What’s this About Then? An Introduction
It’s a personal thought splurge from an SME in the crowd at the ‘International Fundraising and Philanthropy 2014’ event at Dean Clough, Halifax on March 11th.
An SME who has been doing a lot of thinking since.
The Morning After #IFP2104
– I might be a philanthropist.
– I might have the beginnings of my Corporate Social Responsibility program.
My business is only two weeks old but these thoughts made me genuinely happy. At the very least for today. Because today I stopped worrying about how I am going to feed the teenagers, dogs, chickens, afford to buy toilet roll etc.. and had bigger thoughts.
So when we’ve run out of toilet roll, I’m placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the CFfC and the conference speakers.
A Musical Soundtrack
So I’ve called this post ‘Woke Up New’. The track referred to is by The Mountain Goats, not a cheery song at all but I thought the title of the track was appropriate. For a musical accompaniment to my post bring your ears here.
Beards and Moustaches
As well as admiring Phil Packer’s bountiful beard and Jonathan Straight’s brilliant moustache, I found myself nodding along to a lot of things that were being said by all of the speakers during the day.
Philanthropy – A Very British Problem
Dr Beth Breeze, author of ‘Richer Lives: Why Rich People Give’ spoke to us about the problems associated with the term ‘philanthropist’.
It has negative connotations as a term in part because of the press and also because of our own quirky national character. It’s seen as dusty, fusty and Victorian. Don’t think she actually said it in that way but that’s what my brain heard. Talking from a personal perspective, it’s something that I always considered as a thing done by people much further up the food chain than me. Big money donation territory. Rightly or wrongly that’s what I thought about ‘philanthropy’.
Then there was Pat Russell. A great foil to the misguided notions in the press that Dr Breeze talked about. I really liked Pat’s no-nonsense delivery. A man who is comfortable, can probably afford not to worry about toilet rolls but by no means, financially at least, a rich man. The thing that stuck with me from Pat’s session was that charities, social enterprises, causes really need to give potential sponsors a reason not to buy that new yacht that they won’t ever use anyway. Picture of a steam train below c/o The National Rail Museum because that’s what he said was one of his passions (Enjoy).
Corporate Social Responsibility – Looking at Things in a Slightly Different Way
I also have a similar problem or misconception about ‘CSR’. Lee Kenny, did a survey of SME’s and gave us some of the responses from that survey. Very much echoing my own pre-conference thoughts. Again “it’s for the big boys or girls”,” it’s for the multi-nationals” right down to “CSR? What’s that then?”
Then Lee’s message combined in my head with that of the other speakers, Phil Packer, Jonathan Straight (Man of 200 hundred pairs of spectacles and Clanger resurrectionist), Pat Russell, Tony Abbott… All of them were saying that ‘CSR’, ‘philanthropy’ ‘giving’ or whatever you want to call it is not just about money.
That’s a very good job as I have toilet rolls to buy and a website to build and I’m not sure how I’m going to pay for either of them yet.
Money is great. But there was also a lot of other donations to be made that they mentioned.. time, skills, resource, ideas, energy and initiative. I was hoping somebody was going to say ‘badly played guitar’ or ‘songs about packets of crisps’ as that’s something I really can contribute.
My CSR Programme, my philanthropy, doing my bit & worries about ‘Phunding’
With all of this information swirling around my head, I asked myself a few questions…
Do I promote charities as part of my fledgling business?
Do I give my time and energy to promoting or supporting a cause?
Yes. I help organise festivals and events for young people in Calderdale. I look after dogs for the RSPCA when the kennels are full. I have worked voluntarily at the CFFC and still signpost people in their direction where I can. I do what I can to support an apprentice at Orangebox.
In the main these are personal interests but going back to some of Pat Russell and Jonathan Straight’s themes, it’s these personal interests that shape their longer term giving. In the same way these personal interests are starting to bubble through my work.
Do they and will they continue to be a key theme in my business? Yes. They will. Therefore I have a CSR program. It doesn’t have all of the corporate bells and whistles but I have one. Maybe my CSR program is better. Mine has me and my passion behind it. Except when there’s sci-fi on the telly and then I get a little distracted.
Am I a philanthropist?
But this is where I get a bit shaky. I can’t fund those causes. Maybe I’m an ‘ilanthropist’. I can’t provide ‘Ph-unding’.
But would I if I could? Would I in the future? Yes absolutely I would. Once I have stockpiled 10,000 toilet rolls anyway. So I am a ‘philanthropist’ that will eventually, hopefully be able to ‘phund’. And like Phil Packer and Tony Abbott I can and WILL fundraise.
I tell every SME that I know, my new found understanding of philanthropy. I tell them to spread the word of philanthropy. I tell them to grow a beard or a moustache because I think they are cool (Even on lady SMEs).
I tell everyone that they probably have a hidden CSR program that they don’t know about. Let your personal causes (the good ones) bubble through your business. I tell everyone it’s not all about money. I tell them to ‘Wake up New’ that’s what I do.
Thanks #IFP2014. I might have misunderstood various things along the way in the conference but at least I’m misunderstanding with passion, commitment and happiness.
An SME enroute to philanthropic enlightenment