Philanthropy. A term used by the wealthy and their advisors, businesses and charities alike, but what does it mean? Of the various definitions, the purest I have found states philanthropy as ‘the practice of performing charitable or benevolent actions’, however I would describe it simply as the act of providing help to those less fortunate than you. Philanthropy involves considering those in need and is perhaps more prevalent in today’s challenging environment because there are a greater number of causes that need assistance. The word tends to be used when referring to the wealthy and their charitable activities, but is philanthropy anything more than a status symbol?

Looking to the example of some of the world’s wealthiest people gives us different views on philanthropy. Bill Gates is well known for the extent of his philanthropic activities whereas it is debated that Steve Jobs was notorious for keeping his charitable activities out of public view. Some see greater benefit in ‘teaching a man to fish’ rather than ‘giving him a fish’. In terms of contribution, could businesses be more effective investing all available resource in expansion thereby creating employment opportunities?

Boston’s chairman set up the Boston Charitable Foundation in 2008 and has always encouraged staff involvement in supporting local community charities on both an individual and a group basis. Those charities which are favoured are those where employees are active during their free time. Both volunteering and taking part in fundraising events are ways in which our staff raise awareness for charities close to their hearts. From cake bakes to sponsored walks, growing moustaches to competing in marathons and mountain bike rides, the ripple effect of encouraging people to volunteer or be involved in raising funds for charity has considerable emotional and economic benefits. It is our view that this creates a great culture for the business that colleagues can be proud of.

Our experience at Boston is that there are mutual benefits to be gained from creating collaborations and partnerships with charities. The shared sense of purpose can be the catalyst of change to make a difference. Such associations are a way of gaining support in the form of volunteerism, publicity, influence and donations through fundraising while aligning with the desires of the company and its employees to fulfil their social strategies and interests at the same time as creating a sense of pride in its employees and improving their development.

So is philanthropy merely a status symbol for the wealthy? Not in our view. It is about contribution, everyone doing their bit to help those less fortunate than themselves.