Corporate fundraising is the gathering of financial support from commercial companies.
This post explains how to develop an effective corporate fundraising strategy and includes examples, ideas and tips that you can action easily.
Examples of corporate fundraising partnerships
Here are 5 different ways to partner with companies. For each idea we have provided an example of a charity that takes that approach.
Some socially motivated companies commit to giving a certain proportion of profit to charities working on a specific cause. This can be a great opportunity for charities that are closely aligned with the company’s product.
Thirsty Planet sells bottled water and guarantees a donation to charity with each bottle it sells.
Donating employee time
Companies often have a range of unique skills and choose to support charities by offering time rather than giving cash. If there is a good fit between the skills on offer and the needs of your charity this can make for a great partnership.
Cranfield Trust matched Caxton Youth Organisation with an experienced management consultant to provide their CEO with mentoring and strategic support.
Backing fundraising activities
Large employers with a diverse workforce often seek partnerships with charities that can improve staff well-being and cohesion. This type of company typically prefers partnerships that mobilise groups of staff to do social activities together in order to raise funds for charity.
In these situations the company offers:
Greene King who raised over £5m for Macmillan through a range of team-based employee fundraising events and a big push termed ‘Macmillan May’. More info
Some retailers are happy to support charities by offering charity merchandise for sale through their outlets. Classic examples of this are selling comedy red noses for Comic Relief and paper poppies for The Royal British Legion. Smaller retailers will often be willing to support local charities in this way.
River Island sold seal figures over Christmas to raise funds and awareness for Sea-Changers, a small conservation charity. More info
There is a long standing tradition of retailers requesting donations on behalf of charities at the point of sale for their merchandise. Historically this tended to be a donation box on the till inviting people to give their spare change and this is still a valuable source of donations. While our society is increasingly cashless, retailers such as Greggs still partner with charities in this way.
The concept has also evolved and several online retailers offer a donation option at the online checkout.
Screwfix prompts all online shoppers to round up their purchase to the nearest pound with the extra pennies going to charity. Charities can tap into this by applying to the Screwfix Foundation.
What companies look for in a charity partner
Even the most socially conscious companies will be focused primarily on the day-to-day running of their business. When looking for a charity partner they will be attracted to an arrangement that supports rather than distracts from these core activities.
You should keep in mind that the company will be looking for a range of direct benefits such as these:
If you approach a company with a partnership proposal try to demonstrate how the partnership can be mutually beneficial. Focus on what they stand to get out of the arrangement.
Practical ideas to make your partnership a success
Even if the partnership is based on a strong foundation of common interests, you still need to think carefully about the practicalities of the partnership in order to make it a success. Here are some ideas about how to make the most of the corporate partnership.
Corporate partnerships are often newsworthy because they generate a feel-good story that resonates with a broad audience. Ideally, agree a joint press-release and co-ordinate its circulation. This makes full use of the resources and contacts of both organisations.
Charity logo on company website
Adding the charity logo to the company’s website will help both parties. The company gets the credit for being a socially focused organisation (which can affect sales and reputation more broadly) and the charity builds its brand awareness and gets a valuable link that can affect its rankings in search engines.
Company logo on charity website
The company may also request that they are featured on the charity website. This brings publicity and SEO benefits to the company. The benefits to the charity are less clear so thought is needed about where to feature the corporate partnership. Done well, this can be a way to encourage other corporate partnerships in the future.
Cross-promotion through email
The GDPR legislation introduced in 2018 has made it clear that charities should not pass personal data directly to corporate partners, or vice versa.
But this doesn’t have to completely prevent promotion by email. It just needs to be done in a way that respects the conditions under which people opted in to receive email communication. If you want to promote the partnership over email, focus on the partnership itself rather than directly advertising the company, or in the reverse case, requesting donations.
Corporate fundraising pack
Consider creating either a physical or digital resource pack specifically for the company. Include assets that make it easy for employees to fundraise and promote your charity. This can include t-shirts, posters, sponsorship forms, etc. and could include a top-level summary about the mutual benefits of the partnership to help inspire them.
Common corporate fundraising pitfalls
There are risks in any partnership. Here are a few danger areas to monitor when embarking on your next corporate partnership.
Companies that work in controversial areas will sometimes look for charity partnerships to ‘whitewash’ their activities. There is a fine line between a company genuinely trying to become a more responsible community actor and one that is cynically trying to improve its reputation through association.
Any partnership has the potential to harm the reputation of the charity. The trustees should consider the pros and cons of each partnership carefully.
Memory is fallible and with multiple stakeholder on each side of the partnership, it is easy for expectations to diverge. The best way to avoid this is a written agreement. Even if it’s just a loose partnership it is worth the time and effort to create a short written ‘memorandum of understanding’. If there isn’t the will to create this it’s a good sign that the partnership is on a flimsy foundation from the start.
Staff turnover is inevitable and it can kill an otherwise healthy corporate partnership. It is likely that one individual within the corporate partner will be the primary advocate for the partnership. If the partnership goes well and becomes a strategic priority for your charity the reliance on this one person becomes a key vulnerability and effort is required to nurture other advocates within the corporate partner. One approach to this is to create a small cross-organisation working party (2-3 people from each organisation) and give that group meaningful ownership over the partnership.
The need for good communication is simple to understand but hard to achieve. Good communication is crucial to building corporate partnerships that flourish.
Good partnerships can create a powerful combination of skills, resources and interests. For many charities they can provide a rich source of support, both financial and otherwise. But corporate fundraising is a long term strategy that takes practice and development.