Two household brand names, Asda and Cadbury, have pledged to support David Cameron’s Big Society initiatives at the Tory Party conference this week.

According to Marketing magazine, the Asda Foundation and Cadbury Foundation will join up with Business in the Community and Nat Wei’s Big Society Network to support people who want to get involved in their communities. Starbucks too is piloting a ‘Big Society’ project, ‘Realising potential’.

The plans are due to kick off in the New Year. They’ll certainly provide much-needed charitable funds at a time when public spending cuts start to hit home. Er, every little helps. And corporate foundations have the ability to leverage the support of their company’s staff and customers – an asset that could come in handy as the state shrinks.

But there are at least two things that the big brands should bear in mind.

Firstly, they should think carefully about what projects they support. At NPC, we think a focus on areas where the need is greatest  is one of the most important things funders can do. This will means picking ‘unfashionable’ causes, like working with young offenders or victims of domestic violence, and targeting socially deprived areas.

Second, while the companies will want to use their involvement to build their brand, they should be careful not to overdo it. A homeless shelter sponsored by double-strength lager producer might not go down so well.

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