Charity: The practice of giving

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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.

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By aynsley
19th Sep 2016 17:00

Wow - it's really fantastic to see so many firms embedding charity work and giving-back within the firm's purpose, rather than just a bolt-on CSR project. At Tayabali Tomlin we believe in transforming the lives of our clients, team and those less fortunate around the world. This purpose has become embedded within our culture and frames everything that we do.

The firm and team are involved with numerous local projects such as wrapping Christmas presents and summer BBQs to raise funds for CCP, sponsoring the Cheltenham Guinness World Jive Record attempt for Winston’s Wish, hosting celebrity chef dinners for Gloucestershire Community Foundation etc This is really great from a local perspective and the team choose projects that they connect with.

However, what really inspires the team and clients alike is our partnership with B1G1 – the global giving initiative based in Singapore and founded by Masami Sato and Paul Dunn (AccountingWEB Practice Excellence Lifetime Achievement winner 2015) and the impact that we have created with them over the last few years.

Every time we take on a new client and hopefully transform their lives from a financial perspective, we either give a goat to support a family in Kenya or we provide transformative eye surgery in Mumbai. And when we run events/workshops and help entrepreneurs better understand business and their numbers, we provide education to under privileged children around the world. But it’s the giving during the year that really excites the team. They meet on a monthly basis to decide what projects they will support from around the world and each team reports back on their chosen projects. You can find out more here http://www.tayabalitomlin.com/giving/

Members of the firm have also been on various study tours to Cambodia and India over the past three years, to see how the projects operate on the ground, connect with various other like-mined small business owners and see the impact that the worthy causes and businesses have created together. On those tours specifically we have built playgrounds, renovated schools and helped install eLearning systems.

We do all of this of course because we really believe in giving back and making a difference. It’s who we are and it’s what attracts team members and clients – but that’s not why we do it.

Over the past number of years we have created 1.1m giving impacts via B1G1. It’s amazing that Raffingers have their own charity and I can’t praise them enough for doing so. Many small businesses can’t do the same but still want to give to credible charities they connect with and in a sustainable way. B1G1 provides a really simple platform that enables 100% of your giving to go direct to people in need you choose. We even got a local charity The Wiggly Worm (whose purpose is to end food poverty in Gloucestershire) approved on the B1G1 list of projects and a few more in the pipeline. Since becoming involved with B1G1, I have joined the board of Free To Shine (with fellow accountant Steve Pipe). This B1G1 worthy cause is based in Siem Reap, Cambodia and provides girls at risk of [***] trafficking with an education to protect them. Steve and I met the founder of this incredible organisation at the B1G1 100 Million Impacts Summit in Bali this summer.

Sorry if this sounds like an advert for B1G1 – it’s just that I am really passionate about it. I know that if every business made a tiny difference, together we could make a massive impact.

Embedding charitable giving of any description within a business’ purpose is great for the soul, helps create a powerful culture and community and builds a sense of loyalty and belonging from the team and clients. It has to be authentic though – otherwise people will easily sniff out a cynical marketing ploy.

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20th Sep 2016 13:43

It's great to see firms doing this. It is something that I would probably aspire towards in the future when developing my own firm so interesting to read how others have done it.

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20th Sep 2016 15:49

I too applaud Raffingers. They are a great example of what can be done.

And happily they are not an isolated example either.

In fact, as I did the research for my recent book "The world's most inspiring accountants" it was extraordinary to discover how many of them were actively involved in worthy causes.

In the book we focused on 57 accountancy practices in eight countries. While they were predominantly small firms, with 71% having one or two partners or teams of less than 10 people, collectively their impact was profound.

Specifically, between them they had:

► Raised almost £1million of cash for worthy causes

► Provided 225,000 hours of help on a pro bono basis

► Founded at least two charities – one of which has already saved 550 young girls in Cambodia from [***] trafficking, and which I am proud to now work alongside Aynsley in supporting

► Raised £280,000 of grant funding to prevent a much needed community facility closing, and

► Made life a little bit better for 9,653,329 people in need by using www.b1g1.com to connect with, and “micro-give” to, causes that resonate with them

And remember, all of those impacts have been made by a very small number of firms with a very small number of clients.

Imagine how staggeringly large the impact is when the numbers above are multiplied many thousands of times over to reflect what hundreds of thousands of accountants are doing for many millions of their clients.

It make you proud to be an accountant, doesn't it?!

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20th Sep 2016 15:54

Since Aynsley is too modest to tell you himself, I have just checked the numbers and can tell you that his practice (Tayabali Tomlin) has already made life a little bit better for 1,108,729 people in need.

Isn’t that an amazing thought?

And yet more evidence of the profound difference accountants can and do make.

NB: You can see the exact number, and exactly how it’s made up, by clicking here https://www.b1g1.com/business-account-profile/593

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