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1. Building Sustainable Income for Small Charities: Corporate Partnerships

Unlocking Corporate Partnerships: A Lifeline for Small Charities

As a charity consultant, I see more and more small charities feeling in crisis over future funding, as they face the challenge of developing sustainable income streams. For a long time, it's been a worry how many have focused on contracts and the delivery of health and social care services as the way forward. Alongside short-term grants, this can put small charities on a financial rollercoaster ride, which is precarious for services as well as charity staff.


In this special series for Small Charity Week, The Boiling Frog blog will look at diversifying income sources as essential for long-term stability. This post, the first in the series, will focus on corporate partnerships, which I know a lot of small charities are now turning to as another option. I'll explore why these partnerships are important, the do's and don'ts of nurturing this type of relationship, and I'll also provide case studies to illustrate successful strategies.

Colourful abstract banner with the headline "Small Charity Week 2024: 24-28 June

The Importance of Corporate Partnerships

Corporate partnerships offer numerous benefits to small charities. Lesson number one: it's not always about financial support. These partnerships can provide access to skills, resources, and networks that can significantly enhance a charity’s impact. So here are a few reasons why small charities should consider corporate partnerships:


  1. Financial Support: While not always the primary focus, financial contributions from corporate partners can provide crucial funding for specific projects or general operations.

  2. Skills and Expertise: Corporates can offer pro bono support, volunteering time, and expertise in areas such as marketing, legal advice, and IT services. This can be invaluable for small charities that may not have these skills in-house.

  3. Brand Association: Partnering with a well-known company can enhance a charity’s reputation and visibility. It can also help attract more donors and volunteers who feel more confident supporting a charity that is endorsed by a reputable brand.

  4. Employee Engagement: Many companies encourage their employees to volunteer and engage with charitable activities. This not only benefits the charity but also boosts employee morale and engagement within the company.

  5. Resource Sharing: Corporates can offer in-kind donations such as office space, equipment, or products. These resources can help small charities reduce their operational costs and allocate more funds to their primary activities.


How to Cultivate Corporate Partnerships

Developing successful corporate partnerships requires a strategic and long-term approach. Lesson number two: take your time. Here are some steps small charities can take to cultivate these relationships:

  1. Identify Potential Partners: Start by identifying local businesses that align with your charity’s mission and values. Look for companies that have a strong presence in your community and show an interest in social responsibility.

  2. Research and Connect: Once you’ve identified potential partners, research their CSR activities, goals, and previous partnerships. Use this information to tailor your approach and demonstrate how a partnership with your charity can help them achieve their CSR objectives. Show that you have done your research.

  3. Create a Compelling Proposal: Develop a proposal that outlines the benefits of partnering with your charity. Highlight the impact of your work, how the company can get involved, and the mutual benefits of the partnership. Above all, put yourself in their shoes and appreciate that they will receive approaches from multiple charities each year. It's down to you to make your proposal stand out.

  4. Build Relationships: Networking is key to building corporate partnerships. Attend local business events, join business groups, and use LinkedIn to connect with potential partners. Building a relationship before making an ask is essential to increase your chances of success. As I've said, be prepared to play the long game.

  5. Demonstrate Impact: Companies want to see the impact of their contributions. Provide regular updates, reports, and stories that showcase the difference their support is making. This can help build a long-term partnership and encourage continued support. You really should avoid any sign of complacency in your relationship with a corporate partner.

  6. Acknowledge and Celebrate: Always ask first, but if your corporate partner is happy for you do so, then recognise and celebrate them publicly. This can be through social media shout-outs, featuring them in your newsletter, or acknowledging them at events. Public recognition can enhance their brand and show appreciation for their support.


Do’s and Don’ts of Corporate Partnerships

Do’s

  • Do Your Research: Understand the company’s values, CSR goals, and past partnerships to tailor your proposal effectively.

  • Do Build Relationships: Cultivate genuine relationships with potential partners through networking and regular communication.

  • Do Offer Mutual Benefits: Highlight how the partnership can benefit both the charity and the company. Emphasise shared values and goals.

  • Do Show Appreciation: Publicly acknowledge and celebrate your partners to show appreciation and enhance their brand.

  • Do Demonstrate Impact: Regularly report on the impact of the partnership to maintain engagement and support.

Don’ts

  • Don’t Approach with a Begging Bowl: Avoid asking for money outright, if ever with some partners. Instead, focus on building a two-way relationship that offers mutual benefits.

  • Don’t Overwhelm Potential Partners: Avoid bombarding companies with requests. Tailor your approach and target your efforts strategically.

  • Don’t Ignore Small Local Businesses: Don’t overlook the potential of local businesses that might be more invested in community support and easier to engage with.

  • Don’t Neglect to Follow Up: After initial contact, maintain the relationship with regular updates and communications.

  • Don’t Forget to Be Flexible: Be open to different types of support, whether it’s financial, in-kind donations, or volunteer time.


Case Studies: Successful Corporate Partnerships

Case Study 1: Community Library and Local Bookshop

A small community library charity that focuses on literacy and education, has partnered with a local independent bookshop. The bookshop provides in-kind donations of books for the community library’s reading programs and also hosts fundraising events in their store. Additionally, the bookshop’s staff volunteer to run storytime sessions at the library.


Through this partnership, the small charity has been able to expand its book collection and offered more reading programmes to the community. The bookshop has benefited from increased foot traffic and positive brand association with a community-focused initiative. The partnership has also helped raise awareness about the importance of literacy.


Case Study 2: Local Environmental Charity and an Eco-Friendly Landscaping Company

A small environmental charity dedicated to creating and maintaining public green areas, has partnered with a local Eco-Friendly landscaping business. The company provides pro bono landscaping services for the charity's projects and also donates plants and materials. The company’s employees also participate in volunteer clean-up days.


This partnership allows the charity to beautify more public spaces and engage the community in environmental conservation. The local company has gained exposure and enhanced its reputation as a socially responsible business. The collaboration also provides the business with opportunities to showcase their expertise and attract new clients.


Case Study 3: Small Youth Charity and Tech-Themed Café

A small charity supporting disadvantaged youth through skills training and mentorship, has partnered with a local tech-themed coffee shop. The café provides a space for the charity's workshops and mentorship sessions. They also donate a portion of their sales from special events to support the charity’s services.


The partnership has enabled the charity to offer more workshops and mentorship opportunities in a welcoming and tech-savvy environment. The café meanwhile is attracting new customers and built a reputation as a community-minded business. The partnership also facilitates connections between young people and professionals in the tech industry.


Conclusion

Corporate partnerships offer a valuable opportunity for small charities to diversify their income streams, access new resources, and enhance their impact. By taking a strategic approach to identify, cultivate, and sustain these partnerships, small charities can build mutually beneficial relationships that drive positive change.


As we celebrate Small Charity Week, I hope this post contributes to a better understanding about what corporate partnerships can offer and will encourage you to explore these opportunities the right way. In the upcoming posts of this series, I'll delve deeper into other income diversification strategies and share more insights and success stories.



 

Head and shoulders of the blog writer. Female with distinctive glasses, shoulder length brown hair, wide smile

Hello! I'm Jenny Hopkins, a charity consultant, creator of The Boiling Frog and 'Tools for Charities'. After an early career in publishing, I moved to the charity sector as CEO of a regional frontline charity. Over a period of ten years, I was able to transform it into an award-winning organisation and trusted partner of local health and social care statutory bodies. I stepped back a few years ago to undertake a part-time PhD research study on - yes, you guessed it! - charities, alongside my work mentoring leaders of small charities. My ‘Tools for Charities’ is a unique resource aimed at saving you time and stress associated with some of the regular and not-so-regular tasks associated with charity leadership and governance.


I use The Boiling Frog blog as a way to reflect and challenge my own experience and perceptions about the role of charities in society today. I am a director of Penleaf, a B-Corp accredited business consultancy. I also volunteer as a trustee of two local charities.

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