London charities set to receive major boost from SMEs


New research reveals that communities across London are set to receive a major boost from local businesses, with 80 per cent of SME philanthropists planning to increase support for charities in the area where they are based.

This focus on local causes is in marked contrast to the current situation, with over two thirds of the capital’s SMEs stating they do not currently support charitable organisations in their borough, or even the wider London area, with the vast majority donating to national and international causes.

The data comes from a survey of 500 SME owners and key decision makers across the capital carried out on behalf of national charity OnSide Youth Zones, which is establishing a network of state-of-the-art youth centres in London, with the first three set to open in Barking and Dagenham, Barnet and Croydon in 2019.

Its report; ‘Making the community your business: Understanding the relationship between London’s SME philanthropists & local charities’, found that 81% of those questioned believe they have an obligation to support the local community and society.

Around 27% of business owners and key decision makers feel they need to shoulder more responsibility as it’s becoming harder for the wider public to help charities due to rising inflation and living costs.

Of the 80 per cent of SME philanthropists planning to increase support for charities in their local communities; 27 per cent will focus efforts on fundraising activity, 28 per cent will make cash donations, 17 per cent will volunteer and 9 per cent are set to offer pro-bono services.

The research also highlights the scale of generosity within the capital’s business community.

It found that the vast majority of London’s SMEs provide support worth over £10,000 to charities every year.

Of those questioned, 36% donate time and money worth between £10,000 and £20,000 annually, and another 36% give between £20,000 and £50,000.

With approximately 970,000 SMEs in London, this means local charities could be due a major windfall thanks to the renewed focus on supporting local communities highlighted by the research.

Kathryn Morley, Chief Executive for OnSide Youth Zones, said: “It’s fantastic to see growing appetite amongst London’s SME philanthropists to support local causes and use their success to deliver lasting benefits for the communities where they are based.

“In our experience, when charities harness the enthusiasm, commitment and skills of the private sector it has a transformative effect for those in society who need the most support.

“It’s therefore essential that charities find a way to tap into this opportunity by engaging local philanthropists and facilitating opportunities to form deep and lasting relationships.”

OnSide Youth Zones’ research found that 83 per cent of business owners and key decision makers in London SMEs feel their local community would benefit from more collaboration between themselves and charitable organisations.

Of those surveyed, 34 per cent would look to create a partnership between their SME and a charity and 29 per cent would be willing to sit on the board of trustees.

When evaluating opportunities, 55 per cent of respondents believe it is important to consider whether the charitable activity will have a measurable impact and 41 per cent want to ensure that the organisations they support are sustainable.

The survey also highlighted key concerns amongst philanthropists with 47 per cent feeling that they lack the time to become involved with local charities, 34 per cent said they are not aware of what need there is locally and almost a quarter were worried about the risk of their chosen charity failing.

Kathryn Morley, CEO at OnSide Youth Zones, added: “The findings suggest more needs to be done to raise awareness of community needs in London whilst providing a robust framework for businesses to get involved financially, strategically and operationally.

“OnSide Youth Zones’ plans to expand our network across London relies on the involvement of philanthropists, like those featured in this report, who are keen to ensure their charitable efforts support local need in a meaningful and sustainable way.

“Our model provides an opportunity for them to combine their strengths with those of the public and voluntary sectors. By working together in a philanthropic community partnership, we can ensure that the young people of London benefit from world-class facilities which help them realise their full potential.”

OnSide Youth Zones offers state-of-the-art facilities for young people that are open seven days a week, right throughout the year.

These community hubs give thousands of young people access to a range of high-quality sport, arts, health and employability services as well as targeted support for those who need it most.

London is a key focus for the charity. Around 1.8 million young people live in its 33 boroughs, but universal youth services has seen significant cuts since 2011, with almost 30 youth centres closing their doors.

The charity believes that providing safe and inspiring places for young people to spend their leisure time helps tackle inequality and contributes to preventative measures which stop some young people becoming drawn in to harmful or criminal activity.