How Corporate Partnerships Are Changing The Charity Landscape

By Janelle Butterfield, Macmillan Cancer Support

Companies teaming up with charities is by no mean a new endeavour, but as the market becomes ever busier and more competitive, non-for-profits are demonstrating the value of aligning with them by proposing more partnerships with a cross sector service element to extend reach whilst helping their corporate friends understand and engage key audiences.

On a basic level, partnerships with charities are a great way to boost staff morale – particularly if times are uncertain. With studies showing that wellbeing at work is directly linked to productivity, it stands to reason that a sense of common purpose and giving something back is a great way to keep staff engaged and provide encouragement amongst the workforce. It is also a great way for businesses to connect to their local community and raise their profile as a socially aware enterprise, giving companies a personal touch.

Tom Rawlinson, Foods Central Trader at M&S explains what a charity partnership means for them.

“This is the seventh year we’ve been working in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, most crucially as the headline sponsor of (their biggest fundraiser) World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. Our charity partnerships contribute to our employee engagement score of 77 per cent and we know colleagues enjoy taking part in them. It’s also an important way that we build trust and loyalty in our brand – and in terms of PR, for our 2015 World’s Biggest Coffee Morning campaign, over 250 regional articles appeared across the media – directly talking to customers about our efforts.”

From charity of the year, to selling specific CRM (cause related marketing) products, corporates have long been increasing their profile and flexing their philanthropic muscle through charity team-ups – and while a genuinely business-savvy decision that can help increase staff wellbeing, improve public relations and keep them ahead of their competitors in terms of innovating, many are now seeking to go that extra mile and offer services which require their specific expertise.

Findings from Macmillan have shown that four in five (83 per cent) people with cancer are on average £570 a month worse off as a result of their diagnosis – which is why in 2015, the charity worked with corporate partner Nationwide to create a Specialist Support Service to help Nationwide customers affected by cancer access support and information from the building society, giving direct results to customers to help them with the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis.

And tangible support is on the increase. In 2015, domestic-violence charity Refuge joined forces with cooperate partner The Co-operative Bank to offer a financial guide for those suffering from financial abuse at the hands of a partner – something which can at times be overlooked in domestic violence cases. Similarly, Diabetes UK’s partnership with Tesco is focused around educating about healthy eating and a balanced diet, demonstrating a care and concern for customers.

But what about the risks? As charities are quite rightly expected to demonstrate value of their activity and ensure they meet ethical standards, can there be issues when it comes to matchmaking with corporate partners?

Although most charities will assess partners from an ethical standpoint to ensure values align, there’s no doubt that by joining forces, both brands are putting themselves at potential risk when it comes to negative PR, opening themselves up to be criticised for each other’s ways of working. But this can be avoided through transparency from the outset, says Claire Singlehurst, director of relationship fundraising at Macmillan Cancer Support;

“Most charities are happy to hear from companies who are really passionate about wanting to support them and get involved at all levels,” says Claire, “demonstrating a keenness to really team up and make a partnership as unified as possible is something which appeals on all sides. It’s also good to know what the company aim to get out of the partnership. Good charities will work hard to make sure a partnership will fit the bill. It’s also worth taking into account what success looks like to them – is it a one off or a more long term commitment?”

While there is plenty to consider on both sides, going forward, it’s clear that charities and corporates working together is mutually beneficial in terms of raising both funds, engaging with people and building profiles, proving that a good deed really does pay off.

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