With all signs pointing to an official recession, it’s all too easy for businesses to scrap budgets for things that may seem unnecessary. However, they should think twice before axing any Corporate Social Responsibility budget, says Andrew Roberts, corporate finance partner at Grant Thornton in Birmingham.

Grant Thornton’s annual Stock Exchange Challenge was held last week at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Hosted by Andrew, it gave teams the chance to play a fantasy stock exchange game.

Andrew, who set up the event after the death of a friend’s son from leukaemia, said: “Every year, for the last 13 years, we’ve organised this event and overall we’ve raised over £150,000 for Leukaemia Research; a charity that’s really close to my heart. The Stock Exchange Challenge has gone from strength to strength and this year we have branched out even further, with the challenge also being hosted in Leeds.

“We can all see this is a great way to help a worthwhile cause. But, why should businesses bother to organise this kind of CSR activity?

“Although it may at first seem incredibly daunting to organise a charity event on this scale, it is most certainly worthwhile. The fact that Birmingham’s business community is so supportive has really helped the event gain its longevity. There is more to life than just business and this proves it.

“Of course, it really helps if you’ve got a great team around you to make it happen. My PA, Jenny Henderson, takes the brunt of organising the event and helps to make it the success that it is.”

Jenny, who has organised many events for the Corporate Finance team, said: “It’s important to choose a charity that really means something to staff. Everyone has their own stories and issues that are important to them. If you listen to the opinions of your colleagues it’s more likely they’ll support the event.

“Don’t be frightened if people are hesitant at first. If you’re enthusiastic enough, your colleagues will soon catch the charity bug. Once you’ve identified your charity, contact them and work with them to develop any ideas they might have. Some will have stacks for fund-raising to give you inspiration.

“Don’t think you won’t be able to afford that swanky venue you’ve got your eye on. We’ve always found venues in Birmingham to be very generous and happy to assist with costs when it comes to charity events.”

Andrew concluded: “Most people at Grant Thornton see charity as part of their working life. We have a well-supported CSR policy throughout the company that includes the selection of a charity to support each year. This year our charity is Marie Curie Cancer Care. In Birmingham we run a selection of activities throughout the year including dress down ‘Jeans4’ days and selling home-made cakes to raise money.

“The company allows each employee a set amount of volunteering time per year and organises overseas volunteering projects that always prove popular. In Birmingham, some of our voluntary work in the local community has included clearing up a local nature reserve and redecorating Edgbaston Rowing Club. We also run an annual go-karting championship where the winning team donates its prize-money to the charity of its choice. This event, a fixture in our CSR calendar, has teams from businesses across Birmingham competing for the much-sought-after championship trophy. Having a CSR policy such as ours is a great incentive to retain staff. At Grant Thornton, we really believe that it helps make the firm a great place at which to work.”