It’s a truism that around 80% of Leicestershire and Rutland’s businesses are SMEs. Some of the fastest growing and most ambitious of these make a point of “giving back” to local charities.
But there are also larger, long established companies which, despite their national, even global reach, still prioritise local giving.
Mars Petcare is one of the world’s largest family-owned corporations, with two sites in Leicestershire: Melton Mowbray and Waltham on the Wolds.
“As a company we are passionate about wanting to give something back to the local community, and we have done so for over 50 years,” says Angie Phillips, at Mars Corporate Affairs. “And we recognise the importance of supporting our staff who want to give something back to our communities and charities they feel passionately about.”
The company has a raft of mechanisms for local giving; including volunteering, matching money raised by staff for charities pound for pound up to £200 per person per year, product donations and payroll giving; where employees can choose to donate to the charity of their choice direct from their pay, tax free.
Mars also runs, with Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation, a local grant giving scheme. Projects and activities in and around the Leicestershire sites can apply for support. This usually takes the form of grants, product donations and other gifts in kind. The Community Foundation publicises and assesses applications: final decisions are made by Mars staff themselves.
“Our investment in the communities in which we operate remains a long term commitment,” says Angie. “We seek to add value in a way which is mutually beneficial, meeting the needs of our communities and reflecting our values as a company – both in terms of what we do and the way that we do it. The Leicestershire & Rutland Community Foundation plays an essential role in the administration of the Mars in the community Grants programme ensuing that we remain accessible to our communities and that our business can respond effectively to the needs of the local community.”
Rick Moore, Chair of the Community Foundation, says: “Mars Petcare’s continued support of local communities is invaluable, and it is great to work with them in supporting not only the better known charities, but also small “hidden” voluntary groups, which quietly do sterling work in our communities, helping make Leicestershire and Rutland somewhere we can be proud of and run thriving businesses in.
NatWest is another big brand doing their bit locally. Dave Fawcett, Local CEO for Leicester says: “We’ve supported a number of larger and smaller charitable groups, and we’re working with local cricket clubs under NatWest Cricket Force, rejuvenating them for the future. These clubs reach out into their local communities and get people – especially young people – involved with sport, where they might not otherwise get the opportunity.”
Dave also gives his own time to support local initiatives, for example, Voluntary Action Leicestershire’s “Community Impact Pilot” which plans to work with communities to tackle child poverty issues, and with the Community Foundation to support their work.
Lands’ End, the American clothing company which set up in the UK in 1993, has its European headquarters in Oakham, Rutland. Employing more than 400 people in its head office, state-of-the-art distribution centre, call centre and outlet store. The company has a strong environmental and social responsibility policy.
“Maintaining good community relationships and helping the communities we operate in to thrive, is a regular part of working for Lands’ End”, says Wendy Sanders. “We give careful consideration to local charity engagement and encourage our staff to do the same.”
Charity schemes include a Community Participation Fund donating cash, clothing and vouchers to local charities elected by their staff. Volunteering is also actively encouraged and Lands’ End makes a £1 donation for every hour an employee dedicates to their chosen charity. Charities and local groups that have benefited from the scheme include Voluntary Action Rutland, Hope Foundation, and the Christmas Toy Appeal.
Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation is a charitable company which enables companies – and individuals – to give locally, tax efficiently and in line with their aims. It is currently running a £1 for every £2 match scheme, using central government money to match staff fundraising or company donations, invested under the name of the company, for local community causes.
To find out more about the match money – or about the work of the Community Foundation contact Laura Grant on 07771606400.