A report has just been issued following a Parliamentary enquiry into the long-term decline in the number of households contributing to charity and how to change it. Among other aspects, the report ‘Creating an Age of Giving’ looked at how business can do more to support social causes.
It urges the Institute of Directors, of which I am a member, to encourage businesses to ensure that executive job descriptions ask for evidence that business leaders are regular supporters of social causes and support a socially responsible corporate culture.
The other side of the coin of this discussion, however, is that many charity boards get clogged up with people who think that just by sitting on them it will further their career. And that business leaders who are involved in charities are somehow better qualified for certain roles than others.
I have witnessed first-hand the transitory nature of some charity trustees who pay lip service to being elected on to charitable boards. Sometimes they move on when they realise it is not returning what they thought in terms of contacts or business, and sometimes they just become ‘bed blockers’. They want to have the kudos of being on the board but don’t want to actually get involved in any really hard work.
Being a trustee is a really responsible undertaking and, as I have discovered from personal experience, can take immense time and effort when things don’t go to plan. You can’t just walk away from a problem. It is the equivalent of walking away from a bad business decision that threatens the future of the company. It is just you are not being paid. But that is the whole point.
I would encourage everyone who has even just a little spare time to get involved in a social cause that inspires and enthuses them because truly, not for profits and charities are having a tough time out there and buying strategic expertise on the open market is a big investment many cannot afford. But don’t do it just because you think it will further your career. Do it because you care.