At this time of year, as the weather gets warmer, thoughts often turn towards summer holidays. But for some people, dreams of taking some well-earned rest and relaxation are tempered somewhat by anxieties about getting toned up in time - particularly if vacations are of the sun, sea and sand variety.
While getting in shape for summer is a good motivator there are other worthwhile reasons for taking up physical activity. Obviously, personal health is important and my colleague at Coventry University, Anne Coufopoulos, has written before about this and the associated business benefits for employers who promote workplace wellbeing. But you can also be altruistic and help other people by choosing to do something sporty in aid of charity.
Setting yourself a sporting challenge is great fun but if you decide, as many thousands of people across the country do, to do some fundraising while getting fit then all the better. It’s very satisfying knowing that your endeavours will help to make a difference to people’s lives - and I speak from personal experience.
I’m currently in training for the Pretty Muddy Coventry & Warwickshire 5k in aid of Cancer Research UK this July. It’s no ordinary race either - there’s an obstacle course to negotiate along the way - so it’s going to be hard work. But while my joints might be aching and my clothes a little muddied at the end of it all, I’ll be feeling great about myself in more ways than one. I’ll have raised money for a good cause as well as boosting my fitness levels.
Mass participation fundraising events like these are incredibly popular. In fact, many charities maintain they raise between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of their annual income in this way. Working within a university, I have seen first-hand how money from charities has gone directly into vital research.
Whether it’s improving treatments for diseases such as cancer and heart disease, addressing societal problems such as homelessness and poverty or helping communities recover from both natural and manmade disasters, money raised by charities is making a real impact.
And despite economic uncertainty, particularly post-Brexit, charity donations are still holding up. According to the Charities’ Aid Foundation’s annual UK Giving report for last year, donations remained pretty much at previous levels at £9.7bn despite the major political developments of 2016. What’s more there was a rise in the proportion of people saying they undertook charitable activities like volunteering over the same period - up to 89 per cent, compared with 79 per cent in 2015.
I have noticed this positive attitude towards charity in a professional capacity. My role at Coventry University is business facing and I spend a significant amount of my time promoting our research expertise and helping companies to tap into that knowledge base. What I have experienced is that businesses often want to genuinely share some of their hard-earned profit by way of some form of corporate social responsibility.
It’s great to see organisations giving back to society and making a positive impact outside their own industry. And this “not all about the bottom line” attitude is why the UK falls within the top 10 most generous countries in the world. On a personal level, I find it cheering that while the political and economic climate is somewhat shaky, there continues to be a real feeling in business that profit can be used for the greater good, helping others, and supporting our communities.
You can do your bit too whether that’s through donating money, holding a fundraising event or giving staff the time they need to do voluntary work. Even having a collection tin or two next to the bacon butties at a business breakfast event would mean a lot to a charity.
And, if like me you are taking up a physical challenge for charity but are struggling through your training regime, take some extra motivation from the knowledge that the amount you raise is most likely being matched not just by others in the race, but by the businesses and organisations around you that are putting their time, money and resources into supporting the same causes as you.