How much do you really know about the charitable work your company is doing? Lord Mayor Alan Yarrow thinks it is time the City shouted a bit louder about the good it does on top of its invaluable financial operations – and he wants your company to join in. The best can hope to be honoured by a visit from Yarrow in person. It’s all, he says, about not being shy.
The occasion for this rather un-English public display of compassion will be City Giving Day, an initiative of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal to champion the City’s commitment to helping society. After an initial outing at the Guildhall last year, on Wednesday 30 September 2015 the event is going large. Firms of all sizes across the Square Mile, or connected with it, will be encouraged to host displays and events in their foyers – whatever they feel comfortable with – to help share with their employees all the charitable and community initiatives to which they are contributing.
Firms that register to be part of City Giving Day before the deadline of 31 July will be placed on the City Giving Day roll of honour and will also be in the running to be one of the six exemplars of charitable excellence who will receive a visit from the Lord Mayor on the day to mark their achievement.
For Yarrow, this very public effort is all about his role as a champion of the best of the City. “It’s bringing everything into one particular point in the calendar. To give it all momentum.” And he sees calling for a coordinated celebration as a cunning way to cut through our cultural reticence. “There’s a natural shyness, but if you do it collectively you’re not quite so shy. It’s not bragging, it’s marketing.”
For those who still find it difficult to talk about these matters face to face, there will also be a social media push, with a YouTube channel where everyone who wants to share evidence of how they are working with communities can pool their videos.
There should be plenty to talk about. The Heart of the City initiative was founded in 2000 as a joint initiative of the City of London Corporation and the Bank of England under Eddie George to demystify and share best practice in community involvement, and has established a network of 700 businesses of all sizes, which can offer practical help to any firm looking to get more involved.
Yarrow’s ultimate hope is that this year’s event is a win-win: more attention and hopefully donations for the charities on show, including the Lord Mayor’s Appeal itself, plus a chance to remind City workers about some of the unsung virtues of their firms, helping with morale and retention. He appreciates there may be a few cynics, and he has a robust answer for them: “people may say it’s self-serving, trying to improve the image of the City, driven by guilt and all that stuff. Well, good luck to them if that’s the way they feel. Actually, they can go and say what they like, it’s better done than not done. Better to get out there, get over this hump of modesty and false deprecation, which I think is just bad.”
“I’m looking at it from a charitable perspective. It’s about increasing the purse for the charity. And if the charities started to look at this they may say, ‘actually, we could be of value here. These guys are quite vulnerable, their image is not too good. If we can help them to find a way to improve their image publicly, they might give us more money to achieve what we want to achieve’.”
He even sees the possibility, if the event goes well, of taking it to an even larger scale, offering other cities across the UK a model for giving days of their own. With 1.4m of the UK’s 2.1m financial and related professional services workers located outside of London, there’s certainly potential for this event to reach beyond the Square Mile, and a number of our other big cities will be watching what happens here on 30 September with interest.
As evidence of that potential to reach beyond the City’s boundaries, September’s festivities will conclude with the annual Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards at Mansion House, a longstanding City initiative that has over nearly three decades become a prestigious celebration of corporate community involvement throughout Greater London, presenting prizes to firms across the capital. The awards were begun in the wake of the City’s Big Bang, in 1987, by the then Lord Mayor Sir David Rowe-Ham. The hefty and impressive trophies are modelled and named after the heraldic silver guardians of the City of London. Yarrow says it remains “a way of tying people in firms across London back to society, acting locally as well as enjoying these global expansion opportunities”.
Thinking big, and bringing the benefits back home to London. It sounds like what the City is all about.
You can find out more about City Giving Day and register your firm’s interest at: www.thelordmayorsappeal.org/cgd