I worked with the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership. They were launching their Community Kitchen and their goal to reduce loneliness and isolation could only be achieved with the success of their paid-for cookery classes. We developed ideas and I helped bring in some of the city’s best chefs for masterclasses. Together we developed a week of launch events and they got some great exposure. It’s amazing how they’re doing a year on.
You’ve been building The Social Club from the ground up over the last three years. How/why did you make the decision to divert some of your time and energy to community projects?
Once of the main reasons I went freelance was because I wanted to work with some smaller, under-resourced organisations that can’t afford a normal PR day rate. A lot of the best projects come from people that are passionate about things but don’t have the money behind their idea to really make it work. I have a network of amazing people in Brighton and I wanted to be able to offer the right people access to it.
Do you think there’s been a tangibly positive effect on your business as a result of your pro-bono work??
The best thing about doing pro-bono work is you’re doing it because you’re passionate about the project. You obviously need to set expectations and agree on how you can support, but ultimately any opportunities to meet new people and make new connections has a positive impact on the work that you do. It’s a great opportunity to get a really positive case study too!
What must companies do to ensure that consumers don’t see through company charity work and/or activism as some cynical attempt to “appeal to millennials”?
The most important thing is to choose the project or charity that means the most to you. You have to be passionate about the cause, believe in the work, and be true to yourself.
What would you suggest to any Brighton businesses looking to get involved with community projects?
Do it! There are so many amazing initiatives happening in the city that I hear about daily. Smaller organisations often don’t have time to even think about areas of work that they aren’t experts in. If you’re not sure about getting started, The Social Society is a great way of sharing your skills with local charities that need it.