Work & Wellbeing

How to improve your Corporate Social Responsibility

8 min read

30 July 2018

Former special projects journalist

The Lily Foundation works to support families affected by mitochondrial disease. Here, we caught up with director Sarah Povey to hear why businesses should get involved with small charities like this.

Liz Curtis founded the Lily Foundation back in 2007 in memory of her daughter Lily, who passed away from mitochondrial disease at eight months old.

At the time, little was known about the disease, and there were no dedicated services for affected families. Nowadays, the Lily Foundation supports over 320 families and individuals.

Through its partnerships with organisations like the NHS and the Wellcome Trust, it forms links between patients, clinicians and scientific research bodies. Recently, mitochondrial research has shown potential to benefit research into other diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

We caught up with Sarah Povey, one of the directors at the Foundation, to find out more – and to find out whether businesses can benefit from teaming up with charities.

What can businesses do to help the Lily Foundation?

There are many ways that businesses can help, and they don’t have to involve giving money. Raising awareness about mitochondrial disease is of vital importance as the disorder still has a low public profile, despite the fact that in the UK one baby is born every day who will develop the condition, and an estimated 10 million people suffer from diseases in which mitochondrial dysfunction is likely to be involved.

Businesses are at the heart of communities, so they are ideally placed to reach audiences at grassroots level. Just a simple thing such as holding an awareness day, entering a staff team into a Lily fundraising event or featuring the charity on your website, magazine or newsletter can make a big difference.

What sort of initiatives can you have in the workplace to help raise money for charities in general?

Donating a product or experience to be auctioned is a great way to raise funds and promote your brand at the same time. Setting up workplace giving, where employees donate through their wages, means donations are not taxed. Giving customers the option to give a small donation at point of sale can make a big difference. Getting staff actively involved in fundraising, for example by doing a sponsored run, obstacle course or bike ride, organising a cake stall or having a fancy dress or “wear something pink” day in the office is a great way to team build, break up routine and increase morale.

There’s no limit to what you can do, it just depends on how creative you want to be!

Why do you think it is beneficial for businesses to get involved with charity initiative?

Corporate social responsibility has been around for a while now, and consumers can tell the difference between a company that genuinely contributes to the community and one that merely wants to be seen to do so.

Supporting a charity – particularly a relatively small one where every contribution makes a difference – is a great way for businesses to demonstrate their human side. When a company partners with a charity it shows in a very clear way that it really cares about people’s welfare, which helps build trust with customers who feel they are in safe hands. Upholding these human values can also help the company itself stay true to its core mission statement, e.g. to provide the best service possible or bring joy or positive change through its products.

Why do you think it is good for morale?

When a company gets involved with a charity its employees benefit by knowing they work for a business that cares about people as well as profit.

Charitable initiatives help give meaning to people’s work, break up routine, create opportunities for creativity, team building and personal development, and add to general feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction in the workplace. All these things are known to be beneficial for morale and productivity.

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How important is it for employees to see their employer shares their ideals? 

When you work in the charity sector you get to see the benefits that come when everyone is working towards a common goal. Your end mission is almost always right there in front of you in your day-to-day work, often in the form of the actual people you’re aiming to help.

Not every business has this opportunity, so it’s up to employers to inspire staff by leading by example, and where possible embodying the best aspects of their company’s philosophy. Getting involved with a charity is a great way to do this.

How important do you think it is for customers to see brands share their ideals?

Again, it’s about building trust. As a customer, if you feel that a company has a social conscience then you’re more likely to believe that perhaps they really do put the customer first.

Also, when a company demonstrates high ethical ideals it gives its customers the opportunity to signal their own similar values through association.

What would your top tips be for a small business that might be operating on a tight budget but that wants to get involved with charitable initiatives?

Choose a charity where raising awareness is as important as raising money. The Lily Foundation is a perfect example of this. Even just organising a simple information day for your staff and a few clients means more people are informed about mitochondrial disease, and you’ve made a difference.

Volunteering is a great way to make a difference. At Lily, we need volunteers for our cheering squads at fundraising events, to help run patient support days and information days, or to man our awareness stands. There are loads of fun, rewarding ways to get involved.

Taking part in a sponsored challenge such as a run, bike ride, hike or obstacle course is a great way for staff to get involved as a team. It promotes your company as well as the cause you’re supporting, and makes a really positive, colourful story for newsletters and social media channels.

Why not tie all the above initiatives together and show your commitment to social responsibility by having a regular ‘Charity of Year’? That might include regular updates about your involvement and activities with your chosen charity, and simple awareness-raising ideas such as adding the charity’s logo and web link to your email footer and marketing collateral.

For more information about The Lily Foundation, including how your business could work with us, visit