Corporate Partners – For Richer, For Poorer?
A lot of us speak about establishing partnerships with companies. There can be a lot of rhetoric around working together and the fact that it’s about a long term mutually beneficial partnership, i.e. we’re not just after your money. But I wonder if it’s always true. A few years ago, I was calling one of my charity’s ‘corporate partners’.
I'd called the company's Chief Executive for two reasons. Firstly, to check he'd be along to the scholars reception, and secondly, to get a sense of whether they'd be looking at adding to their existing gift. "I'm glad you called", he said, and immediately I knew this was going one of two ways.
I also knew that'd found the last few years since they'd established a scholarship and prize 'challenging'. When they committed to their gift in annual installments, their turnover had been steadily growing, along with their profit. Since then, turnover seemed to have stagnated somewhat, and profitability was dropping. "Where are we in terms of our scholarship?" He asked, "We need to reduce our costs and we're looking at everything. I really don't want to stop funding someone when we've started, and risk them struggling with their studies, but at the same time, we’re cutting staff, cutting salaries and no cost is safe".
As it was, their first scholar had received his last tranche of funding a few months before, with their second scholarship due to be advertised in a few weeks. The company also offered a cash prize to the top student on a specific course - that had already been advertised but the company hadn't paid that proportion yet.
What would you do?
As fundraisers, our role is to maximise income to the charity.
I asked a bit more about the company's situation – it wasn't great, but they seemed big enough, and capable enough to weather it. Other sectors in this part of the country were performing well, although their sector was struggling somewhat. The sums we're talking about were small relative to the company, and certainly didn’t seem enough to make the difference between the company failing or not.
I decided to tell him that if he could donate the prize this year, there was time to put a hold on the scholarship advert, and we could revisit that the next year.
To me, keeping the company engaged in a positive way was more important that maximising the income in that year. I was convinced that insisting the pledge was fulfilled would take the relationship in a direction that would be less beneficial in the long term, and that we'd see bigger gifts in the longer term by working with our partner.
I'd love to tell you that it worked out exactly as planned, but I've since moved on from the charity. I did notice recently, though, that the company has returned to profit this year.
Michael Hodgson, Campaign Manager, Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Michael Hodgson is the Campaign Manager for Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums, leading their Inspiring Art and Music fundraising campaign to raise £20m towards the £30m redevelopment. He has worked in community, corporate and major gift fundraising roles for national charities and in Higher Education. All about that donor care. Blogs far too infrequently at cause4effect.wordpress.com