Holly Christie’s top tips for corporate partnerships

More often than not many fundraisers are faced with someone from senior management or a Trustee asking them “why haven’t you approached XYZ large company” perfectly adamant the company has plenty of money and will just give it to the charity because we do good work.

Anyone who has been in this situation will know how hopeless it is and for people working in small charities the silver bullet of corporate fundraising seems unobtainable.

Corporate partnerships do have the potential to deliver transformational change to a charity through strategic change and raising much-needed funds. However, with small charities often operating with one or two staff maximum; being able to capitalise on these opportunities can feel impossible.

Small charities face many unique challenges when approaching and developing corporate partnerships. Below, are the most common challenges that I have experienced, and I know my peers in other smaller charities have also felt challenged with. 

The Employee Volunteering Trap

Many small and local charities have wonderful opportunities to engage corporates with their work through employee volunteering; gardening at the hospice, painting a wall at the youth centre or a day’s team building at the local charity shop.

When done right these can be fantastic opportunities to engage with a corporate partner, show your work first hand and begin to cultivate a relationship. However, you must be careful that this opportunity is not costing you more than the benefit you’re receiving in return. For example, I remember speaking to a fundraiser for a small local hospice whose team of corporate volunteers who came to garden for the day damaged their water pipes.

Similarly, many corporates are looking for a free team building day with the opportunity to feel good at the end. I would always recommend charging a fee to cover your costs and always feel empowered to say no if it’s not in your best interests.

Brand, brand, brand

Without a large profile or brand, it’s hard sometimes to get your foot in the door – even the most well-known charities struggle to get heard above the noise.

Find what makes you special and why that corporate partner would want to work with you. What mutual benefit can you both receive? This can’t just be “because we do great work” – it needs to be something that can provide a tangible business benefit and ideally would also deliver more than just money for your organisation.

People are the key to success

It goes without saying that large strategic corporate partnerships rarely land in your lap. They’re driven and delivered through at least one person spearheading the way and often with a team of people supporting across a whole organisation.

If you’re a small charity with only one or two members of staff this could be an incredible resource drain with the potential for success often far into the future. With high turnover and staff doing multiple roles within an organisation, it’s important to keep your corporate partnerships plans as simple as possible. Don’t approach large household Charity of the Year opportunities or the FTSE 100 – instead, look at what you can provide that those large national/international charities can’t provide and use that to drive the conversations forward.

I will be talking on a panel alongside incredible peers from the corporate sector including Microsoft, Aviva and Travers Smith at the FSI Fundraising Conference 2019. Hear more about the challenges small charities face in developing corporate fundraising and to receive some helpful advice book your ticket here. 

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