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Doing charity work is a 'differentiator'

Doing charity work is a 'differentiator'

Having a charitable foundation in place helps not only with recruitment, but also with employee retention, said RSM's Nick Sladden.

The head of RSM's industry group on the charity sector said doing charity work was a "differentiator" for financial services firms, which helped people attract talent as well as keep employees engaged and within the firm.

RSM launched its foundation formally in 2018, focussing on five areas of activity, including corporate partnerships, funds matching, one-off appeals and a newly launched competition between its regional offices.

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Sladden said: "In terms of recruitment and retention it's very important to have that [foundation], it makes us different to other firms.

"It's not necessarily only about the remuneration. We spend a lot of time at work for most of our lives and I think if there's that feel good factor alongside all of the professional services work that we do, that helps definitely in terms of retention and recruitment."

Sladden, who is an audit and assurance partner at RSM, said the firm has donated money to charity for more than 20 years. But historically this didn't have a lot of visibility among staff.

In 2015, he and three other senior partners decided to put forward the concept of a foundation. The idea was to increase visibility of the firm's charitable giving by creating a one-stop shop.

The foundation was then registered in 2018. At that stage the firm had settled on a few charity partnerships, which were legacy relationships built up over the years, and there was an appetite to be more transparent and engaging in how those partnerships were selected, said Sladden.

The foundation focuses on five areas:

  • five national partnerships across a variety of areas,
  • match employee fundraising up to £250,
  • one-off donations to charities (often requested by colleagues),
  • humanitarian fundraisers and campaigns, such as Vaccinaid, Ukraine, the Pakistan flood appeal (often in partnership with Unicef)
  • and most recently, a competition between its regional offices for charity of the year, awarding those who've raised the most funds for their charity per person and those with the most innovative idea.

"It definitely gives something to colleagues to be able to show we are a caring firm, and actually that's embedded in everything we do.

"So I think having a 'giving something back project', the wrapper for [which] is the foundation, is something really positive and if people want to see 'well actually what are you doing' we can point them to our foundation website, we can point them to our foundation annual report and we've got regular news stories that drip through our intranet about what we are doing.

"It's that visibility thing which five years ago just wasn't there."

The foundation's corporate partnerships at the moment are Anthony Nolan, the Duke of Edinburgh's award, Leadership through Sport and Business, Edgar's Gift, and the Woodland Trust.

He said the foundation had become "self-perpetuating" as in the past two years its giving has doubled. 

The foundation has a target for giving out £1mn in the coming year, up from about £300,000 when it first started. 

Last year it passed the £2mn mark in total giving since launch, so the plan is to "rapidly hit £3mn and then continue".

The main funds come from company profits. A budget is agreed for the year ahead and then the trustees decide how to spend this across the five areas of activity.