I’m looking to get some feedback from company directors, entrepreneurs, managers, charity workers and anyone with constructive input to offer on an acorn of an idea I’ve had about creating a shared company fund for investing back into people in developing countries.
I work as the busy Managing Director for a small software company and like anyone who runs a business I find the amount of free time I can donate during the day to charitable causes is limited.
At the same time as a human being I also have real concern for those people in third world countries who are struggling in less fortunate situations, those people who just never get the opportunity to contribute to society, to succeed in business, to live healthy lives, to care for themselves or their families, all through no fault of their own and who have to face real hardship’s most of us will never come close to knowing.
While I do try to help several very deserving charities myself through private donations, particularly charities focussing on children in countries such as Sudan, I’ve started to think more about whether as companies we should contribute more to these struggling countries full of good people who just want a chance.
We often hear how companies in the west are seen as exploiting developing nations but I do get a feeling that most people in business do have a conscience and do want to give back, it’s just not always clear how.
Over the past few days we’ve seen Gordon Brown fly to America to discuss world poverty and while those talks have been overshadowed by the world credit crisis, the underlying problems of world poverty have not gone away.
To that end I’ve started to think of the idea of whether companies would be interested in forming an alliance, a kind of standard where they would agree to donate a small percentage of their profits to a shared fund which would be channelled back to those developing nations most in need and with those contributing companies being able to show a caring standard, a logo that reflects their real contribution back to the world.
Now I’m not talking about giving up a percentage of revenue, just a small percentage of profit which reduces any risk in these uncertain times to the company while still showing a real commitment and raising real funds for developing countries.
To succeed, consideration by any mutual group would need to consider amongst other things the following.
• Contributing companies would be able to show a logo which shows they are an actively contributing and caring company which in turn could help to generate new business and revenue for those contributors which may even exceed their actual donations.
• The fund would be chaired by a group of people comprising of charitable workers and representatives of contributing companies. Now clearly every company couldn’t have a person on the board all the time so board members would revolve ensuring fair and impartial control of the charity with charitable workers on the board ensuring true charitable needs are addressed.
• The fund would be distributed annually or during the year to those countries which are in most need including developing African nations as well as Asian, South American and East European countries which can show a genuine need. The details of where the money is distributed and how would need to be agreed and again this is why it would be imperative that charitable workers with real knowledge of fund distribution would be involved along with real entrepreneurial skills from the company representatives.
• By contributing towards those developing countries it shows a more proactive and compassion side to companies in the developed world while the very act of making developing countries more developed opens up new markets making it a real benefit for everyone involved.
• What would be an acceptable donation amount for members would need to be agreed since different companies operate under different market conditions and the goal would be as inclusive as possible.
Now I for one would be interested in signing up to such a charter but wondered if others would be and what kind of real problems there might be with such a fun.
As an example, maybe some open source software distributions would be interested in signing up since boxed open source software like Linux can raise large funds while the point of open source is to provide real solutions for the public, something that a drive like this would emphasise.
Maybe there’s already some kind of fund of this type which I’m just not aware of it so if you know of similar schemes then please let me know. This isn’t something one company could do. To succeed it would need to be very open and transparent and would need to make a real contribution with different companies and groups being involved.
Any idea’s of feedback are welcome since I’m trying to get an idea of how popular something like this would be and whether it would be practical.
Have you tried talking to your local Community Foundation. http://www.communityfoundation.org.uk
Community Foundations already do quite a bit of what you are talking about, and the ones I have dealt with are very keen to listen to new ideas.
Martin Price Associates
Consultants to the Third Sector
Ymgynghorwyr i’r Trydydd Sector
Order Martin Price’s new book: Social Enterprise: What it is and why it matters at http://www.fflan.com or from Amazon
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The nearest I’ve seen to this would be the Per Cent Club, set up with a kick by Prince Charles and Business in the Community (IIRC). It was a simpler idea – if your company gives 1% of pre-tax profit to Charity, you get to flash the logo – and it never really achieved its potential.
There are several Community Foundations around the country who operate versions of this scheme – if your company supports them, you can flash their logo and attend the annual bash. If you’re giving enough, you can name your fund and decide where the money goes, too.
You could try to recruit businesses to an overseas fund under the aegis of a Community Foundation; you could approach one of the big development charities to set up a Business Club with development goals as you describe. CAFOD works with local partners, and would probably find it quite easy to set up something like this; OXFAM and Red Cross have the resources to get behind such a corporate scheme.
Drop me a note off forum if you want to discuss further firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a look at some options.
Gerry Beldon FInstF
Director, 26-01 CIC
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