Creating new opportunities through corporate partnerships


As a charity, you’ll be all too aware of the importance of finding new ways to develop and promote your cause without exhausting your existing supporters. One avenue that’s worth considering is to partner with a corporate organisation. The term corporate partner might conjure up an image of someone in a suit handing over a comically large cheque, but modern partnerships actually offer a variety of great benefits.

You may have been wondering if, because of COVID-19, now is the right time to seek a new corporate partnership and corporate fundraising. Many businesses have experienced a lot of change over the past few months, so you’ll need to be mindful of the business sectors your approach and you’ll also need to accept that there may be a higher number of people saying come back and talk to me in a few months. However, right now some businesses are more open to exploring new ways of working, particularly within virtual or digital. Plus, with so many people in both profit and non-profit organisations currently working from home, a new partnership may provide a much needed boost in team spirit and motivation on both sides.

What could a corporate partnership offer your charity?

Corporate partnerships can take many different forms, such as charity of the year, sponsorship, payroll giving, employee volunteering or matched giving. There’s a common misconception that the main benefit of forming a partnership is just a quick injection of income, when in reality 70% of corporate donations are valued under £5,000. Therefore, the real benefits come from looking at the longer-term opportunities. These could include;

  • Increased visibility and positive PR.
  • Networking and marketing opportunities.
  • Exposure to different and wider audiences, including a company’s employees, customers and suppliers.
  • Enhanced credibility by being associated with a thriving organisation. This is a benefit which works both ways, so it’s important to do due diligence to ensure an organisation is looking for a true partnership going beyond just perception.
  • Access to additional expertise and resources.
  • Two heads really can be better than one, especially if you have big challenges or social issues that your charity would like to challenge. Having the authority of a well-respected business partner would help add some weight to your voice. Plus, the extra support could help boost internal confidence and morale.

Find synergy between your charity and the business you wish to partner, it could be joint values, anniversaries or beneficiaries. The longest lasting partnerships provide mutual benefit e.g. Samaritans and Network Rail an award winning, lifesaving partnership, what could be better than that?

Julia Worthington, former fundraiser and founder of Amber Consulting who specialise in consulting and coaching for fundraisers.

How to prepare your charity for a corporate partnership

Corporate partnerships are just like any other type of relationship – they take work if you want them to be successful. A great partnership has to be mutually beneficial for both parties, something which is more likely to happen if you have shared values and goals. This means that, no matter how tempting it might seem, your charity shouldn’t join forces with the first eligible company that shows interest.

Set clear and tangible goals

Ask yourself: why do you want a partnership? What could a business help you to achieve? A great partnership will need to be nurtured over time, and you don’t want to invest your time into something which may not be giving you exactly what you need. Setting focused and tangible goals from the start helps to eliminate confusion, sets out expectations for both sides and allows you to see how well aligned potential companies are.

Do your research

When you form a partnership, your names and reputations will merge. Make sure that you do your homework and find out as much about the company as possible. Key areas to look at are:

  • Is it a new or established business, and does it have a parent company that may have a say in decisions?
  • What does the business want to gain from partnering with a charity and what are they expecting in return from you?
  • Does the business have a good public reputation? What type of feedback and comments are people making about the brand online?
  • Have they partnered with a charity before, and if so, what was the outcome?

If you’re hoping to create a corporate partnership during the pandemic, then you may want to start by actively prospecting the types of businesses that have done well during lockdown, such as IT supply companies or at-home gym brands.

Establish boundaries

A report from More Partnership shared that 85% of businesses believe that corporate partnerships will be increasingly important over the next few years, so don’t forget that your charity is adding just as much value to the partnership as the business! Bearing this in mind, it’s important that you set boundaries for responsibilities and sign off.

It might feel formal, but it will help both sides to communicate in a more effective way and gives you some reassurance that your charity isn’t left feeling overpowered. And remember, nothing is set in stone and you can use regular check-ins to help you to tweak and improve the process over time.

Practice your pitch

Pitching your charity to a business is very different to pitching to an individual. There are a number of things you’ll want to do – and things you’ll want to avoid. Our colleagues at Blackbaud have written a handy guide to the do’s and don’ts that you need to know when approaching a corporate partner or major donor. This includes:

  • Don’t use jargon or internal terms that they may not recognise
  • Do be patient and avoid pestering people for answers
  • Don’t do cold asks
  • Do make sure that you’re prepared

Over the last few months you may have used virtual platforms, such as Zoom or Teams, a lot for internal meetings. However, just as you would for an in-person pitch, you should practice with your colleagues so that you can get feedback and how you come across in a formal virtual setting.

Making a difference

Coming together with a trusted brand that understands your charity’s vision and wants to openly share your story is amazing opportunity. What’s more, you never know the positive impact that your charity could have on a business and its employees, whether it’s through sharing insights or offering volunteering days. Some businesses, just as some charities, have had harder times due to COVID-19 and may require an extra level of understanding or stewardship.

With the right level of attention and preparation put in place, you have the potential to create a partnership that offers real growth and transformation.

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Toni Gregory is a Content Marketing Specialist and B2B copywriter.