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Stop just giving to good causes!

Tom Gellatly | 11.09.19

This might seem an odd message to give to leaders of property and construction companies gathering in South Wales for Property Week’s annual Resi Convention 2019. Especially since I’m the Chief Executive of LandAid, the property and construction industry charity.

At last night’s opening panel discussion on “Trailblazing solutions to Homelessness” I pointed out that while the industry raises loads of money for charities (including, I’m delighted and grateful to say, LandAid) we haven’t yet scratched the surface in terms of what we can achieve.

Or, importantly, what we should achieve.

Charities are too often an after-thought. Too many people in business still think they should do something to support ‘good causes’ without thinking through the change they want to achieve. And recipient charities are hardly likely to complain if they benefit from those companies’ generosity.

But as money gets tighter, and some of the problems we face as a society – loneliness, poverty, mental health problems, the environment, and, yes, homelessness – become more pressing, we have to ask some tough questions about who is best placed to help, and how.

Charities are at the forefront of tackling those problems. But the future for these outstanding civic institutions is looking uncertain.

As support from government and local government decreases, the reliance of individual donors, like you and me, and business to fund charity increases. All of which brings me back to the question of ‘good causes’.

The problem is that as a phrase, it can be a bit of an opt-out. It is as if we can all collectively agree that it is enough to know that a particular charity does some good to warrant ‘digging deep’ and helping out. So we give our money and go on our way.

The problem is, if we’re going to make a real difference and help tackle some of those problems that affect us all – our families and friends, our neighbourhoods, our regions, our country – then we have to get smarter. We have to focus.

We have to agree a goal, work together, and not give up until we’ve succeeded.

This means thinking not about whether our businesses support one or several ‘good causes’ – however laudable they may be. It means thinking about how – as an industry – we come together to achieve real social change.

LandAid works with the whole industry, bringing people together to fundraise and donate their professional expertise in tackling youth homelessness. In turn, and because of that support, we invest in over 100 UK charities that mostly would never get on radar of the professionals gathering at Resi 2019. But we know them. We know what they do. And we know the extraordinary impact they achieve.

We are the means by which the property and construction industries can work together to help end youth homelessness. So, we’re asking the industry to do more than just support us.

We’re asking the industry to become a movement for real social change.

And not just for a year. Or even three years. But until the job is done.

Last night I told delegates to stop just giving blindly to ‘good causes’, but to come together as an industry and to help us end youth homelessness. That’d be a real trailblazing solution.