Cable & Wireless launch international matched giving scheme

Alliance magazine

Cable & Wireless is one of the world’s leading providers of international telecommunications services. Its businesses provide 15 million customers in 70 countries with a complete range of international, domestic and mobile communications. Cable & Wireless is the world’s fourth largest carrier of international traffic, provides mobile communications in more than 30 countries, and operates the world’s largest, most advanced cable-ship fleet.

How it all began

John Pender was a cotton merchant and entrepreneur. He saw great opportunities for laying cables along vital routes of communication. His company soon operated a network linking Britain with Europe, the Middle East, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. By the turn of the twentieth century this had expanded to include South America and Africa. Pender’s company had created the world’s largest telecommunications company. Today Cable & Wireless is still the world’s most global telecommunications company.

Cable & Wireless has launched a £1 million matched giving scheme to celebrate its 125th birthday. The scheme covers employees in over 50 countries, but take-up has not been as good as anticipated. One problem is simply the difficulty of designing a scheme that will work in so many different countries; another may be the over-cumbersome application procedure.

This year Cable & Wireless is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The Eastern Telegraph Company — historic ancestor of Cable & Wireless – was formed in 1872  by John Pender. To celebrate its 125th anniversary,  Chairman Dr N Brian Smith launched a £1 million special Anniversary Community Fund to help employees raise money for local charities or non-profit organizations.

How does the scheme work?

The Fund is available to all 40,000 employees of  Cable & Wireless worldwide and is used to match amounts of money raised locally. Employees must raise a minimum of £25 each to qualify for a matched donation. The size of the matched donation will depend on the demand. It will be be at least £25 per employee and could be as large as £300. The amount will be decided in January 1998.

For example, if ten employees collectively raise £250 for a good cause then Cable & Wireless will at least match it, ie the equivalent of £25 per person. If the maximum payment is applicable, the donation will be £3,000, the equivalent of £300 per employee.

The payments are made direct to the charity benefiting from the matched giving scheme.

Precautions to be taken

A number of issues need to be addressed before a payment can be made to a charity:

  • How do we ascertain that the charity is bona-fide?
  • Does it have a political agenda?  If so, the charity cannot be supported through the scheme.
  • What is the most efficient means of paying a charitable organization that is based outside the UK?
  • Are there any tax benefits applicable to an international matched giving scheme?
  • What is the company’s liability for an employee taking part in a fundraising activity?

To help address the above issues Cable & Wireless sought the help of CAF — Charities Aid Foundation. CAF suggested that the best way forward would be for Cable & Wireless to incorporate these issues in a two-part application form.

Part 1, outlining the fundraising activity and the number of employees taking part, would be filled in by the employee(s). Each employee would sign the form to indicate that they understood the paragraphs relating to ‘liability to employees’.

Part 2 would be filled in by the charitable organization giving details regarding its assets and lobbying activities and providing legal certification (in English) of its charitable status. Copies  of the most recent financial statements and constitution, or other  documents which state the organization’s aims and objectives, should also be provided.

Implementing the scheme

Once the application form was drafted and had its seal of  approval from CAF and the company’s Legal and Risk Management departments, the next step was to implement the scheme throughout the Cable & Wireless group.

This was done by sending copies of the forms to every Cable & Wireless personnel department around the world. This was followed by:

  • an endorsement letter from the Chairman to all group-wide general managers explaining how the scheme is operated and asking that the scheme should be promoted to all employees;
  • articles in the various in-house magazines around the company;
  • a special commemorative staff publication outlining the scheme;
  • an e-mail to all Marketing Communication Managers throughout the company.

Reasons for poor take-up

However, despite extensive profile-raising and marketing of this scheme, the take-up has been extremely poor. Two main reasons for this have been suggested:

  • The form-filling is complicated and cumbersome for the amount that people will gain.
  • In less developed countries £25 can be a week’s wage and employees may find it difficult to raise this amount.

Addressing the problems

Cable & Wireless is addressing some of these issues and encouraging employees to participate by increasing the matched donation to up to £300 per head for every application received.

If the procedure to check the authenticity of charities is proving too cumbersome, the text of the application form will be reviewed and simplified, while ensuring that correct legal requirements and procedures are followed.

Being a global company Cable & Wireless is concerned that it is seen to be responsive to varying local needs and cultures. It is therefore welcoming comments on the scheme in order to improve its success. The ultimate aim is that employees should see that the company wants to support them in their community work and that charities should benefit from the scheme.

For further information about the Chairman’s Community Fund and Cable & Wireless’ main Corporate Community Investment policy contact Mary Godwin, Community Affairs Manager, or Swati Patel, Community Investment Executive.
Tel: + 44 171 315 4489/ 4945. Fax: + 44 171 315 5126. Email: or

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