When Practice Excellence Award nominee Raffingers decided to launch a charitable foundation, the firm’s team members were initially apathetic towards fundraising.
Many accountants get involved with charity work, but Essex-based Raffingers decided to take things a step further by setting up its own charity. Lauren Aston, the firm’s marketing manager and chair of the Raffingers Foundation told AccountingWEB why: “Not many people got involved because they didn’t know the charities and there was no personal connection.”
Last year this changed when one of the firm’s employees lost her husband to pancreatic cancer and Aston’s mother succumbed to ovarian cancer. The firm resolved to support these two personal causes, but rather than channelling its fundraising to external charities, the Practice Excellence Award mid-size nominee brought them under the Raffingers umbrella so they could have more control in their events.
“Before it was just the marketing team that did the odd event, but it's now everyone,” Aston said.
Before it was just the marketing team that did the odd event, but it's now everyone
Rather than chucking loose change in a bucket, other accountancy firms have followed Raffingers’ example and fostered a positive work culture by getting involved with local charities.
Reveal the firm’s human face
Bristol-based firm Dunkley’s found that its charity work helped shed the accountant stereotype and allowed it to reveal its human face. “Our USP is that we try and separate ourselves from other accountants. We’re not boring, we’re not dull. We are human and we are normal people,” explained Dunkley’s marketing manager Siobhan Dolan.
We're not boring, we're not dull, we are human and we are normal people.
The firm sponsored sculptures of Gromit and Shaun the Sheep from an arts trail dotted across Bristol that raised money for the Grand Appeal, a Bristol children’s hospital charity.
Wallace’s pooch took up a position outside the firm’s North Bristol office and helped attracted people on the trail to pay a visit. “All the staff got involved in fundraising for the Grand Appeal,” said Dolan. “We have a lovely big front lawn, so we invited local schoolchildren to come have a picnic and do Gromit-themed activities like colouring.”
Dunkley’s encouraged the sculpture hunters to tweet pictures of the sponsored Shaun and Gromit. This generated far more social media engagement than an update on R&D tax credits, Dolan joked.
Images from the event adorn the firm’s website and help set it apart from other firms. “We ask new clients when they come to us why they choose us, and at least every other month they say because of the Gromit, or because we didn’t just look like an accountant and had a friendly website,” said Dolan.
“But that isn’t what it’s all about - supporting the community and good causes is what really matters.”
Build client relationships
Aston agrees that charity work is another way to strengthen relationships with clients beyond the work partnership. “Amy, our Xero manager, got to know a recruitment client of ours on a personal level because he told her why he was interested in buying a table at our summer ball,” she said. “It’s another way to speak to people.”
Raffingers clients are also getting to know one another through the firm’s foundation. A core group of clients joined its annual golf day and local businesses have all been invited to an upcoming cake sale outside the office.
“It’s nice to get everyone talking,” said Aston.
You can speak about something other than accounts that these clients deal with.
Dunkley’s has gone a step further by linking its charity work with its market niche. This year Dunkley’s is doing a lot of work with dentists and is supporting a charity that sends volunteer dentists from the UK to Ghana to train healthcare workers on how to do extractions and provide pain relief.
“It reinforces your status in the sector,” said Dolan. “You can speak about something other than accounts that these clients deal with.”
Give directly back to the local community
Meanwhile, Raffingers is on their way to achieving their £10,000 foundation target. Once the firm has hit this goal they will be able to directly help local people – whether that is financing someone through counselling or if a team member was going through hard times, the foundation committee will be able to sift through the nominations and help those who need it.
To move closer to their target the foundation’s committee is trying everything - even a skydive. In doing so, the accounts team, for example, have gained new skills in marketing: from surveying venues for the summer ball to organising entertainment, and other committee members have built their relations with partners and are able to contact clients in another way, explained Aston.
The firm is also using their accounting services to raise awareness and help the cause. “We have monthly Xero drop-ins where people can come in for a meeting. They're completely free, but we do emphasise that a donation is welcomed if they would like to contribute.”
The Raffingers foundation has come a long way over the last year in creating a positive work culture and supporting the community. “People would bring in their charity contribution for dress down days, but many had little idea where the money was going,” Aston said. “Today, more people have got involved in the charity committee than any other.”
Supporting charities has helped these firms bring the team together and have fun. What does your practice do to support your local charity or community?
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.