July 26, 2019

How To Form Great Business And Charity Partnerships

Corporate-charity partnerships should be aimed at bringing mutual benefit to both parties through their collaborative efforts. More than just ticking the corporate social responsibility (CSR) box, any business partnerships should consist of long-term, strategic projects that bring about sustainable impact and real change.

Long gone are the days when a suited-and-booted CEO would pass over a giant cheque to their chosen charity with great pomp and celebration.Recent research conducted by Lloyds Banking Group found that 70% of the companies that they help gave strategically to charities, while less than 20% went for ad-hoc donations – a complete 180 degrees turn from a decade ago. The tide is turning on traditional corporate-charity alliances – the effective and successful business and charity partnerships of today are more than one-off donations and brand logos added to the end of year report.

But how do you create an innovative and mutually beneficial partnership? In fact, how do you select the business to partner with in the first place? With plenty of businesses out there, it’s not hard to find an organisation you’ll want to work with. What’s difficult is deciding which business to choose, and convincing them to choose you in return. With a saturated charity industry, there is likely to be other organisations contending for the attention of your chosen business. You’ll want to pitch a corporate charity alliance which can cut through the noise, engage your target audience, make a real difference and allow both parties to reap the rewards of the relationship. Lucky for you, here at GoodBox our experience of working with charities and nonprofits has taught us a thing or two about what makes a successful charity partnership.

What makes outstanding corporate charity partnerships?

What makes a charity partnership stand out? There are different ingredients required to create an inspiring and impactful corporate-charity partnership, based around a foundation of co-creation and collaboration focussed on bringing about social change.

Great minds think alike

One of the underlying characteristics of high performing business and charity relationships is shared values. You need to choose business partners who are the right fit for your organisation, sharing common principles with you and your charity’s culture. This makes it easier for them to identify with your social mission, and define the overall purpose of the partnership.

Before you start approaching prospective partners or considering proposals from organisations, take time to develop a criteria for your ideal corporate partner. Look at your organisation’s integral principles, its culture and vision for its future. This will help you to find a business that aligns with your charity, resonates with your donors, and makes sense from an investment perspective. It’ll also ensure that once the partnership gets underway, you’ll find that you can align much more seamlessly, achieving both commercial and charitable benefits.

A great example of this is the alliance between Comic Relief and Sainsbury’s, which has now been going strong for 20 years. So far, Sainsbury’s has raised an impressive £130 million for Comic Relief, with £11 million being from the last Red Nose Day alone. It’s an alliance that both sides work at to make a real impact. Without their common values and mutual respect for each other, this partnership wouldn’t have been able to reach its 20-year milestone.

A clear, measurable goal

Your charity partnership should be about more than simply raising funds and satisfying your business partner’s CSR. But moving away from a traditional monetary goal can be difficult. Reaching a fundraising target is easy to measure, visualise, and takes less innovative thinking. Rather than focusing on how much your partner can give as a business, or how many people you have reached, decide on the type of impact you want your investment to have.

These partnerships work best when stakeholders are aligned to a similar purpose, to one clear, overall goal. This helps you to create a strategic plan of action that will work towards outcomes that deliver value to both parties. It will also ensure that you can monitor your progress towards longer-term goals, helping you to measure the effectiveness of your project in meeting its targets.

Beyond CSR

Choosing to build a modern business and charity partnership can take adjustments in thinking. For one, this may require taking a new approach from your side or additional investment in terms of funds and resources if you have been used to the traditional, business-of-the-year model up to this point. Your business partner will need to show how they can support you to make this change. How can their employees, products, services or property space support you?

Your business partner also may be unsure of what exactly you can offer them as a charity. This is the consequence of decades of business-of-the-year models. Thinking about what you can offer them and what you can get in return may not be a practice that you are familiar with, but when done correctly makes a real difference on the impact of your partnership. Partnering on events, programs, and campaigns that are a good fit for them as a business will give them a project to focus their resources on which will engage your target audience and improve their brand reputation, moving beyond simply meeting a CSR goal.

Take the charity partnership between Breast Cancer Care and M&S as an example. Breast Cancer Care’s clients were often annoyed at being unable to find appropriate underwear after a mastectomy, so M&S worked with them to create bras specifically for women who had been through breast cancer. Another great example is Gillette supporting Movember by offering participants a free razor once they sign up to the cause. These initiatives are completely different from the old-fashioned CEO cheque and go beyond CSR, bringing about real benefits to charities’ beneficiaries while simultaneously improving the reputation of the corporate partners.

Bring in the decision-makers

When it comes to creating a team to head up your charity partnership, make sure you include key leaders and decision-makers. Team leaders and innovators from all areas and levels of your business partner’s organisation (and likewise from within your own ranks) should form your core project group. This ensures that the right people are involved from the start, with managers and department heads being able to input ideas, clarify on what resources they need and raise any problems directly related to their team.

This keeps the partnership moving forward by helping to speed up the navigation around any hiccups. By having a core team of leaders from across the two organisations, you can keep all stakeholders in the loop. Everyone will know what direction the partnership is taking, who is responsible for what in terms of driving the activities forward, the resources and support needed from each team, and the progress of your efforts so far.

Establishing an equal relationship

With traditional partnerships, charities could often feel as if the company had the upper hand in the arrangement as they were the ones who supplied funding. Modern charity partnerships should foster an equal relationship between both parties which recognises each other’s strengths and where they need support. Understanding what you each can and cannot bring to the table from the onset will open up the conversation on how you can best help each other.

While charities may be unused to and potentially uncomfortable with helping their corporate partner improve their reputation or increase their sales, these are often important motivators for businesses. While for charities, resource generation is a major motivator for initiating these types of partnerships. Instead of seeing this as a source of tension, differences between your motivations can be used to ensure that both sides gain value from the collaboration.

For example, most businesses are made up of various teams with different roles, experience and skills, which charities can utilise and learn from to improve their own operations. Likewise, businesses are unlikely to have the expertise in dealing with the aid sector or the social issues which the charity addresses. By working out what each partner can teach the other and how best you can collaborate, you can create a more equal relationship which will have more of an impact, as well as avoiding tension because of your motivational differences.

Being frank

Even in the strongest corporate-charity partnerships, the chances are at one point you’re going to have to have a tough conversation. Being open and honest from the onset about what resources you or your corporate partner can provide, and what you are willing to do will go a long way to preventing unnecessary conflicts.

Partnerships are by their nature a two-way relationship, so it’s important that both partners respect the other by being responsive, dependable and can communicate openly when issues arise. Having an open dialogue may come more naturally to your business partner than your organisation if as a charity you are unused to being bolder and more direct in their conversations with corporates. This is something that as a charity you can focus on to ensure an honest, open working relationship which will help to maximise the social impact of your alliance.

Overall, a successful business and charity partnership is built on knowing what you want to achieve, how you’re going to do it and ensuring you choose the right organisation to achieve it with. When it comes to selecting your corporate partner, if they are forward-thinking and innovative, they’ll want to know that you are up to date digitally. We help charities modernise how they fundraise, from our custom-built contactless donation devices to the latest solutions in digital transformation. With our expertise and wealth of experience in working with charities, you and your partner can optimise your fundraising efforts for maximum impact.

Get in touch with our knowledgeable team today to find out more about how we can help you form an impactful, innovative business and charity partnership.