Corporates are from Mars, Charities are from Venus

Approximately £1.4 billion finds its way to the charity sector from around 100 of the UK’s largest businesses1

The question is; can more funding be leveraged from the corporate sector to support the third sector?

Corporate charity partnerships have been around for a long time. Collaborative models can be a great success. Many charities who are experienced in working with business see their brand profile and revenues dramatically increase as a result of a corporate relationship. Equally, there are examples of frustration and disappointment when the partnership fails to deliver against expectations. Indeed some partnerships have proven costly to the charity. Even the selection process can be arduous, some charities argue they cannot win an open staff selection process believing size orattractiveness is a barrier whilst others know that the power of their brand appeal will secure a win on most attempts.

The partnership model is just one option in the arsenal of ideas that the charity has to enable it to meet its needs; equally, it is only part of the process that a corporate will use to deploy its responsible business agenda.

The challenge to business is how to create sustainable and more impactful relationships with the charity sector. Successful partnerships with a charity can be a very helpful component component in the development of an organisations brand values, people engagement strategy and ultimately its way of doing business.

The challenge to charities is to think more broadly and more strategically. Charities that are innovative in how they approach the value and benefits of a partnership stand to gain more. Understanding the wider potential that a business partner can deliver will help the charity take full advantage of expertise and support that a business has to offer.

Fundraising is of course part of this story – a good partnership however can add greater value to both partners. Charities and Corporates will have different value sets and different expectations as well as different ways of approaching a partnership. John Gray in his famous book ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’, helps men and women to remember their differences in order to find a harmonious relationship.

The 10-point action plan developed by Diverse Advice offers a more systematic approach for managing corporate charity partnerships. Through the stories of successful partnerships and the insights of some amazing individuals, the process provides advice to both charities and corporates on how to realise greater benefits and deliver more meaningful activities from partnership work. Using the analogy of a marriage, we have developed a 10-point Action Plan for managing a charity corporate partnership.

Action Point 1: Single – Explores the importance of pre-planning and establishing a clear purpose for wanting to engage in such a partnership.

1London Benchmarking Group annual review 2010

Action Point 2: Dating – Looks at how to set out a compelling proposal for apartnership. Both partners need to think through what they can give and not just what they want to receive.

Action Point 3: Engaged – Examines the preparation time needed once a partnership has been agreed. Getting to know each other is vital for honest communication and joint working.

Action Point 4: Vows – Looks at the importance of the formal agreement. The use of a Memorandum of Understanding can help set the boundaries for working and ensure problems can be dealt with professionally.

Action Point 5: Honeymoon – The first stages of any relationship are important. Leadership is without doubt a key ingredient to success. Getting all the ‘in-laws’ together to agree to give their support adds momentum and gets the partnership off to a flying start.

Action Point 6: Marriage – Explores the importance of stakeholder engagement and managing the ups and downs of a partnership.

Action Point 7: Benefits – An essential part of any marriage is reciprocity. It is important to understand how to deliver value creation for both partners.

Action Point 8: Date Nights – Examines the importance of allowing a partnership to discover new ways of sustaining progress and looks at the value of recognition and celebrating success.

Action point 9: Beyond Marriage – The time allocated to a partnership passes all too quickly. Effective legacy planning helps secure a long lasting connection.

Action point 10: Reflections – Taking the time to reflect on a partnership helps identify key moments of success and lessons learned.

If you need a little guidance with your partnerships please get in touch

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Values landscape

Marketing is necessary for any company to raise awareness of its brand. Consumers however now want to see much more than just marketing messages of the product or service – consumers are looking for practical evidence of how a company behaves…And they don’t want to search for this proof in the tome of a CSR report.

How do companies, large and small, communicate and engage the consumer in a way that creates belief and trust in what they are doing?

This is more than a marketing message pushed at a consumer. Companies must promote their brand values in a practical easy to understand way.

But what happens when brand values are challenged and instead of loyalty customers react with sceptism and cynicism?

Lack of accountability in food chains, fraud in banking, poor human rights in manufacturing saw consumers expressing their outrage, made ever more powerful through the agility of social media. An adverse reaction to a company’s behaviour will have a direct impact on profits and sales.

There are powerful examples of how brand values can be a more potent message than product marketing. Innocent drinks have launched a great new campaign called chainofgood.co.uk. A simple but clear value message; Tastes Good, and does you Good, and does others good. Their message is powerful in that the use the word ‘and’ means that their values are integral to their business model.

And we can see this value messaging in other campaigns. Barclays who undoubtedly suffered because of the banking scandal have crafted a message of ‘dedication’ and ‘in it for the long term’ with its new premier league football sponsorship.

Pruhealth isn’t promoting insurance for times of ill-health but is actively encouraging healthier life styles with obvious business reason.

How can this help the third sector?

Third sector organisations should seize the day with this new momentum from corporates, eager to show its consumers they are not a faceless organization only driven by a profit motive at all costs.

Charities need to be strong and bold in offering a new style of relationship to corporates. They should drive corporate partnerships, not be subjected to them. They should think outside of the box about how they can help a corporate promote its values in an increasingly cluttered landscape.

The days of a corporate expecting to push huge numbers of employees through volunteering days still have a role but with diminishing importance.

A good charity corporate relationship should be about ensuring the public understands the brand values of both partners. The trick is to find a meaningful way that of course delivers the bread and butter of fundraising and employee engagement but also delivers a message for good.

Coca-Cola demonstrates this approach with is strategic partnership with Water Aid. At Coca-Cola, water stewardship is a priority as much of its business depends on water, being its main ingredient. A key part of their strategy is to help communities gain access to safe water and so creating a brand presence in communities they are yet to engage.

Corporate – Charity partnerships have a new opportunity to rethink how they can engage consumers with passion and integrity that builds trust and loyalty behind a brand.