Friday, 19 June 2015

Building Successful Corporate Partnerships for Charities

Last week I saw an article in the NonProft Times listing Five Tiers that can exist for a corporate relationship with a charity. These had been defined by Dale Hedding of the Arts Consulting Group and Jennifer Schwartz of the University of Maryland and were described as follows:

* Tier 5: Single point of engagement. The two entities are involved in a limited capacity.
* Tier 4: Managed relationship. This has few points of interest that require co-ordination.
* Tier 3: Tailored partnership. In this the parties work closely to identify value-added opportunities for a deeper relationship between them.
* Tier 2: Broad-based engagement. Both partners engage across multiple units or departments in a variety of ways, including participation by the corporation’s leadership.
* Tier 1: Strategic partner. This kind of relationship is long term, with significant and ongoing financial contributions. It also requires co-ordination with multiple offices.

I liked these categorisations - they are beautifully clear and simple.  To bring them to life, in my experience each Tier looks a little like this (if working for a higher education organisation, the examples would like different but the complexities would be the same): 

You'll note the words in brackets: "community" and "partnerships". Within a fundraising operation, corporate relationships aren't solely the preserve of "corporate partnerships". Rather, they can - and should - benefit multiple fundraising channels, and may be managed within those channels. 

Tier 5 and 4 Relationships

Relationships at Tiers 5 and 4 don't require a dedicated account manager. At this level, corporate relationships are part of the community fundraising portfolio. They involve teams participating in challenge events, undertaking volunteering and providing some local support. The relationship isn't strategic. It is about occasional interactions which are mutually beneficial. 

With good management, this can be a seed that eventually becomes a Tier 1 Strategic Partnership. Maybe one of those volunteers nominates your charity to be the charity of the year in a staff vote. Maybe a senior decision maker gets involved with a volunteering day and suddenly you have an introduction to key influencers.  But it's equally as likely that they won't. A company can have a UK-wide charity of the year partnership with a charity which is strategic and involves significant investment, whilst still participating in relationships at Tiers 5 and 4 with local charities. 

Tier 1 Strategic Partnerships

Tier 1 Strategic Partnership's do require dedicated account management and sometimes they can require an account manager embedded partly within the company. They can be huge, unwieldy and wonderful beasts encompassing a broad array of coordinated activities such as:
  • Executive level strategic planning 
  • Multiple stakeholders
  • UK-wide employee engagement / fundraising activities
  • Payroll Giving 
  • Cause-related marketing
  • Joint campaigns or policy work 
  • Media and advertising  
  • UK-wide volunteering, coaching and secondment opportunities
  • Complex reporting 
  • Bespoke events
  • Sponsorship deals
These activities can bring vast benefits, both financial and non-financial. Tier 1 corporate partnerships can touch all levels of your charity, from executive coaching through to challenge event participants or activism.  

Why categorise? 

Categorising your corporate partnerships will help you to prioritise time and resources within your fundraising team (or your own workload).  It will also help to direct your activity.  If your aim is grow a broad base of grassroots support - or if you are a smaller charity - you may solely be aiming for Tier 4 and 5 support.  In this case, you may want to:
  • target a long list of potenital companies; 
  • create fun corporate engagement activities e.g. shops takeovers, or team skill giving as part of a cultivation plan (see Lucy Gower's recent post in Fundraising magazine on the Pros and Cons of Corporate Team Days); 
  • have a good portfolio of fundraising events and activities to offer as a next stage;
  • proactively market the above, either via your services, donor base, contacting HR directors (LinkedIn) or using social media and blogs. 
If you are looking for Tier 3, 2 or 1 relationships then you may want to look for:
  • brand alignment; 
  • high level connections with decision makers; 
  • nomination processes and the time of year selection happens; 
  • influencing opportunities.
Your proposal, presentations and reporting will be bespoke and the development of the relationship may take place over years. This process is more akin to major gifts fundraising techniques and might sit in a different part of your team. 

What to avoid? 

The greatest barrier to achieving a broad-based corporate partnership programme is silo working. If your fundraisers won't share their contacts or work collaboratively then you have a real issue. Your corporate fundraiser (s) need to act as a pipeline to major gifts and community and vice versa. 

Targets, working practices and key performance indicators are key to encouraging cross-channel working and collaboration. Use primary and secondary fundraisers. Soft credit gifts to different teams. Make it a KPI that one team should provide leads to another and vice versa. Encourage team members to shadow each other and co-present. When you plan, plan in project groups rather than in silos. 

One to Watch..

There is no doubt that corporate fundraising has changed dramatically over the last few years. The days of companies handing over a big cheque without any real engagement are over. Today, charities and companies should be thinking about strategic alignment, added value, multiple points of engagement. The long term result of this is dramatically increased impact and understanding across sectors. 

As Confucius said:

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