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Clients? Yes. Colleagues? Certainly. But should companies care about community causes?

Samuel Dean


Should companies care about causes? Yes and no. Should it force an agenda onto its own colleagues? No. Should it encourage them to have an involvement in community causes? Yes, most definitely.

There have been lots of studies done about engaging colleagues. Everything points to the fact that an engaged team is happier. So how to do it? In 2021, TEAM LEWIS Foundation was launched to answer this question.

Two years later, the Foundation and team have contributed to 1,000 causes globally and has won multiple awards. In financial terms this is worth £3m without counting agency time. What makes this scheme special is that every colleague has their own budget of £2,000 to spend. There are no stipulations except that the recipient is a registered cause. The choice of who to donate to is entirely left to colleagues – and this is important.

So very often, these causes mean a great deal to them personally. Sometimes you learn much more about a colleague when you hear the things they want to fight for. It’s a powerful moment when the TLF meets to hear a personal story. These are sometimes small causes that are unique to a location, problem or person. They’re also great stories that no-one has told yet and sometimes a cause no corporate would back.

Top-down corporate schemes often look for high profile charities or ones which are of the moment. Increasingly, the public sees through this and sometimes the causes, do too. There are numerous cases now of causes rejecting money deemed to be greenwashing or culture washing.

On top of the cash, everyone in the team can work on projects for their chosen cause. This has led to us working on some extraordinary, award-winning creative projects. But why do we do this? Is it a good investment? Does it make money? Of course, we need to make money like everyone else, the difference is that we don’t need to be overly focused on the short-term. A better question would be: “Is it the right thing to do?”. We know the answer to that one.

For the hard-headed out there, the company and Foundation has grown organically by more than a third since 2021. It comes down to principles and beliefs. Of course, these don’t matter quite so much in a boom time. Everyone can afford their principles when it’s going well. It becomes harder at times like this.

A core belief is that people get good at what they enjoy doing. They put more effort into things they care about. They are passionate about topics that are personal. We’re individuals with different backgrounds and different experiences around the world. Colleagues are better placed to know about the issues that affect them. They are more effective at serving the communities they are a part of. They bring a level of understanding to an issue that a top-down approach never could.

In the last two years, creative work produced via TEAM LEWIS Foundation has won more than 10 industry awards. We have donated countless hours to help causes achieve their goals. We have worked on major projects with the Ukrainian Warrior Games team, The Music Man Project, Daughters of Tomorrow and the High Fives Foundation to name just a few.   

A huge amount of effort goes into running this programme. However, it is worth it. Firstly, it is the right thing to do. This is important as more and more people are looking to work for companies that align with their values.

Secondly, it makes our team better at their job. Thinking creatively for a cause and leading projects for organisations that don’t have a marketing culture is challenging. Since launching this programme, we have seen leaders and talent emerge as they have helped their cause achieve great things.

Thirdly, it is a showcase for what our industry can do. The image of marketing has changed. It is now less about shiny campaigns for the sake of it. It is all about impact. We have seen first-hand what marketing and creative can do for causes. At its core, what we do is competitive storytelling. We aim to show why the public should care about and support a particular cause. We give these causes a voice. We tell their stories. We inspire action.

As an organisation, we have learnt much in the last two years. Growth isn’t always measured by financials. Profit is only a by-product of a successful culture. Working with causes helps us grow as people. It helps us grow as consultants. It helps us grow our impact. This is why businesses should allow personal self-expression with causes. While we can offer our expertise, energy and creativity, causes offer us a lot back in return. It’s a chance to learn, lead and empathise in a way we hadn’t considered before.

Does it come from a CSG/ESG budget? Is it marketing? Is it internal comms? Is it training and development? Why has it proved so popular? It’s because it doesn’t come from any budget. It comes from the heart. Not from any one heart either, but from all of us.