Episode 61: Attracting new corporate partners – our sparkling proposition, with Laura Webb

Episode Notes

If your charity works wants to win and grow corporate partnerships, then one really valuable asset is a proposition or first step that is both easy to understand and enticing to those companies.

This is by no means easy, so I was fascinated to hear the way Laura Webb approached it for Leeds Hospitals Charity. In mid-September 2020, she got inspired by the brilliant Snowflake Appeal at Sheffield Children’s Hospital charity, and in hardly any time, she and her colleagues created their own campaign, inviting businesses to Sponsor the Sparkle in December 2020.

In just four weeks, the campaign attracted 20 companies to donate, generating over £35,000. One invaluable element is that more than half these companies were supporting the charity for the first time. In this episode, Laura explains how they did it and various they lessons learned.

If you want to share this episode with colleagues or on social media because you think it will help other charities – THANK YOU VERY MUCH! – we are both on LinkedIn and on twitter, I am @woods_rob.

If you want to share this episode because you think it will help other charities – THANK YOU! – we are both on Linked In and on twitter I am @woods_rob.

Further Resources

If you’d like more powerful strategies to help you raise funds during the pandemic, I cover lots of helpful tactics in my free E-book: Power Through The Pandemic – Seven ways to raise money with major donors, corporates and trusts, even now. You can download it for FREE here: brightspotfundraising.co.uk/power

Transform your skill and confidence in corporate partnership fundraising.

To go much deeper into these and dozens of other strategies, and get help in implementing them, check out the Programme which Laura attended, which is Corporate Partnerships Mastery Programme.

Or for help increasing your confidence and results in high value or individual giving, check out the Major Gifts Mastery Programme or the Individual Giving Mastery Programme.


‘There was a real energy behind it, right from the start, because the clock was ticking, and everybody just mucked in…’

Laura Webb

Transcript of Episode 61


Welcome to Episode 61 of the Fundraising Bright Spots podcast. My name is Rob Woods. And this is the podcast for anyone who works in fundraising. And he wants ideas and a nudge of inspiration to help you raise more money and enjoy your job, especially during the pandemic. And in today’s episode, I’m sharing an interview I did recently with a very smart corporate and high value fundraiser named Laura Webb, from Leeds hospital charity. Inspired by what’s been achieved through the brilliant snowflake appeal at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Laura and her colleagues decided to create their own campaign in Leeds inviting businesses to sponsor the sparkle during Christmas 2020 campaign with a huge success, generating over £35,000 in income.

Interestingly, more than half the companies that donated are new supporters of the charity, I found Laura’s examples and practical advice. incredibly helpful. And whether or not you’re working for a hospital charity, I hope that you to find it useful food for thought. So Laura, before we get into the interview, and this interesting campaign you’ve done, would you introduce yourself and top-line, the charity where you work?


Sure. And so I look after corporate partnerships in the fundraising team at Leeds hospitals charity. And so we are the official charity who support the Leeds teaching hospitals trust lots of people query sometimes why there’s a charity at a hospital. And pretty much all hospitals have a similar foundation or separate charity, where they’re basically to try and fundraise and put in the things that the NHS budget doesn’t buy. So it’s the kind of extras to make patients experience slightly better than it might have been with without our funding and our input. So it’s quite a quite a big trust over 20,000 staff at the hospital. And we support all areas of that. Fantastic.


I remember, I think we met when you join our corporate partnerships mastery programme, early in 2020. So I enjoyed working with you through that. And I remember you did some really interesting projects that you were sharing with your colleagues on the programme then. But in this interview, I particularly wanted to talk about something you did later on several months after you finish the programme. Just to set it up, could you define a particular problem that your charity has. And in fact, lots of hospitals and the foundations that support charities have across the country,


it almost doesn’t sound like a problem on the surface. But at Christmas, lots and lots of individuals and businesses obviously loved come down and bring gifts in particular for the Children’s Hospital. So that’s fantastic. But sometimes the gifts that come are not appropriate or potentially can’t be used for infection control purposes. And obviously, from a fundraising point of view, we’d love them to actually donate some money so that we can we could make better use of that kind of gift into the hospital. So it’s been an ongoing problem. And I’m sure colleagues at other sort of hospital charities, I’ve got this sort of the same problem.

And obviously this last Christmas with COVID, things were very different indeed. So there was no opportunity for people to physically come onto site from a corporate point of view, which is obviously my focus for this campaign. And people started talking to you about it in July, would you believe when can I When can I book in for my Christmas gifts and come and have a company photo taken? So I was kind of racking my brains to come up with what can we actually do that’s going to kind of be attractive for corporates to still support the hospital and the charity at Christmas, but not come onto site and have their pitch taken, which is obviously a nice thing to have to. I hadn’t been aware. But I became aware when I saw a Facebook notification that Sheffield Children’s Hospital had been running a snowflake campaign at Christmas. I think they’re almost into their 10th year.

And the more I looked into it, I thought this is absolutely fantastic. Like, why are we doing this in Leeds, and so had a number of conversations with one of our contacts there who ran ran their snowflake campaign, brilliant chat, shared loads of information by obviously we’re not sort of in competition with each other. So that’s the beauty. So anybody else listening to this that might be sort of working at a hospital, or hospice or wherever. Maybe it’s something you might want to try. So you could argue I essentially kind of nicked the idea And so how can I make this happen in Leeds. So it was, it was a challenge, because at this point we were into sort of mid September.

So that was taken away. And but I put a call in probably third week in September to a supplier. So the whole idea of the snowflake campaign is that businesses and community groups, whoever wants to can donate, to kind of sponsor a snowflake that isn’t physically put up on the on the outside of a building and lit up like a big Christmas decoration. So I chatted to this supplier. And she was very polite, but I could tell on the phone, she was thinking, that was slightly crazy. You want this for this coming Christmas? And I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah, have a chat with her and clearly wanted to make it slightly different, something bespoke for leads.

So we talked about stars, rather than snowflakes. And working really closely with my colleague in the team, we put together a proposal took it to our senior leadership, we’re like, we need to do this, we need to purchase these styles. And we will find, we’ll find donors and businesses that want to support this, the pandemic, and the fact that there was no time, I kind of feel like that was a positive for this campaign, because we just had to do it, there was no procrastination. There was no backwards and forwards with 100 meetings, kind of trying to try to make it perfect. We’ve done the numbers, I could see that it worked elsewhere, we just needed to make it happen, basically.

So I think we ordered the stars mid October plumped for 25. And then as soon as we’d actually pressed the button, and we knew, right we’ve ordered them, this is going to cost us now It took over for a month, I’ve got to be honest. But we contacted all our current partners, we contacted warm supporters, we sent out cold emails to all sorts of companies and contacts around Leeds and Yorkshire. And when we got our first kind of confirmed star in that was kind of when it started to snowball was fantastic. It was our longest sort of corporate partner that we’ve worked with, worked really closely with them. And they were really keen to actually commit to be the first to kind of get us off the off the ground.

So I won’t lie, there were a couple of moments where I was tearing my hair out thinking, I think I’ve bitten off a little bit more than I can chew here. And but it was great. And in really interestingly, more than half of the styles that we sold in the end came from completely cold contacts, people that saw LinkedIn posts that we put out, explaining why the hospital needed money at Christmas, and they needed it even more this Christmas, because they couldn’t have visitors, you know, all the different isolation rules that are kind of in place. And I think it just, you know, it just touched people. And there’s lots of things as a charity we we fund over the Christmas period, not just presence at the Children’s Hospital, and the Christmas dinners for staff Christmas decorations. I’ve actually been in hospital with my youngest, who was very poorly five years ago happened to be in over Christmas. So I do know, sort of from personal experience, how important it is that, you know, those elements are put in for people that are spending the festive period away from their families, basically.


Wow, huge congratulations, Laura, I’m kind of in awe that you heard about it in mid to late September, and you just found a way to do the research, get the conviction yourself. And then all of the decision making that must have happened. Goodness knows it can’t be easy the number of people that need to come on board both within your foundation and within the the hospital trust you work with. And to get that done so quickly. And then take it out to market and and get people really wanting to jump in it’s a wonderful achievement, to congratulations to you and all your colleagues has been a huge team effort to make it work.

And so Laura, in terms of results for one thing, that’s amazing that it was a tool, you could use a product you could use to engage a whole set of companies that that initially weren’t supporting 50% of them. So that’s wonderful. Broadly, how much did it raise this time around? And I’m I’m guessing also it’s a hugely valuable thing because there’s not a one off. You know, one of the most valuable things we can do as a fundraiser is to create some kind of sustainable income stream. And I sense that next Christmas in the year after you’re going to have an asset you can grow.


Yeah, absolutely. And so, in the end, we sold 22 stars and I think income was just Short of £35,000. And the last two stars sold absolutely the night that we did the kind of switch official switch on. So yeah, my colleagues were tearing their hair out with me at various points, but it really was a team effort. And they look fantastic when they’re up. But as you said, we now own the stars in So absolutely, the planning is well underway for this coming Christmas. And we are intending to expand quite significantly, we’ve got obviously more than four weeks, like we had last time to kind of put the right steps in place and, and start those conversations with, you know, other partners to bring them in to the original sponsors that we had from last year.

So plans have kind of been mapped out for the next five years on this. And it’s absolutely going to become sort of the backbone really have sort of our corporate partnership income. And the fact that it solves a problem that we’ve had for several years as well, now that we’ve demonstrated the amount of money that can be brought in to kind of support the Christmas wishes of the hospital. And it’s fantastic. And it just meant from a children’s gift point of view. We bought lots of gifts, but it was things that they could absolutely use, you know, COVID or not COVID. So it just, it’s turned it around, really.


I just want to jump in really quickly, just in case you’re a corporate fundraiser or trusts are a major donor fundraiser. To let you know that we’ve just launched new dates for our mastery programmes in major gifts and in corporate partnerships, fundraising. We found that these in depth programmes which include master classes and individual coaching, and access to all of the courses and supporting the bright spot member’s club are proving more helpful than ever to fundraisers during the pandemic. In fact, if you were at our virtual breakfast clubs last year, you may remember one wonderful fundraiser named Leanne, who attended our corporate mastery programme share how she used things she learned in that programme to raise for large gifts and partnerships, totalling more than £90,000 as the pandemic unfolded, which made a huge difference to her small international literacy charity. So if you’re curious about how the corporate mastery programme, or the major gifts mastery programme would help you to improve high value fundraising results. You can find out more by visiting our website, which is bright spot fundraising.co.uk. And then clicking on the Services section to find out more about either the corporate one, or the major gifts mastery programme. For now, though, back to the interview, as I asked Laura for more detail on the various benefits that came to her charity through the sparkle campaign.


And presumably for lots of those new companies that hadn’t got involved before, this was an easy thing for them to understand and sort of get some value in and enjoy their employees or their customers being proud of them doing their bit. But it’s a great chance for you to then deepen the relationship after they initially sponsor that star. Absolutely.


I mean, there’s been a lot of love for the NHS this year, obviously. So I think that that helped to bring some of these new contacts in. But it has allowed us to start those conversations about obviously supporting again, in the sparkle campaign at Christmas, but other areas that they might want to evolve their, you know, employees with other fundraising that they could potentially do for us. So it’s just, it’s helped us grow our network, really. And obviously, they’ve got their own networks, as everybody knows. So it’s, it’s had a nice ripple effect.


And in terms of practicalities, but I saw a lovely picture on your website. There’s some bigger stars and some small stars. Yeah, it is part of the beauty of it that people can come in to give at whatever level suits their budget.


Absolutely. I think we had four different gift levels. So it really was accessible if you were a smaller business and wanted to get involved, right up to the sort of much, much bigger stars, I think three and a half metres in diameter, the biggest one was, so there was something there to appeal to all sorts of businesses. And also we’re talking to our community colleagues now as well, you know, is there some way that they could be involved in this campaign going forward? So that’s kind of in planning stage at the moment?


Yes. And I see that it looks part of the reason it looks beautiful it is because it is a beautiful, Christmassy scene, there’s a magic to it. And it doesn’t have cool corporate logos all over the place. But how did you create something that enabled the companies to be able to feel proud and tell their employees or their customers that they’ve done this thing


What we designed was kind of map of the stars, obviously, because we had a smallish amount compared to where we’re hoping to get it to this coming year. And it allowed us to create a visual kind of PDF of the building of the different style placements and actually have the business names kind of on a key really on that. But we also created a sort of print version of this, which we sent out to all of the partners as a thank you something for them to keep at the end of it. Because they don’t, they’re not actually buying the stars. They’re just kind of sponsoring them being lit up for six weeks on the building. And, and then the most exciting bit that everybody seemed to love was, we did a Facebook Live, which was my first time doing that. Another stressful day.

But we did a virtual light switch on because obviously we couldn’t invite people sort of down to physically watch it. But we had a huge amount of supporters and teams from the trust and other corporate partners that sort of joined us on that Facebook Live. And one of our ambassadors fronted it for us. So I think the thing I learned was, you can make anything happen if you’ve got the drive to do it, and sometimes not having loads of time to overthink, it is a benefit.


Yes, Laura, I can’t quite imagine how on earth, you’ve got it all done in such a short time period. But I’ve been talking to so many fundraisers this year, who have found some advantages within things that appear to be disadvantages. And in this case, one of yours was absolutely or hardly any lead time, just in terms of some of the problem solving that needed to happen all the communication or the decision making that needed to happen within your organisation. Is there anything you found interesting or anything that you learned about somehow getting that done?


I mean, I really had to pull colleagues in to kind of help me because there were conversations we had to have with the hospital team, the fact that they were going to have to drill these styles in during the night and understanding who was in those front facing rooms. And so it’s really been brilliant from sort of building relationships with, with the guys at the hospital, right through to having to close roads off when they were coming to instal them.

But there was a real energy behind it because the clock was ticking what right from the start, and everybody just kind of mucked in really, people were sort of saying I’ve just had a conversation with somebody over here that that knows this business. Let’s like right, get on the phone, let’s talk to them. It was a bit like hotline really on the phones. But that I think that’s what really helped we brought in our trustees to talk to some of their contacts. So we just played the game and spoke to as many people as we could. Like, I think I’ve already said the last day we were actually sold. So the morning that we were doing the light switch on that afternoon. So thank you to my comms colleagues who had to reject the map that had just been finished. And so yeah, it was, there was a real buzz, which I think was needed at Christmas as well, because it’s been a tough year for everybody.

And just by the way, when I watched the little minute and a half film you put out on on social media, thanking the partners and telling little mini stories of you know how it paid the donations paid for staffs, taxis who were working during the festive period and Christmas dinners for the patients and the presence and various things. You know, it really captures this magical feeling of that wonderful intention of the people all along who’ve been giving or wanting to give presence. But the beauty of this campaign is that intention has been honoured. And it’s been funnelled into the solving of really crucial problems.


So I love that about it. And it seems to me another strength just to state the obvious is I can see why colleagues and then the companies in your turn leads. The reason it was easier for them to get on board is because it’s so tangible. It’s really clear, you don’t have to work hard to work out what the proposition is. And it’s suffused with this sort of magical, sparkly feeling. You know, again, looking at the image on the side of your hospital and looking at the that film you made that wonderful, Christmassy generous, helping people feeling is there. And it’s kind of easy for us to get if we’re a company, we want to get involved. It doesn’t take paragraphs of explaining. Yeah, so are those couple of the clearest strength Do you think and any more that occurred to you as to why it worked so well?


Yeah, I mean, it was a really easy proposition and they were nice, calm. cessations to have when we were speaking to businesses. And we had a real range from some really big corporates to a local strawberry farmer to one of the smaller stars. So the mix was fantastic. And something else, I just think the fact that we did have this live switch on, we asked all of the sponsors to provide us with a sort of tweet really like a thanks to the, to the NHS for the year. And that we were pushing out on social, we ran them kind of on the video on the night when we did the switch on, and also got a bit of feedback from some patients who were in over Christmas, and some of the staff and it, it was really lovely. It meant a lot to them.

So all of that got kind of fed back to our sponsors, which it was just a genuine feelgood factor. So yeah, I’d say they’re the kind of they were the key strengths, just keep it simple. And we didn’t try and reinvent the wheel from what Sheffield had done. We didn’t have time to be fair, but it works there. It worked for us, you know, in a smaller sense, but we’ve got big growth plans. And I’m sure it could work for lots of other fundraisers, because you’re just not in competition.


Yes, and no, I’m sure there’s been lots of lessons you’ve learned. But if there’s any other thing that occurs to you that through this journey, you thought, well, that’s interesting, I wouldn’t have necessarily known that would be so hard or, oh, it turns out that you can solve that in that way. Or any particular topic I gather, you got lots of help from from your opposite number in Sheffield, but and so that, if our listener could just bear in mind, any other insights and lessons learned? What would it be? And so I suppose the thing that you really need to not lose sight of is the reason that people engaged in the first place. And it was the story that we told which comes right back to the course that I did with you last year. You know, it’s all about telling people what the problem is, and getting them to almost put put themselves in their, you know, those shoes, imagine if I was in hospital, with my poorly child, away from my family, the staff that are in a way from their family, looking after yours, on Christmas Day.

So I think it’s just powerful storytelling, and just a really clear message of why that gift is needed. And I think as long as you get that right at the beginning, even if you haven’t done one of these campaigns before, and you’re trying to get it off the ground. If you’ve got that right, it will happen. As long as you’ve you know, you’ve got the energy and the support of your senior team. You just bring people along with you. And Christmas is a magical time, isn’t it? And people like people do like to give, you just need to tell them why it’s needed?


Yes, I see. And it clearly it’s going to be easier for you and your colleagues to with a long lead time. And crucially, because it already exists, it will be easier to do the second time around. But if someone’s listening to this, and they’re thinking about doing it the first time round of engaging partners or effectively selling this concept, when it doesn’t yet exist, anything you learn from how you mocked up what the company gets audit, did you send them a picture of one star or anything to help us you create that sense of certainty that this will be good,


It was tricky, with zero assets to start with. But what we use last Christmas was like a photograph of the different stars. And not a photograph in situ with them lit which is obviously what we’re going to do this time around. And quite a 2d photograph. But it just gave them some idea. We worked up a little logo stamp that was supported. The campaign’s there was something as soon as a sponsor had come on board we could send to them, they could add it to their email signature, they could stick it on their social, push it out to all their contacts. So something something visual that they could have kind of prior to the stars actually been switched on and installed. But you don’t need loads. You just need something and you need the belief that you can bring people along with you and the right story. And it will happen.


Wise words.

Laura, thank you so much for coming onto the podcast to share ideas about this sparkle campaign. I think it’s brilliant, for many reasons, but not least because you managed to make it happen in such little time from the automation and get it done by December so well done to everyone involved. Thanks for explaining your lessons learned and your top tips.

I hope it’ll help some listeners out there. I hope it will help people who don’t work in hospices or hospitals, to nevertheless see some of the principles involved. And see what kind of a version of this strategy they could implement. But for now, Laura, thanks for joining us on the podcast, and I look forward to catching up with you soon.


Thanks, Rob. See you soon. Bye.


I hope you enjoyed hearing Laura’s tips and examples. If so, please remember to subscribe to the podcast today, so that you never miss an episode. For a full transcript and summary of the episode, go to the podcast section of our website, which is bright spot fundraising.co.uk. If you’re interested in improving your skills and your confidence as a fundraiser, then do check out the corporate mastery programme which Laura took part in last year, or any of our other programmes that we teach at Bright Spot.

Our corporate our major gifts and our individual giving mastery programmes are designed to give you effective strategies through a blend of training and individual coaching support to help you overcome the challenges of the pandemic and grow fundraising income. If you’d like to find out more, go to Bright Spot fundraising.co.uk, forward slash services. Just before we finish, I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who’s been spreading the word about this podcast to colleagues and on social media. I really do appreciate it. And we’d love to hear what you think about this episode. We’re both on LinkedIn and on Twitter. I’m at @woods_rob. Rob, thank you so much for listening today. And I wish you the very best of luck with whatever new idea you’re trying to put into practice at the moment.