Douglas Rouse had to make some tough decisions when he took up his post at Save the Children but, having done so, the charity’s corporate partnerships are booming
When I arrived at Save the Children I was given the opportunity to create a new structure that would deliver enhanced returns and put Save the Children at the forefront of corporate fundraising. Since the mid-nineties the charity had fallen behind in this area of fundraising and it was clear that changes needed to be made in order to turn this around.
Save the Children was being undersold to perspective partners. There was no coherent strategy in place and existing partnerships were not being stretched to meet their full potential.
The structure of the team mixed the disciplines of new business and account management, which had led to a lack of individual ownership. I knew that in order to change attitudes and get results a whole new structure which empowered staff needed to be put in place.
The structure I proposed and implemented was very similar to the one I put in place when I was head of corporate partnerships at The British Heart Foundation. It consists of a new business team, responsible for winning new partners, and an account management team, responsible for growing and developing partnerships. This model gives clearly defined responsibility and empowers individuals to take ownership.
Individuals in the existing team were asked to apply for the newly created roles. Of the existing 14 team members, four were offered jobs in the new structure. It was a period of huge change and, as with any restructure, it was a difficult time for everyone but it was really impressive how the organisation supported all stakeholders throughout this period of transition.
The changes were not only significant for Save the Children but also of interest to the wider sector. I knew that when the full team was in place – we would be in the spotlight internally and externally. Everyone would be keen to see what my new team could deliver. In all areas, not least of all from me – expectations were high.
With a clear strategy in place I drove forward a step change in our approach to corporate fundraising to ensure the team were more business-minded. The new business team was tasked with winning and developing long-term, sustainable, high-value partnerships and the account management team with expanding and developing existing partnerships. A crucial first step was to have a greater understanding of the motivations of partners, ensuring all our partnerships could be mutually beneficial and successfully deliver to partnership objectives.
Now, the new business team thoroughly research potential partners in order to understand their motivations and ensure there is a logical fit. Bespoke, tailored propositions are put to perspective partners and they are offered the right engagement opportunities at the right time. Businesses can not only raise money –but also support through gift in kind, pro bono work, campaigning, advocacy and volunteering opportunities.
Save the Children works in over 120 countries so can offer a tangible focus in the UK and overseas, which means that national and global objectives can be matched. This is a huge selling point for many global businesses and one that just simply wasn’t being utilised in the past. In particular Save the Children’s UK work was undersold to the corporate audience which was a huge missed opportunity.
In order to build on the existing relationships and deliver on new accounts the account management team now work hard to ensure objectives are met on both sides. This is done by continually building on successes and keeping partners up to date on the difference they’re making. It’s vital to highlight to each and every partner that our work to save children’s lives and fight for their rights wouldn’t be possible without their support. Partners make amazing contributions and it’s key that we bring these to life regularly through tangible outcomes. That is what helps to cement long-term relationships.
The restructured team and change in focus has proven extremely successful and driven substantial growth. In 2010 Save the Children's corporate fundraising income grew by a massive 120 per cent. This was at a time when the recession was having a negative impact on most company and charity incomes.
This year the success has continued and we have secured new partnerships with Morrisons and Lloyds Banking Group, which have already raised over £1m, as well as Mothercare, Afren and Arsenal Football Club. In addition we have also grown income and activity with a number of long-term, key corporate partners including Reckitt Benckiser, GlaxoSmithKline and FirstGroup.
The flagship partnership with Reckitt Benckiser (RB) is a great example of what has been achieved since the team restructure. RB was raising £800-900,000 a year, but with just one committed person working on the account this meant the partnership could not be developed to its full potential. Now with three team members dedicating their time to maintaining strong relationships throughout the global business it is about to breakthrough the £2m a year milestone. In 2011 we are on track to grow revenues by another 50 per cent which is a great testament to a unique team working for a unique cause.
Continuing to strive for success
Two years on from the changes, the new structure is embedded in the organisation and the results speak for themselves. But the changes won’t stop here – I’m continually looking for better ways of doing things.
Earlier this year we launched Save the Children’s first ever Corporate Business Awards. The awards ceremony gave us an opportunity to boost morale by recognising partners’ efforts to date as well as motivating them to continue pushing the boundaries.
Celebrating success and saying thank you are high on our agenda and should be for all charities working with corporate partners. It’s also vital to keep partnerships fresh and creative and continue to develop. The business world is constantly evolving – so corporate fundraising teams need to do the same to prevent getting left behind.
Douglas Rouse is corporate partnerships director at Save the Children
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 12, December 2011
10 essential behaviours for working with corporate partners
1. Understand your partner - Do your research so that you really understand your partner’s business. Make sure there is a good fit between your objectives and those of the business so that the partnership will be mutually beneficial.
2. Be proactive - Look to the longer term and be forward thinking. Continually challenge the status quo and always look to push the boundaries. The most successful partnerships are those that continue to evolve and develop.
3. Agree objectives - Take time to fully understand each other’s objectives. Make sure objectives can be delivered to by both parties.
4. Communicate regularly - Good communication is key through all mediums and with all stakeholders. You cannot beat face-to-face meetings to cement relationships – but there are also lots of other ways to communicate. Maximise the use of digital media, alongside phone calls and good old-fashioned letters.
5. Work together as a team - All successful partnerships are built on good teamwork. Work hard to keep all stakeholders interested and engaged so they are invested in the success of the partnership.
6. Honesty is the best policy - From the very beginning talk openly and honestly making sure all stakeholders are clear on activity. It’s crucial to manage expectations and be totally realistic about what can and cannot be achieved. If mistakes are made – own up to them as honesty will make the partnership stronger.
7. Keep it fresh and creative - Never take a partner for granted and fall into predictable patterns of working, delivering the minimum. It’s very important to keep the partnership fresh and vibrant so don’t be afraid to explore new opportunities.
8. Monitor and evaluate - Set clear key performance indicators to ensure the partnership is on track. Discuss what worked, but also very importantly what didn’t work and understand why.
9. Celebrate success together - Having worked incredibly hard to deliver to agreed objectives – take time to celebrate successes together. It’s important to celebrate key milestones over the term of the partnership and let whole businesses share in the success.
10. Say thank you - These two words are so often underestimated. Successful partnerships require a lot of time and effort from committed individuals and it’s really important to recognise and thank them. This will not only make individuals feel valued, but also motivate them to continue making the partnership a success.