The first tech entrant into the UK’s £800m corporate philanthropic sector launched Thursday — with corporate giants Starbucks and Marks & Spencer among the first companies to sign on to the service.
neighbourly, a finalist in our 2013 SB London Innovation Open, is a social network designed to help connect community and charity projects with socially responsible companies that can contribute funding or volunteers.
As the inaugural digital entry into the UK’s largely unstructured and unconnected corporate philanthropic sector, neighbourly is designed to automate the process and therefore make it scaleable.
“Expenditure on corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer seen as a detriment to a company’s profitability,” said Nick Davies, founder and CEO of neighbourly. “CSR has evolved from being an unloved, isolated part of a company to something more profound that’s changing the way companies do business everyday — and increasingly investors view such expenditure as essential to a company’s long‐term brand and value.”
“British companies typically get involved where Head Office or branches are based. neighbourly.com can help them both democratise and increase corporate giving,” Davies added.
A recent report into the support by UK companies to the community and charitable sector found:
- total corporate support has fallen by nearly a quarter and is now worth between £700m and £800 million — an average of £7.45 per person, or 0.4 percent of pre‐tax profits
- the headline figure represents approximately two percent of the voluntary sector’s total income; donations from the general public represents 43 percent of funding
- the figure is concentrated among a few large companies — 20 percent of the companies give 90 percent of the cash contributions
- the largest slice of company support goes to educational causes, community/social welfare and children and young people
- by comparison a separate report found US corporate philanthropy totaled $17.87bn in 2013. Over the past five years it had risen 19.4 percent.
“The unfortunate reality is that UK companies just aren’t involved enough in philanthropic activity,” Davies said. “The Lottery Fund gives more than all the biggest companies’ donations combined — and US corporate donations in the USA are about 14 times higher than here.”
Luckily, major companies are looking to change that.
“Our founding values since 1971 have been to use our scale for good and be a force for positive action in the communities we serve,” said Simon Redfern, Director of Corporate Affairs for Starbucks in Europe. "The neighbourly.com platform is really powerful for us and will improve our ability to support local community projects, as well as celebrate the support already taking place. Our partners (employees) are going to love this new initiative, which will help them do more in their local patch.”
Community and charitable organizations can list projects on neighbourly free of charge. All money pledged by companies goes to the projects — companies are charged an annual subscription fee to cover the services neighbourly provides in helping them find, choose and manage projects they wish to support. Projects must be community-, charity- or social enterprise-based in the UK and have specific needs with which a backer could help.
“neighbourly.com is a perfect way for us to elevate our level of community involvement,” said Carmel McQuaid, Head of Responsible Business at Marks & Spencer. “It provides us with an easier and clearer way of understanding what a project is doing at a local level — and offering it some practical assistance. It gives us a chance of saying ‘yes’ more often.”