With the holidays around the corner, ’tis the season of cold nights and warm fuzzy feelings. And nothing evokes those feelings more than simply doing something good for fellow beings. In Amsterdam, several companies and initiatives help to give back.
In Amsterdam, there are plenty of opportunities to do good. For instance, by helping companies find volunteer jobs for their employees through the Business Involved platform, swapping corporate Christmas boxes for donations with Kerstgift, finding a more efficient way of collecting for charities by Kinder or handing out free laptops to Amsterdammers who can’t afford one.
Cyberbank offers laptops for those in need
That last initiative just launched today. The Cyberbank compares itself to a foodbank, but with laptops. People in Amsterdam who can’t afford a laptop of their own can pick up a refurbished device. Barring the €20 deposit, the laptops are free of charge.
Cyberbank is an initiative of organisations Cybersoek, ICT Vanaf Morgen en Allemaal Digitaal. The bank says that around 20 per cent of people in Amsterdam lack digital skills. For people with low incomes, buying a laptop or computer can be too expensive. Similar to a food bank handing out food, the Cyberbank hands out laptops to those in need.
Besides supporting the people of Amsterdam with hardware, Cyberbank also supplies digital support for people that need help using their devices. Laptops are donated by individuals or companies. Cyberbank makes sure all data is safely erased, the software is up to date and hardware is refurbished where necessary. For donated laptops that can’t be used, they have a recycling programme.
Business Involved involves businesses
Amsterdam-based companies can donate more than used laptops though. Every company is built on the skills of its employees. And those skills can also serve the general good. That’s why Amsterdam launched its Business Involved platform. It helps international corporations, innovative startups and bright-minded entrepreneurs to make a structural and impactful contribution to the city. Through the platform, which is made together with Amsterdam-based startup Deedmob, amsterdam inbusiness and Volunteer Centre Amsterdam, companies can deploy their employees as volunteers, share their expertise with social organisations or donate funds.
Business Involved is aiming for structural impact, not just a temporary fuzzy feeling during the holidays, says Charlene Verweij, International Communications Advisor of the city of Amsterdam. “We would say that giving back is not just a December activity or a nice-to-have. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been a growing theme among businesses of all sizes and industries. Efforts like volunteerism, environmentally friendly practices, philanthropy, and ethical hiring and employment guidelines have become key focuses for companies across the globe.”
Aiming for structural impact
According to Verweij, corporate volunteering is hot because of the ease and efficiency with which Business Involved matches the skills of employees with volunteering opportunities. “We’re not doing one-off initiatives such as renovating a schoolyard. It is about making sustainable connections between the companies, the social initiatives and the employee that also improves the Dutch or international employee’s connection to the city.”
One example of Business Involved helping companies to give back to the city, happened during the first lockdown last year. The Cyberbank didn’t exist yet, so Business Involved jumped in: “Many high school students in Amsterdam had to follow online classes but did not have computers at home that supported that. We then reached out to our network of businesses to ask if they would be willing to contribute to this project where new laptops were arranged for these students.”
Amsterdam businesses want to give back
So how willing are Amsterdam’s businesses exactly to donate their time and energy and give something back? It depends, says Verweij. “In general, businesses are very willing to give back. What does matter is the stage they are in. When first setting up their business here, the priority is getting up and running as soon as possible. But when companies are rooted here, they are very open to connecting to initiatives. We visited 656 companies in the Amsterdam area to check in with them since January 2020 and corporate social responsibility is very often high on the agenda.”
Verweij: “CSR is not just about being a socially responsible company; it’s also important to business growth and attracting top talent. Today’s consumers look for brands that are dedicated to CSR efforts, and the younger generation of employees prefers to work for companies who give back to their communities in some way or another.”
KerstGift lets employees donate Christmas gift
One Amsterdam-based startup has also figured out that that employees prefer socially responsible employers. The Social Handshake already offered Payroll Giving, an easy way for employers and employees of companies to automatically donate part of their salary to charities. They’ve recently launched the seasonal ‘KerstGift’ or Christmas Giving, which uses a similar structure to donate Christmas gifts from employers.
“We got requests from potential customers”, says Sandra van Beest, founder and CEO of The Social Handshake. “They wanted to know if it was possible to arrange something around Christmas. We figured that was a good idea and something we need very little adjustments to our platform for. Companies don’t like the paperwork involved in making donations. We take that pain away.”
Employees rather donate
Van Beest only recently launched Christmas Giving. ‘A bit too late’ for this year’s rush. But they already got seven companies to join. “We usually see that peaks in donations are connected to real-world events. In general, anything promoting sustainability is popular, and I’m curious if the holidays are any different.”
One might wonder if employees are willing to part with their traditional corporate Christmas boxes with jams, towels, small selections of nuts and – if lucky – a small bottle of sparkling wine. The answer is: yes, yes they do. At least according to some initial findings by Van Beest. “One employer gave his employees the choice between a traditional Christmas box or a donation. 75 Per cent chose to donate through Christmas Giving.”
Kinder makes donating more effective
Another company promoting corporate philanthropy is Kinder. The tech-for-good startup from Amsterdam has a platform that promotes online donations by vetting the performance of charitable organisations and allowing donors to act instantly when confronted with the world’s problems.
Founder Mathys van Abbe sees a lot of interest from companies giving back to the world. “More and more companies understand that there is a lot to gain from customer loyalty and employee engagement perspectives if they connect their brand to social causes that worry their different stakeholders. A lot of companies reach out to us to help them find the great organisations that make a difference and we offer them solutions to make giving simple and impactful.”
Tackling problems from multiple angles
Kinder allows anyone to donate not only to single charities but also towards curated collections of top-performing charities. These United Actions are tackling the same urgent problem from different angles, thus making the donation as effective as possible. “These gain popularity for both individuals and companies. Choosing and comparing organisations, which are focusing their efforts on a problem you care about, is extremely hard and Kinder curates the best options based on our research data. We bundle the most effective, impact-driven organisations in a small fund to which you can donate.”
Kinder raised over €500K last year yet hit a rough patch. But the future looks bright, says Van Abbe: “I rebooted the company and found new investments to continue our important mission: to speed up reaching the SDG. We are fully back on track and focus our energy on high net-worth philanthropists and companies that want to do good better.”