Not too long ago the predominant way for a charity to seek support from a company was to apply through an annual process to become Charity of the Year. There are many drawbacks to this approach for both parties. For the company, having to build new relationships and learn new lessons each year to make partnerships can be very wasteful.
For the relatively few charities fortunate to have a brand well known and mainstream enough to win a company staff vote, it certainly brings a short-term injection of funds. But even for the charities that sometimes succeed, it’s a risky business as after investing the time it takes to get through each stage of these beauty contests, the odds remain harsh and you lose more than you win.
But, crucially, what if you work for one of thousands of charities whose size, type of cause and relative lack of fame make the Charity of the Year almost impossible to win?
For these (most) charities, we’ve found its generally best to steer clear of the Charity of the Year process all together.
So what do you do instead?
Pursue partnerships which are strategic and be willing to approach different companies and in different, less obvious sectors.
On our Corporate Mastery Programmes that we’ve run for the last five years, here are a couple of key distinctions that are the foundation of these strategic partnerships.
They are a) genuinely win/win for charity and company, and b) sometimes help the charity further its mission through resources other than or in addition to the donation of money.
To bring this to life, today I want tell you about an exciting and topical new partnership between Full Fact and Ndemic Creations.
You may be aware of Full Fact, who are an invaluable fact checking charity based in the UK – their purpose is to fight bad information. As independent fact checkers, they find, expose and counter the harm done by misinformation and fake news. In an age of turbulent political change and social media, their work is more important than ever.
Ndemic Creations are a leading British game studio, which makes intelligent, sophisticated, strategy games. If you’re a keen gamer you’re probably aware how massively successful their Plague Inc. game is – it has 130 million downloads world-wide. The game challenges players to infect the world with a deadly plague.
Louisa Johnson is Fundraising Manager at Full Fact, building relationships with people and organisations who want to support their mission. She is also a member of the Bright Spot Club, a membership we run to help fundraisers get support and training to improve their fundraising. In July 2020 Louisa joined a monthly coaching webinar for club members with Rob Woods, the corporate partnerships expert Ben Swart, and fundraisers from several other charities.
As well as listening to questions from members about a range of strategic corporate partnerships issues, she wanted to think through some innovative ideas for possible partnerships with relatively young companies in modern industries, ie companies unlikely to have much experience of traditional charity partnerships.
One of Ben’s observations was that it can be a big advantage to seek a partnership with these companies, because their decision-makers are often willing to explore new ways of working, unencumbered by traditional processes.
Ben advises that if you can sit down with someone at a company who loves what you stand for, you can have a really interesting discussion about what a partnership together might achieve for both parties.
A strategic partnership
Full Fact have seen the benefits of a more creative partnership with the video game studio Ndemic Creations. Having already supported Full Fact’s work, their founder was happy to develop a unique partnership to coincide with the general election in December last year.
Together they came up with an exciting idea for a game scenario built around a simple, powerful concept – there are clear parallels between the harm caused by the spread of false information and the spread of a contagious disease.
In this innovative partnership Ndemic Creations built a Fake News scenario for their bestselling mobile game Plague Inc. James Vaughan said “Just like a deadly pandemic, the spread of misinformation is a huge threat to our society and it’s terrifying how many of the Plague Inc. infection algorithms translate perfectly to the world of false facts, fake news and bad information. Full Fact are a hugely powerful resource that everyone should use to make sure they really know what is going on.”
In this new scenario players spread false information across the globe, trying to deceive everyone before fact checkers can thoroughly debunk them and save the world from chaos and confusion.
Full Fact worked with the game designers at the studio, sharing real experiences of what can happen to help make the game realistic – the game is a heightened view into the extremes of misinformation and the serious consequences it can have for our democracies, health and society.
This partnership makes sense for both organisations. Ndemic Creations have created a powerful new scenario for their customers and have enjoyed lending their support to an issue they, and many of their customers, feel is now more important than ever.
And through the game scenario, Full Fact’s messages have reached many more people, including important audiences. Since the launch in early December, in just over two months:
- The scenario has been played by hundreds of thousands of players, who are now more aware of the issues surrounding mis-information. The game is designed to make players more informed about how misinformation spreads, how it can affect them, and the steps they can take to protect themselves.
- Already an extra 22,000 people have visited the Full Fact website.
- The game has generated new publicity, including in gaming and tech publications such as Lad Bible, so the partnership is helping reach more young, tech-interested men than is possible through more traditional charity communication methods.
- This exciting partnership is still very new and both parties are exploring other ways to work together.
How could you make use of these ideas?
To form a valuable strategic partnership that helps your charity further its mission, here are two obvious-seeming, but crucial steps to bear in mind:
A) Really understand that the values your charity represents are valuable to companies (and their customers / employees) that authentically care about those issues. This confidence is vital if you are to talk to companies about genuinely win/win rather than only philanthropic partnerships;
B) Find out where your charity needs help / resources / reach to better achieve its mission. The reason partnerships can be so game-changing compared to other kinds of fundraising is that many companies have resources and reach to important audiences on a completely different level compared to what most charities can hope to achieve with their own resources and communication budgets.
C) Narrow down your search. Doing this well requires time, preparation and informal cups of coffee to build genuine relationships. We recommend choosing a Dream 10 potential partners.
Doing this in practice is not always, easy, but if you’d like help, one option is the Bright Spot Members Club, of which Louisa is one of 300 fundraiser members.
Would you like to save 25% on training and group coaching in the Bright Spot Club?
Follow the link to find out about how to get 12 months access for the price of 9.