JOSH Ferris has always given to charity over the 13 years he has been in business, but there’s been no method in his generosity.
“I’ve made donations willy-nilly,” says the Ferris Building founder, a former committee member for Sids and Kids in the Hunter.
That changed recently when Grace McLean, founder of NFP Connect, which supports not for profit groups and helps them better work with business and community, spoke one on one with his 20 staff to hear how they’d like to help local charities.
“I wanted my company to have social responsibility but I didn’t want to influence my staff,” says Mr Ferris.
He says Ms McLean’s presence enabled staff to open up about what types of charities resonated with them, allowing her to compile the data and suggest a list of candidates.
“The overall effect has been that we’ve really come together as a team,” says Mr Ferris.
Ms McLean’s efforts fell into the Community Impact Program arm of her business, which also has a local directory of charities and offers peer-to-peer mentoring.
The program aims to show businesses what they are missing out on by not supporting local charity, and also learn how their support may also be non-financial, like volunteering.
The seed for the program came in late 2014, when Ms McLean held a forum discussion with charities and businesses and found many points of disconnect.
Key feedback included that businesses did not give to charity in any structured format - rather, giving their time or dollars randomly to causes or groups without knowing if it had a local impact – and charities struggled to connect with businesses because of a lack of resources.
“I was noticing that businesses were getting recognised in the media or holding events with an emphasis on charitable giving, but they weren’t necessarily supporting local charities,” she said.
“A staff member would be impacted by cancer or mental health issues and [business] would pick the loudest and proudest charity on a whim, but often [that] charity didn’t necessarily have a local base or support our community in any way.”
Last year Ms Mclean surveyed a small group of leaders in Hunter businesses known for supporting charities and a lack of resources was not enabling the two parties to connect. Her new program aims to resolve that issue by upskilling charities to give them tools to see how businesses run, and educating firms on the benefits of backing local charities.
“Research shows that community giving staff and client involvement boosts loyalty, engagement and staff productivity,” she says.