Best Practice Guide to long-term charity partnerships


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


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


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

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Best Practice Guide to Charity of the Year initiatives

Finders Keepers staff walk in aid of the British Heart Foundation


Charity of the Year initiatives are popular with businesses wanting to back different causes regularly. The business typically chooses a different charity to support each year, offering staff volunteering time, sponsorship and fundraising support. But how do businesses know they are providing the help that charities really need? This guide looks at how your company can build a meaningful relationship with a charity that is also inspirational for your staff.

Royds Withy King staff wear hats to work to fundraise for Headway


For a company, a Charity of the Year programme is a manageable way to support the community, providing a clear structure and direction for your charitable activity. Engaging staff in pitching and voting for which charity should be supported is a great teambuilding exercise, and it is simple to communicate the positive work you are doing to customers. Charities benefit from the extra financial and moral support, as well as your company’s time and local connections.

Finders Keepers staff walk in aid of the British Heart Foundation


If businesses choose to support a charity for just a year, there is a great danger of introducing instability to them, especially if they are small. The charity may invest a lot of time building fruitful relationships with you, which are then abandoned; extra money allows a charity to fund new projects, but these cannot continue beyond pilot stage. What is more, companies tend to offer mass volunteering such as labouring or stewarding – but is the charity missing out on the significant business expertise your company could be sharing, such as strategy, marketing or finance?

Royds Withy King sponsor a fashion show modelled by people with brain injuries, in support of Oxford charity Silverlining

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

• Nurture champions: Ask staff to make a solid case for a charity to support, then make them the sponsor

• Be democratic: Getting staff to vote for the charity makes it meaningful, keeping staff engaged

• Partner with others: Challenge other companies you work with to collaborate with you on fundraising

• Facilitate involvement: Provide free volunteering days for staff to fundraise or do pro-bono work for the charity

• Piggyback on events: It’s more time and cost-effective to enter organised events than run your own

• Consider bandwidth: Choose a charity that has the means to accommodate you – especially for volunteering

• Offer real expertise: Volunteer the services you know about – often much more useful than menial work

• Follow the energy: If someone is passionate about an idea, help them make it work, however eccentric

• Pass the baton: Help your charity find their next business partner, or consider a longer relationship

Resource provided by Reciprocate