This short guide provides an introduction to establishing and developing charity-corporate partnerships. It contains advice for both charities and companies.

Advice for charities

What can a corporate partnership do for a charity?

The biggest reason for establishing a partnership is to generate income. A strong relationship can provide a regular stream of funding or a promised lump sum depending on the terms agreed. Some partnerships, however, focus on employee volunteering programmes. Whatever the tie-in, a well-managed and strategic collaboration can give your organisation a much greater profile, making it visible to a far wider audience than your charity’s budget would normally allow.

Choose the right corporate

An appropriate relationship is, of course, vital for the partnership to be successful. There must be synergy between you both in terms of your work, your values and your audiences. Be clear about why you are approaching that particular company or brand and what you want to get out of the relationship. Think about how your members or donors would react to you working together and explore any potential pitfalls and risks to your reputation fully before committing.

Equal value

It’s tempting to accept any offer of corporate support, especially when funding is scarce or you want to give your organisation a greater profile in a competitive sector. But you need to be clear about the benefits and make sure you build a ‘partnership’ and not just a ‘relationship’. If you feel the organisation is asking too much of you and is not recognising the charity’s value, have the facts to hand and negotiate for a better position.

That said, it is also important to be realistic in your expectations. Although social responsibility is a must for many companies, they also have a responsibility to their shareholders. Be sensible in the percentage of sales you ask for or how much coverage you want in their marketing materials. The important thing is to work together for mutual benefit.

Be clear about how the money will be used

A successful charity-corporate partnership needs to demonstrate how the money raised will be spent. If, for example, an animal charity is benefiting from sales of a certain type of dog food, consumers need to understand why they should buy that product over their usual brand. Having a clear goal also allows you to measure the success of the partnership and demonstrate outcomes to those involved. This can help to secure further partnerships in the future.

Advice for companies

Making the approach to charities

Companies need to apply much of the same thinking before making an approach to charities, or accepting a proposal. A partnership needs to be in line with your mission, meet the needs of stakeholders and be beneficial to the organisation. It needs to make sense to your customers, staff and shareholders to give it credibility and encourage buy-in.

Managing the partnership

Designate one point of contact to manage the partnership and ask for the same from the charity. This ensures continuity and builds trust, which is vital in maintaining a good working relationship, particularly when the project comes up against challenges. Be transparent about what you are offering and what you expect from the arrangement. If there are likely to be third parties involved in the project, such as an external PR agency, make this clear from the beginning. It can be very unsettling and time consuming for a charity to be asked to meet the needs of a number of stakeholders they weren’t aware of at the beginning.

Take the time to understand one another

As organisations, you and your charity partner have different goals and probably different priorities and perspectives. Successful charity-corporate partnerships are based on mutual understanding, but you both need to work at this. It is tempting for a big brand or profitable business to feel it is the stronger partner, but in order for the partnership to reach its full potential you need to recognise the value of what the charity does. Don’t just meet the internal team; get out there and see the organisation’s work for yourself.

Celebrate what you’ve achieved

Together your organisations are likely to have created significant change. That’s something to be very proud of. It’s just as important for you to demonstrate the impact of your partnership to your stakeholders as it is for the charity, to set a positive precedent that allows you to continue the partnership, or develop a new one.

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