Congratulations, you’ve been invited to pitch for a corporate partnership! Time to get busy – you need to figure out how best to sum up your charity to a company’s CSR panel (and often its employees in a final vote).
You’ll be under time pressure – and of course, in the back of your mind the partnership could be potentially transformative for your charity – so no stress there!
Welcome to the Wild West
What a partnership will look like, how long it will last, and how much it is actually worth, varies company by company. You may have pitched before and have a good sense of what a company wants to hear. For this pitch, you may have already completed (a rather onerous) application so you have a sense of what they want. But the landscape is constantly shifting – according to the NCVO, charity income from private companies has grown by 16% in the last year.
Smaller, less established organisations entering the fray are crowding the field; meanwhile, charity juggernauts continue raising the bar with well-versed – and financed – corporate fundraising units.
Consequently, there is a sense of this being a “Wild West” frontier among many fundraisers in the field. Presentations are becoming increasingly slick as many feel under pressure to pull out all the stops to impress boardrooms. There’s also recognition that these same boardrooms cannot fully appreciate the time, effort and money that go into bids.
At the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), working for civil society and with leading businesses, we understand the tribulations that creating mutually-beneficial and transformative corporate/charity partnerships involves.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of corporate fundraising or seeking to help your charity climb a few rungs on the ladder, here are some key tips.
1. Capture hearts
Time is short and competition is fierce, so leave a lasting mark by creating an emotional connection; capture the CSR panel’s hearts.
To do this, it’s important you show your charity’s human side. Demonstrate clearly what you do and how your services make a tangible difference to people’s lives as well as society.
While this is the bread and butter of fundraising, it is all too easy to lose sight of this.
Don’t go overboard – keep the beneficiaries themselves away from pitches. Instead use case studies to illustrate the impact and long-term outcomes of your programmes. Keep a clear focus on the social need which your programmes meet. Think about what actually motivates you to work for the charity.
Teenage Cancer Trust is a fantastic example of demonstrating why they need support, highlighting that for every young person they can support, there’s another they can’t.
2. Capture minds
Equally important but more often overlooked is the need to win over minds as well as hearts.
Data from LBG on corporate giving showed that over 70% of companies gave strategically, whereas less than 20% went in ad-hoc donations. This underlines the need for charities to make a strong business case which aligns with the company’s purpose and strategy.
Practically, understanding who’s on the panel will help you tailor your pitch to appeal to their roles on the day. But also pay close attention to their latest annual and CSR reports and noting where a partnership has natural synergies and where your expertise can provide “added value” to the corporate’s strategic pillars.
By adopting some of the language used within the company’s own strategy you can signpost how you support each others’ missions and objectives.
Charities are well-placed to improve services based on social need. They can help companies tailor services to identify and support vulnerable customers, such as The Children’s Society/Northern Gas Networks partnership in which the charity developed a bespoke training programme to help gas engineers identify signs of abuse or neglect when they visit homes. Alternatively they can create new and innovative commercial opportunities such as Age UK/Innocent’s partnership, The Big Knit, which has raised over £2 million for good causes.
CAF’s 2018 FTSE Giving report also emphasises the opportunities for charities engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With over 8,000 companies engaging with the SDGs, they’re a crucial target for charities to accurately state how a partnership can support a company in their work on specific goals.
3. Offer the obvious stuff
So far, so good, hearts and minds have been captured, but here comes the more practical side of things.
Whether a partnership lasts one year, three years or longer, companies want charities to make a running start. Depending on CSR resources committed to the partnership, they may be open to the more strategic stuff, but they want the obvious stuff too. They want employee engagement, fundraising ideas and volunteering opportunities. They want an account manager, challenge events and a plan of action.
So, outline a plan to show how you will engage with employees at key sites in the early months. After all, a company may offer matched funding but remember: it’s the employees that are usually raising most of the funds.
Real motivation comes from two sources: feelings and things.
The best feeling to leave with employees is a challenge – a challenge to make a difference. Whatever the fundraising target set by companies, aim to beat it and say as much – there’s no shortage of examples of partnerships exceeding targets and the activities that helped.
The best thing you can show employees is where funds raised go. If an employee wants to support you with payroll giving, what will their fiver a month go towards? Even if the money does go into a general pot, an illustrative breakdown on how money would be spent, if ring-fenced, goes a long way. It could mean piloting a new project, supporting research or additional staff.
4. Be bold
The power imbalance undermining charities has led to calls for the restructuring of traditional corporate/charity partnerships. At the same time, recent research found almost half of companies plan to increase spending on sustainability. This tells us that there is appetite for new approaches, so be courageous, try new things.
Pitch practice makes perfect: always seek detailed feedback – it’s the very least you deserve. Don’t forget to share your experience of your own journey as well. Companies value feedback and want to improve the process.
Consider coalitions: while environmental organisations lend themselves more towards volunteering opportunities, CAF research shows children, animal and health charities are typically the most popular causes. Being open to making joint bids could be complementary in a number of ways, creating innovative partnerships and better balancing the fundraising with volunteering opportunities that companies want.
Use your network: a charity’s best asset is its supporters, so tap into your network and help them canvas for you in their own workplaces to have your charity considered for partnerships.
Written by Josh Newton, Corporate Client Advisor at the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)