TFA Ltd
We are a business consulting firm that provides practical advice and hands-on support for commercial, not-for-profit and statutory organisations.

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Are businesses good for business?

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Corporate fundraising always gets charities excited! The prospect of approaching businesses that can make donations with several zeros on the end can’t fail to be appealing. Over recent years, Corporate Social Responsibility has moved from being merely a buzz word to becoming entrenched in the wider business psyche – even for smaller businesses. A report from Good Values showed charities reporting a consistent increase of around 12% per year on average in income from businesses over the last three financial years. 

However, corporate donations still account for 2% of the sector’s total income, so there is certainly potential to do more – especially considering that there are a whapping 3.9 million companies in the UK and only 167 thousand charities.

There are a whole range of corporate partnership models out there that include ad hoc donations, employee fundraising, sponsorship, cause related marketing, volunteering and gift in kind propositions. The key however, whatever the model, revolves around building a good relationship. The best corporate partnerships are those that are mutually beneficial for both the charity and the business and built on a foundation of trust, honesty and respect.

Don’t follow the big boys

But how do small charities in particular find that ‘sweet spot’ with limited time, resources and manpower? The truth is, that whilst big hitters like Oxfam and Macmillan can boast of multi-million pound partnerships with Marks and Spencers and Boots – that vast majority of charities can’t. Whilst it’s tempting for smaller organisations to try and following the wake of these models, it simply isn’t an effective or sustainable approach for most small organisations.

That’s not to say there aren’t opportunities though. Just as the majority of charities in the UK have an annual income of less than £100,000, so the majority of businesses are smaller too. The ‘local supports local’ approach has a great deal of leverage these days, but expectations on both sides need to be altered slightly.

It’s all about give and take

We’ve been on both sides of corporate fundraising partnership – charity and business. We’ve seen partnerships that have brought in money but failed to engage businesses in the long run. On the flip side, we’ve also seen partnerships that have excited businesses, but have bled the charity dry in terms of input and resources. Thankfully, we’ve also seen some incredible corporate partnerships that have gone from strength to strength. The opportunities are out there – sometimes you just need a little help unlocking them, so here are our top tips for successful corporate fundraising no matter what the size of your organisation:

  1. Research, research, research – identify business offer the right fit for you and get to know them, their values, their culture. Understand their motivations and aspirations and research their previous philanthropic behaviour.

  2. Right product for the right prospect – make sure you have the right product and the right proposition for each organisation you are approaching. Be creative and make sure there is enough value for the company you are approaching.

  3. Use your networks – you have colleagues, trustees, volunteers and suppliers that you can ask for help. Find out who knows who and make the most of any leads. An introduction is sometimes all it takes.

  4. Take your time, time it right – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and strong relationships take time to build, so don’t rush the ask.

  5. Be honest, build trust – the best relationships are built on mutual trust. If something is not right it is better to get it out in the open and find a solution.

  6. Make them feel like they are number one – even if they aren’t the most important donor make them feel that way. Do what you say you are going to do, do it to the best of your ability and do it with passion.

Arun Sharma