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Will charities benefit from corporate donations this Christmas?

Diane Hall


A person holding a Christmas Present in font of a blurred out Christmas tree.

Think of the money spent on corporate Christmas parties…hiring a room, the cost of food, and footing the bill of the open bar—these are all typical elements of most corporate Christmas parties, in order to celebrate a great year. Even a small business will endeavour to treat its employees to a Christmas meal at a local eatery, as a thank you for their hard work.

A corporate Christmas in 2020 will look very different to other years. Even if the current national lockdown is lifted on December 2nd as planned, it’s unlikely that hospitality venues, once they reopen, will be able to host large parties.

The organising of a Christmas do usually begins in September, if not sooner. Competition for dates near Christmas at popular venues can be fierce, so securing one is key. With so much uncertainty surrounding a second wave, however, few corporate party planners went ahead in the autumn and booked a venue—and even if they did, most will have received a refund of their deposit by now.

It does seem that the way we typically celebrate Christmas with our colleagues will simply not be an option this year. Whilst employers can still treat their employees with a gift, it’s the tax deductable nature of a Christmas event that appeals to many bosses.

Some businesses, of course, will welcome not spending hundreds/thousands on a Christmas party, given how much profits have been impacted by the pandemic. Not everyone, however, has had a bad year. Depending on the sector or type of business, some firms have had a great year from a financial perspective, and it’s these who may be looking at ways to reduce their tax bill as a result.

Why not donate what would have been spent on your company’s Christmas party?

The campaign ‘Xmas Party Heroes’ is highlighting this issue and encouraging companies to contribute their Christmas party fund to a charitable cause of their choice. Not only will these businesses be doing good with money they would otherwise spend on others anyway (i.e. their employees), such a donation will also qualify for 19% tax relief.

Firms such as Timpsons, Barratt Developments and The Landmark Group (whose CEO, Mark Hawthorn, was the brains behind the Xmas Party Heroes’ campaign) have already pledged their donation of their company’s Christmas party budget.

Says Hawthorn, “There will be lots of unspent Christmas party budgets this year and this campaign offers a really simple and effective solution that many businesses may not have considered.

“I only had the idea a week ago and after making a few calls to sound it out, I’ve been inundated with people wanting to get on board. The reaction so far shows there is the potential to raise tens of millions of pounds for charity.”

Victoria Russell, Director of Property Alliance Group—another company pledging to donate—added, “Charities need support more than ever in 2020 and Xmas Party Heroes is a great way to raise a significant amount of money and awareness.

“The Covid 19 pandemic has hit disadvantaged communities the hardest, with increasing numbers of children and young people that would not have previously been identified as vulnerable, now moving into thresholds of higher need. Unemployment is increasing, loneliness, food poverty, issues relating to emotional health and wellbeing, are all on the rise, which create additional demand and pressure on public services. It’s great to see so many businesses getting behind this idea and helping to raise much needed funds.”

It's an idea that could spread into households. Despite the government’s claim that we should be able to spend Christmas with our wider family and our friends, some people are vowing to remain in their bubbles for the festive period, particularly if they have family who are shielding. 

Giving gifts to loved ones is a part of Christmas. If you won’t see the recipient’s joy when they open your gift because you can’t be together, does that take away the enjoyment of gifting? If the answer is yes, why not ask your loved one if you could donate to a charity in their name as a gift—then you can both feel good about doing good.

Given the impact the pandemic has had on some people’s income, a commercial Christmas certainly isn’t on the cards for everyone. Instead of getting into debt to create a Christmas that’s filled with gift after gift, it may be an idea that, at the end of this unprecedented year, it’s much more appropriate to help someone else with a small donation instead of striving to match what you normally spend under different circumstances. 

If this year has taught us anything, it’s that ‘things’ don’t matter. People matter.  

During the coronavirus crisis we’ve seen many acts of kindness. Captain Tom was knighted for his incredible fundraising, which was one of many thousands of similar selfless acts. Yes, there may be doom and gloom all around us, but donating to a charity (however small) offers a chink of light during an otherwise dark time for someone on this earth who truly needs help. 

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