The future of corporate partnerships
Next month, I’m speaking on a panel at the annual smorgasbord that is Fundraising Convention, about the Future of Corporate Partnerships. It’s worth noting that the last time I spoke at an IoF Conference on this topic, it featured robots, drones and pictures of my baby daughter – yes, you are reading that right – it’s amazing what sleep deprivation will do to you.
This time, we’ll be coming at it from the altogether more serious (and better researched) angle of More Partnership’s latest report, From Transactional to Transformative: The Future of Corporate Partnerships.
This excellent new report features interviews with a wide range of leading corporate and non-profit practitioners – analysing both the current state of play, and looking ahead to future expectations.
It is also markedly different in tone from our sector reports over the last few years in my view – here’s why:
1 – It has thought-provoking quotes! If you didn’t know who Peter Brabeck-Letmathe was before, you will now. Also quoted: James Bond and Terry Pratchett; Porter and Kramer.
2 – It strikes a note of overall optimism in most areas. Whereas most reports in recent years have sounded caution about the level of corporate giving, this report citing CAF finds that “corporate giving is generally stable”, and moreover “FTSE 100 companies ... are typically disbursing a higher proportion of their pre-tax profits compared to recent years”. In other words, corporate giving in 2015 and 2016 returned to levels not seen since before the credit crunch in 2009. Neat! Moreover, there is a prediction that corporate giving is likely to increase in the coming years, and that corporate partnerships will be more important in the next three years.
3 – Moreover, there is a prediction that corporate giving is likely to increase in the coming years, and that corporate partnerships will be more important in the next three years. And did you know that big corporate gifts are on the rise? However, don’t get your board too excited yet – it is in part a result of companies partnering with fewer organisations more intensely.
4 – Having talked about corporate giving in 2 and 3 above, the majority of the report deals with the possible future – and issues a stark warning about blinkered focus – “the corporate fundraiser who considers themselves solely a raiser of money, with the singular job of extracting cash from corporate firms, is likely to have disappointing experiences”. True, of course – but perhaps the report could do more to unearth honest examples from charities (and their Trustees) about how they balance their duty to maximise corporate income with their desire to maximise strategic partnership impact.
In other areas, the report agrees with the prevailing sector rhetoric that “partnerships have typically become more strategic and multifaceted”, and points to a likely continued direction of travel from “bilateral partnerships to consortia models”. It is worth noting that the scope of this analysis is exclusively FTSE 100 companies, although interesting and bullish analysis of corporate foundations is also included.
An interesting section of the report deals with digital technology and how early adopters such as the Red Cross have reaped the rewards. Similarly, there is discussion of the formation of corporate partnership teams and some memorable formulations – “Corporate partnerships are a contact sport and it matters who’s in the team”.
Finally, there are practical steps to maximise the impact of corporate partnerships, of which my personal favourite speaks to the potentially reductive nature of impact measurement to produce nice soundbites – i.e. outputs over outcomes.
There is a lot more to unpack in this report. I hope you can join us on 2 July for what we promise will be an interesting presentation and panel discussion with Nik Miller from More Partnership, Rachel Kirby-Ryder from Clic Sargent and Rachel Hopcroft CBE (Head of Corporate Affairs at KPMG and a trustee of the KPMG Foundation).
Meanwhile, let’s see if we can’t get the discussion going – I’d love to hear your views on what stands out in this report for you.
Jeremy Gould, Head of Fundraising at Carers UK
Head of Fundraising