North East businesses are most generous charity givers outside London
Firms in the region give more to small charities than any others outside the capital
Businesses in the North East give more to small charities and community groups than any other businesses outside of London.
Research conducted for the Law Family Commission on Civil Society shows that on average businesses in the North East donate an estimated £460 in services and funds to small charities and community groups each year.
This puts businesses in the North East ahead of every other region in England outside of London, including Yorkshire and Humber (£354), the East Midlands (£327) and West Midlands (£366).
The study suggests that the significantly higher level of business generosity in London (£705) may reflect the considerable variations in business wealth between the capital and the regions.
In total, businesses donated services and funds worth an estimated £2.4billion in 2019 to small charities and community groups, which equates to around 0.06% of private sector turnover.
This includes £1.9bn in financial donations and around £474million worth of pro bono support such as legal services, in-kind donations such as the use of office space and employee-supported volunteering.
While there are many examples of businesses and civil society working closely together, this latest research suggests there are significant gaps in the relationship and that the partnership is not operating at its full potential.
The new study comes amid growing calls for greater social impact from the business community.
A recent survey by the Institute of Directors found that 62% of members believe that businesses should not exist solely to make money and generate shareholder profits.
But among the public there is increasing scepticism about the private sector’s commitment to social purpose.
A recent survey by Deloitte found that fewer than half of Gen Zs and millennials perceive business as a force for good in society.
The number of millennials who believe that businesses focus solely on their own agendas, rather than considering wider society, rose between 2019 and 2021, according to the survey.
The Law Family Commission on Civil Society is encouraging businesses to seize the opportunities that working with civil society can create.
It believes business and civil society can be incentivised to work more closely together, that connections between the two need to be increased, and that partnerships need to be made as effective as possible.
Sarah Glendinning, North East Director of the Confederation of British Industry, said:
“North East businesses have long proven themselves to be a force for good within the region, and many have further reinforced that reputation throughout the past year.
“Even as firms have struggled to keep their own heads above water, they have gone to new lengths to support people and causes in need within their communities.
“Customers want to do business with firms who interact positively with their communities; they will find plenty of them here in the North East.”
Rob Williamson, CEO of the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, said:
“There is a strong track record of giving by business – both financial and in-kind – in North East England. Businesses here tend to be well connected to communities through their ownership, customers and supply chains.
“The region’s community foundations and other bodies have built on and developed this, with great examples including Newcastle Building Society, P&G and Ringtons, whose corporate giving is done through us.
“But we mustn’t rest on our laurels. As we seek to recover from the pandemic, there is ever greater need for businesses to give their money, time and talent to support local charities and community organisations.”
Nicole Sykes, Director of External Affairs at Pro Bono Economics, said:
“It is heartening to see businesses in the North East showing real commitment and dedication to the communities around them. These communities need the support of business more than ever as they recover from the long-term impacts of the pandemic.
“Purpose has become a watchword in every business boardroom in recent years. Customers, investors, shareholders and employees all expect a commitment to social good. But business’ efforts will fall short if they fail to work with civil society.
“Unfortunately, outside of London, the levels of collaboration between business and civil society seen in the North East are not being replicated elsewhere. This represents an ocean of missed opportunities for business to make a meaningful difference in communities around the country. If these opportunities are realised it will only enhance the success of both business and civil society.”
Professor Tony Chapman, Director of Policy and Practice at St Chad’s College, Durham University, said:
“It is not surprising that business support for charities is stronger in the North East than most other areas. The region has several home-grown trusts and foundations such as Greggs, Sage and Barbour, and is home to the country’s biggest community foundation which builds strong connections with the business community and local philanthropists.
“Many companies, large and small, have been going the extra mile for years, from local pubs and shops to companies such as Muckle LLP and Brewin Dolphin which invest in sector development.”