City Matters: City Giving: Why you don’t need to be rich to be involved in philanthropy

Fiona Woolf
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IN A slight diversion from my usual working day, I will be spending a good portion of this Friday judging cupcakes. Why? For the first ever City’s Giving Day.

This inaugural event will showcase a whole spectrum of opportunities to get involved in giving – in addition to cupcake competitions and sponsored swims. The philanthropic side of my role as lord mayor is something I am hugely passionate about, and given the phenomenal popularity of charitable events throughout the City and beyond, I know this is also close to the hearts of many Londoners.

Despite this, a new study by Cass Business School and the University of Bristol shows that we are still only giving 0.4 per cent of our total spending to charity – the same as in 1978. I know that, collectively, we can do more; both financially and in other ways. Anyone can be part of the movement to give, regardless of their wealth or position.

And what’s more, now we know that giving is good for you – as John Nickson shows in his book of the same name. Feeling a sense of partnership with the organisations and causes you support helps to create a sense of true satisfaction in donors, encouraging long-term engagement and commitment. The same is true whether you are helping local children to read or working to fund an arts initiative. So I would encourage all Londoners to find their passion and get involved.

As always, it is helpful when a culture of giving comes from the top. To this end, the Bank of England and the City of London Corporation co-founded Heart of the City back in 2000, to help companies within the City develop their corporate social responsibility programmes. I am therefore delighted that Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, has become the new co-president of Heart of the City with me – a ringing endorsement of the benefits of getting involved. As lord mayor, I practice what I preach, and am supporting four charities through my Lord Mayor’s Appeal: Beating Bowel Cancer, Princess Alice Hospice, Raleigh International, and Working Chance.

The City’s Giving Day will show that giving can be fun as well as worthwhile – as the intensively competitive cupcake bake-off will no doubt show. If we want to bring corporate social responsibility into mainstream responsible business, and to enable all the City’s workers to be involved in giving, we need to show that philanthropy doesn’t have to be something that only the rich elite can be part of – it needs to reach a wider audience and a new generation. Currently, over 65s account for 35 per cent of charitable donations, up from 25 per cent in 1978. This can’t go on – and the enthusiasm of Londoners of all ages for Lord Mayor’s Appeal events and Heart of the City programmes shows that it doesn’t have to.

I hope that this year’s City’s Giving Day will inspire a whole new cohort of volunteers, who will give their time and money to a huge variety of deserving causes for years to come.

Fiona Woolf is lord mayor of London.

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