Best Practice Guide to long-term charity partnerships

About

Whilst many businesses support charities on an occasional basis or via a ‘Charity of the Year’ initiative, some choose to build deeper and more permanent relationships with a particular cause. When done well, this partnering can see a business involved in a charity’s strategic direction, sharing skills, knowledge and networks on an ongoing basis. But this relationship-building is not easy. This guide shows how your business could develop mutually beneficial partnerships, avoiding pitfalls that could endanger the connection.

Kate Allen and the Allen Associates team at the Oxford Mail OX5RUN, which is just one part of their long-term relationship with Oxford Children’s Hospital

Benefits

Long-term partnerships are the chance for a business to make a genuine and lasting impact on an area of particular concern. For the company’s staff, the collaboration can be especially rewarding, as they have the chance to build increasingly fruitful bonds with the charity. For charities, partnering with businesses that are willing to support their operational infrastructure (leaving the charity to be the expert in how to provide aid to its beneficiaries) means greater stability, efficiency and productivity.

First Line IT supports youth arts organisation Pegasus Theatre, working with them over a number of years to increase ticket sales through improved infrastructure and processes

Risks

This type of charitable support is ambitious, and a great commitment for a business. If the relationship is embarked upon without clear agreement around realistic objectives, it is likely that one partner will let the other down. The choice of charity is a risk if not made with care: without a good cultural fit between your organisations, and real buy-in from senior management, the relationship can be strained or overly paternalistic. Businesses should be sure to find out if their charity of choice has the capacity and motivation to accommodate their input.

Allen Associates also partner with The Ley Community, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, which provides long-term support in the form of friendship and social networks

Top tips to help you realise these benefits, and avoid the pitfalls

• Start at the top…: Ensure you get commitment from senior management teams within both your company and the charity

• …and consult everyone: Ensure voices from across the company’s functions and levels are represented

• Set the ground rules: Talk openly about what your company and the charity can offer each other, and put it in writing

• Focus on the local: Smaller local charities may benefit more from your help and are likely to have the affection of your staff

• Embrace variety: Think beyond the obvious – supporting charity strategy or infrastructure can be as helpful as raising money

• Share your influence: Help your partner charity by putting them in touch with your network or negotiating supplier discounts

• Plan volunteering: Identify who will volunteer, when and how much – individual, team or mass volunteering all have their merits

• Be inspired: Make the relationship fun and developmental for staff; allow them to contribute their professional skills

• Keep talking: Schedule regular check-ins where honest dialogue is allowed – if it’s not working, say so

Resource provided by Reciprocate

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