Corporate partnerships: it’s all about the impact
How do we go about building more impactful corporate charity partnerships? This was the question at the heart of the IoF Corporate Partnership Conference. Through practical examples of successful partnerships and open discussion, the speakers all highlighted the need to focus on engagement, breaking down silos and broadening conversations.
In order to create a successful partnership, there is an underlying dichotomy that first needs to be addressed: corporates want to grow and strengthen their brand whereas charities want to create social impact. Instead of choosing partners that simply fit employees’ needs or a fundraising strategy, charities and companies should think carefully about what type of partnerships are the best fit and make the biggest difference.
Cultural differences must be recognised but much can be achieved through a shared purpose and common values. Partnerships between companies and charities should be mutually beneficial relationships, and a partnership of equals is based on trust. Too often charities feel subordinate, resulting in unrealistic promises being made and a reluctance to say no for fear of jeopardising the relationship. Corporates want to help and an admission of weakness creates an opportunity for them to provide support and a solution.
In all cases, the speakers highlighted how the most effective partnerships are the ones focused on achieving very clear goals. From honest and candid conversations at the start of the partnership, realistic and achievable objectives can be set. Charities must invest in the time to understand their partner’s business, learning what it has to offer. Excellent communication is at the heart of any relationship and the best ideas come from continuous dialogue.
Designing effective volunteering opportunities for their partnerships was acknowledged as the greatest challenge most charities face in constructing a proposal. We were given some excellent examples of creative thinking to overcome this hurdle. Collaboration with another charity has rarely been considered an option in the past, but charities are starting to see this as a means of satisfying an increasingly important requirement; a shared partnership is better than no partnership and pooling resources often results in a greater impact.
Once charities become focused on the long term impact, it opens up a far wider opportunity to develop a more lasting strategic partnership. This requires a much closer alignment of purpose throughout both organisations, but the results can be transformational. When a charity breaks through corporate silos and broadens its reach beyond the CSR team, exciting new opportunities present themselves. Charities need to appreciate it is not just about the money, a trusted brand telling their story is a very valuable asset. What unites us all, is a commitment to focus on how we can make the biggest impact for the company, their employees and the cause.
Hugh Lonsdale, Head of Corporate Partnerships at Elephant Family
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