Why you should explain the hows and whys of your charity work

A lot of brands do charity work but few explain why they choose a particular cause or how they decided upon the best way to make a contribution.

Happen regularly does pro bono work, helping charities with content production, editorial training and their content strategy. We do this for altruistic reasons of course – we believe our skills make a real difference to the charities – but also because it stretches us and teaches us new things. We get something out of it too. It is core to our purpose as a content agency.

We’re not unique in this. Charity work reveals a lot about a company’s expertise and values. This means it’s something worth explaining to your customers, as is what you as a company gain from the work. Does it sharpen your skills, motivate your staff or further a cause you believe in?

We recently made a short pro bono film for the City of London Sinfonia about how it is different from other orchestras. The CLS wanted to explain how their outreach work is a part of their approach to music, not just an add-on. As well as classical concerts and collaborations with other artists, CLS members regularly perform in retirement homes and children’s hospitals.

Discussing this with Matthew Swann, chief executive of the CLS, we had a light-bulb moment when he explained his belief that this work made the orchestra’s players better musicians. They have to improvise performing for children - something classical musicians don’t normally do – and this made them better, more responsive classical performers. As CLS principal clarinet Katherine Spencer puts it in the film: “I really don’t think you can do the evening work without the day work.”

The hows and whys of a company’s charity work are ripe for elucidation. You should be explaining why you’re backing a particular cause and how your expertise is making difference, but also what you as an organisation are gaining from it too. That may not be immediately obvious, but it is worth thinking about how it fits into your communications and marketing strategy.