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16th Mar, 2022

Amy Davis
Amy Davis
Job Title
Head of Content

Since Sir Alec Reed founded Reed in 1960, our company’s values and beliefs have centred around those of the Reed family’s – these values have corporate philanthropy at their core.

The Reed Group’s purpose is ‘improving lives through work’, which as James Reed says, “goes fairly seamlessly into philanthropy.”

But why did Reed choose corporate philanthropy as a way of giving back? James adds: “I think it's up to each business whether it wants to be philanthropic or not. For me it’s a personal thing – it’s an obligation really. If you're making a profit, you should consider whether you can reinvest some of that profit in your community or look to help the wider world in a positive way.”

James firmly believes that each business should make its own decision about philanthropy, but in his experience, he highlights:

If it is well managed, it makes a real material difference to the lives of people, communities and individuals. Reed supporting philanthropic causes is very well received within the business. People in our company respond very positively to the fact that we do this, and they also like to get involved.

What is corporate philanthropy?

Corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility (CSR) often overlap. Philanthropy is often seen as part of an organisation’s CSR policy, but mainly involves giving financial contributions, or even time and resources, to drive social change.

In the world of business, companies can be philanthropic in several different ways. These can include:

  • Financial support – a commitment to donating a regular proportion of profits to charitable causes or even one-off payments

  • Offer volunteer time off – companies may offer their employees time off to invest their time in philanthropic efforts

  • Host volunteering projects – some businesses may decide to send a team of employees to help on a charitable project – this could include anything from working at a food bank to helping out at a school

  • Endorse ethical labour practices - by practising and promoting ethical labour policies internally and externally

  • Offer to cover employee donations – alongside bonuses, organisations may offer their employees a cash sum to donate to their chosen charity

  • Donations of essential supplies – from clothing to food, this involves a business collecting supplies and giving them to a good cause. Reed recently donated hundreds of pieces of office furniture to Clear Workspace, with some of the furniture gifted to a project refurbishing a Portuguese plantation house in Santiago, Cape Verde into a school for underprivileged local children

How is Reed addressing philanthropy?

In 1985 Sir Alec Reed, James Reed’s father, set up the Reed Foundation. James Reed explains: “The Reed Foundation is our largest single shareholder. The foundation owns 18% of the shares in the business, which is why we can say that one day a week, at Reed, we work for charity. When we pay dividends to shareholders, 18% of the total goes to The Reed Foundation, which is then available for charitable giving - philanthropy.

The principal vehicle we use for that is The Big Give, which was a brainchild of Alec Reed back in 2007, where he sought to mirror what we were doing with for jobs and jobseekers for charities and people who wanted to give to charities.

What is The Big Give?

Since its founding, The Big Give has grown to become the UK’s number one match funding platform. Reed supported the charity with money initially, and when the charity does a big campaign, as it is doing now for the Ukraine appeal, The Reed Foundation puts money into a match funding pot as a champion.

The Big Give allows companies to amplify their philanthropic impact and its partners are referred to as 'champions'. Champions include The People’s Postcode Lottery, EQ Foundation and The Childhood Trust, along with some of the biggest names in the world of philanthropy. To date, the platform has helped raise £186 million for charities.

“If there's a cause that a company wants to support, I would encourage them to become, urge them to become, champions for The Big Give,” says James. “This is because your money is multiplied many times. So, if you participate as a champion in The Big Give Christmas Challenge, and you decide you want to support homeless charities, your donation will be multiplied five times. If as an organisation you've decided you want to do something philanthropic, The Big Give is a really good channel to do that. Because by getting your donations matched you will accomplish much more of an impact – it’s a generosity multiplier.”

What else has Reed done?

1989 saw The Reed Foundation invest over one million pounds, as a social entrepreneur, to establish Ethiopiaid and Womankind Worldwide – both charities still exist to date.

James adds: “My father, Alec Reed, was one of the first sponsors of academy schools, so there's an Alec Reed Academy, in West London, which is a very fine school. He worked with them to rebuild and reorganise it. It is in quite a deprived area, but the staff do a really great job, and it has received a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted. It now runs well, and I continue to be a member of the board.”

Reed has supported many causes over the years, and often our offices up and down the UK organise their own fundraising events for local charities – from collecting Easter eggs for children in hospital, to wearing Christmas jumpers and donating to Save the Children.

James recalls a project called Reed Restart where we were working inside prisons, helping people prepare for release: “We took work into the prison, so inmates could complete it. And that was run for many years in Holloway Prison, which at the time was the largest women's prison in London.

We've tried to do things where we've been able to make an impact, where our involvement has resulted in more funds being raised, or more benefits being accrued than would have been the case if we hadn't been involved in the first place.

How can you get involved?

The Charities Aid Foundation believes that philanthropy: “is a powerful tool for driving sustainability. Philanthropy enables businesses to open a meaningful dialogue about their social values and aims with a breadth of stakeholders - employees, customers, investors and wider society – in order to achieve positive change.”

Brexit, combined with the pandemic, has brought about a workplace revolution and left the UK with a talent shortage across many sectors.

Companies are fighting for the very best professionals in a shrinking talent pool. If you are looking to attract professionals, you really need to think about how you refocus your approach and make your company attractive to those looking for work. This could be something as simple as reassessing your salary and benefits offering, through to creating an employee value proposition and developing a ‘great’ place to work – part of this could be taking CSR by the horns and adopting a philanthropic culture.

James adds:

Being an active, philanthropic citizen makes your company much more attractive to prospective hires, or people who might join the company. Ultimately, I think it's a good thing to do because it's good for business, but it's also good for the wider community.

Find out how your company can become a Big Give champion , and make your donation count.

James Reed campaigning

James Reed campaigning for The Big Give's Grenfell Tower appeal.