For small charities looking to diversify income, there is fertile ground in exploring partnerships with small businesses – particularly the commercial ventures of keen supporters, says Joe Nunez-Mino
When it comes to building relationships, being a small organisation gives you a key advantage: you can get to know your supporters on a deeper and more personal level. This gives you the opportunity to find out what skills interests and connections they have that could enhance the relationship you have with them, and offer them more ways they can support the cause.
One of our long-term supporters, Lizzie Baker, is an ecologist and a passionate bat enthusiast. She also runs Creature Candy, an online art shop that donates 10% of proceeds from its bat-themed products to Bat Conservation Trust.
A special collaboration that aligns perfectly with the cause
It was Lizzie’s desire not just to make her business a commercial success, but also to use it to contribute towards small conservation charities such as our own. When Creature Candy and the products it makes were no more than an idea, Lizzie approached us to see if we could find ways to work together.
We loved her attitude and approach and the fact that her business fit very well with our ethos, with all her products designed and made in the UK, and so were really keen to team up with her. The fact that one line of her high-quality products featured a drawing of one of our loveliest bat species (the brown long-eared bat) made the collaboration even more special.
Only minimum resources required
One of the great things about our partnership with Creature Candy is that it takes very little time and resource to maintain. We gave Lizzie some feedback on her product lines at the beginning and we occasionally share her social media posts as well as making sure our members and supporters are aware of what she is doing. We tend to meet a couple of times a year, but also stay in regular contact via phone and email.
Lizzie has been an absolute star in the way she has supported us, not just by giving us funds but also by helping raise awareness of bats, and even writing a wonderful blog post for us.
Giving supporters something of tangible value
Having a partnership focused on the sale of products, rather than services, has the benefit of offering supporters something of very tangible value; something which gives them pleasure to own and enjoy, and which they can also share with friends and family as presents.
In fact we work with several other small companies that take a similar approach, such as From The Notebook who produce Bechstein’s Bat Organic Lager, Sparrows Green Illustrated Scarves who sell a unique bat-themed scarf, Crafty Clocks who created a beautiful and striking bat clock, and Love Bats, who produce a range of bat-related merchandise and art.
Remember, it's about more than just money
The relationships we have with these online retail companies are not just simply about raising funds. In order to truly have effective and fruitful collaborations, it’s important to get to know the individuals behind the companies, and remember that it’s a two-way relationship.
Small companies supporting small charities is a nice model that holds great promise. While we still rely on direct donations as our main method of fundraising, our partnerships with online retail outfits have enabled us to further diversify our income streams, and provide us with new ways to raise awareness of the plight of bats and other wildlife. It also gives people the opportunity to contribute while shopping – something we all seem to enjoy!
Joe Nunez-Mino is director of fundraising and communications at Bat Conservation Trust