At the recent Corporate Partnerships Special Interest Group event I enjoyed a really thought-provoking presentation from Joe Saxton. Having spent years conducting analysis of the various fundraising markets, Joe observed that:
- The majority of corporate partnerships are risk averse, bland and unoriginal
- Unless different models of partnership can be made to work, just a handful of charities will pick up the most valuable partnerships each year, and the majority will struggle to grow, even though most charities say they need to achieve growth in corporate fundraising.
He pointed out that unlike in other fundraising streams, in corporate fundraising little has changed in decades. And he offered a number of solutions for the charity that is keen to increase income by doing things differently.
On the Corporate Mastery Programme we help you raise more money by sharing dozens of growth strategies. Here are three of Joe’s ideas that chimed with techniques we teach on the Programme:
- Develop partnerships with organisations other than companies, eg government departments. As Joe says in his report, In Good Company, it’s not that the kinds of partnerships he’s suggesting don’t already exist, they do, it’s just that they are not at all widespread. Eg I know of an excellent strategic partnership between one of my clients, an education charity, and a section of the armed forces, worth over £300,000 which, among other things, helps the latter recruit bright graduates with the specific skills they need.
- Collaborate. At a past Corporate SIG we heard the inspiring story of the partnership between CHaL and Black Rock. CHaL is a collaboration between six hospices that realised that winning and managing a huge partnership is very difficult on your own, but is possible as a joint effort.
Another slightly older example I like was the collaboration between Help the Aged and ChildLine/NSPCC to work with Morrisons. Fed up with coming second in the staff vote for the second year running, Help the Aged combined forces with the children’s charity and together won a landslide victory in the staff vote.
- Aim for strategic value, not just cash. The phrase that most resonated with me from the presentation was ‘aim for partnerships where even if no money was raised, good was done…then layer fundraising on top of that’.
It is similar to the crucial advice given by Ben Swart of NSPCC at my recent Breakfast Club for Fundraising Directors event. In describing lessons learned while creating the NSPCC’s multi-million pound partnership with O2, he explained that it’s not that you don’t want to raise money. It’s that if you are really serious about building partnerships that are genuinely strategic you have to find the companies where two things are true: a) they could help you achieve part of your mission through value that is not cash, and b) their customers or staff are exactly the kind of people who care about your organisation’s mission.
So not only does the partnership add huge value that your head of services / programmes actually wants but they are highly motivated to do a great job because it resonates with an audience that matters to them commercially. And it does not mean that there won’t be income from various budgets within the company. The activity needs to be paid for, but if you negotiate right, they’ll want to, and not only out of their CSR budget.
Note, strategic partnerships are not just for the larger charities. One of my favourites is this ingenious partnership between Ikea and Homes for Hope.
Three questions to help you generate increased partnerships income:
- Not-corporates. What organisations, in sectors other than the corporate sector, potentially have the motivation and capacity to want to partner with your charity? Perhaps no-one has ever approached them with a persuasive proposal…until you.
- Collaborate. Who could you collaborate with, in such a way that your combined ability to win is more than the sum of its parts? Unless you are awash with successful new business already, you lose little to draw up a short list and explore the idea. Who could you call today?
- Strategic value. O2 is helping NSPCC reach out to around 6 million parents to help them keep children safe online. Which companies could potentially leverage huge value that helps your charity achieve its mission?