Corporate fundraising strategy

Corporate fundraising

Corporate fundraising is the gathering of financial support from commercial companies.

Along with grant funding and individual fundraising, corporate fundraising is one of the foundational strategies employed by charities to fund their work.

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.

Donating profitsDonating profits

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.

Example:

Thirsty Planet sells bottled water and guarantees a donation to charity with each bottle it sells.

Donating employee timeDonating 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.

There are a number of organisations that help to broker these kind of partnerships such as Cranfield Trust for management consultants and Pro Bono Economics for economists.

Example:

Cranfield Trust matched Caxton Youth Organisation with an experienced management consultant to provide their CEO with mentoring and strategic support.

Backing fundraising activitiesBacking 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:

  • access, so the charity can promote events directly to employees
  • staff time to arrange and attend fundraising events.

Example:

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

Selling merchandiseSelling merchandise

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.

Example:

River Island sold seal figures over Christmas to raise funds and awareness for Sea-Changers, a small conservation charity. More info

Checkout collectionsCheckout collections

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.

Example:

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:

  • Motivate staff and encourage team building
  • Meet CSR objectives set by the board
  • Reach new audiences and grow the business
  • Create positive PR opportunities
  • Build brand profile

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.

Newspaper article

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.

Example of online fundraising pack


 

 

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.

Ethical conflicts

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.

Misaligned expectations

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

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.

Poor communication

The need for good communication is simple to understand but hard to achieve. Good communication is crucial to building corporate partnerships that flourish.

  • Assign clear responsibilities to key individuals.
  • Integrate partnership goals into employee objectives.
  • Prepare a report for the corporate partner’s board every few months.
  • Keep the partnership simple until it is well established.

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.

Date: 
29 April 2019
Andy Pearson