Top tips to help small charities find a corporate partner

Melanie May | 15 September 2021 | News

two men shaking hands over a table in an office

Finding a corporate partner as a small charity without the name and resources of the big nationals may seem a little daunting, but there’s much that can be done for just the investment of a bit of time. Here are some tips.

Think about how you can build relationships to build awareness of your organisation

Reaching out to local businesses can be a successful route for smaller charities.The Hymans Robertson Foundation supports a number of small charities, and is marking its fifth birthday this year by offering additional grants of £5,000 each to its smaller partners FARE Scotland, SportInspired, TLG – Transforming lives for good, Works + and MyBnk. Marcella Boyle, its CEO says:

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“Are you thinking local or national?  Corporates are people too, who often want to make a difference in their local area: think “neighbourhood” and how you can approach offices to build up your own local networks. These relationships can develop into future corporate partnerships.”

In the last few months, mental health charity Lamp ((Leicestershire Action for Mental Health Project), has formed partnerships with specialty insurance group Tokio Marine HCC International, Leicester-based clothing company Just Hype, and Midlands recruitment business Macildowie.

 Lamp’s Corporate and Community Engagement Officer Matt Barton says:

“As a small, local charity, it’s important to support and reach out to small local businesses or local community groups in the area in which you work. We enrolled into a number of business networking events aimed at helping small businesses to connect and support each other. Knowing that you’re supporting the community in which we all live and that the services may help friends, colleagues or a family member in the future really hits home with people also.

 

“We all know that large companies do great things. On a local front, we aim to provide support on a two-way front, whether it be using local businesses for our own marketing, printing, insurance and training, or a simple social media share or third party promotion can go a long way.”

Seek potential partners with a good fit for your charity

Look for businesses where their values seem to align with yours. City Hospice recently appointed a number of ambassadors from the South Wales business community who will champion the charity’s work within their communities, as well as supporting events and fundraising campaigns.

Liz Andrews, City Hospice’s Chief Executive says:

“Our top tip would be to do your research and choose potential partners who have the same values as your charity. Provide a dedicated Relationship Manager who can work with your charity partner to develop a mutually beneficial relationship so that the charity benefits but the business also does e.g. by helping grow their brand, providing volunteering opportunities and helping meet their Corporate and Social responsibilities.”

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Find a relevant topic to engage with

When identifying possible targets, find out as much as you can about them as this will help you find the right way to approach them.

Boyle says:

“It might seem obvious but remember to look at your “target” corporate’s website and social media. Try to identify a “hook” (purpose, objectives, impact): is your charity’s purpose or the people and communities you support aligned to their strategy/CSR strategy? That really helps when you’re approaching corporates for the first time.”

Lamp’s Barton gives this example:

“Recently, a company came to us saying that they wanted to fundraise for us for a Miles for Mental Health campaign. When we asked about why they wanted to support us, they said many employees’ mental health has suffered due to Covid and people were anxious about returning to work. In return for their support, we provided a free 30-minute workshop around managing anxiety to the team. It allowed us to connect more with the whole team.”

Tell a good story

All nonprofits have great stories to tell, and just as sharing these helps to engage individual donors, so it helps to engage businesses.

Farms for City Children recently saw Bank of Montreal’s BMO Capital Markets team in London raise £13,500 to subsidise a residential trip for its local primary school at Farms for City Children’s Gloucestershire farm this autumn. Lisa Long, the charity’s Regional Corporate Fundraising Manager says:

“A lot of businesses view large charities as corporate machines and small charities as grassroots community organisations so make the most of that. Tell them about beneficiaries, individual stories, share conversations, emotional moments, and memories to demonstrate how big an impact they can make to your work.”

Who do you know who might open doors?

Consider your contacts  – there might be people you already know who work at businesses that are a good fit for you and who might be able to provide a way in.

Boyle says:

Who do you know? Is there someone in the corporate that can help make an introduction in the first instance? LinkedIn is a big network opportunity, try connecting with some of the corporate’s CSR team members.”

Take advantage of social media for research & engagement opportunities

Social media can be a useful and cheap way of finding potential ‘targets’, and discovering more about them. It also provides a way to engage with them to help kickstart communications and raise awareness of your organisation.

Boyle says:

“Follow your “targets” on social media; remember to post regularly and try tagging in your “targets” if you think your post is relevant.”

On LinkedIn specifically, Barton says:

“We find a number of employees and influential leaders posting messages about topics important to us e.g. awareness of burnout /depression/anxiety. Straight away, this tells us that this is an important topic for them. It then provides a great way to connect and start a conversation.”

One volunteer hands another a food parcel out of a van.

Look for other ways in

As well as building up relationships through supporting local businesses financially, look at how else you can get to know them. Offering volunteering opportunities is one way that will get your name in front of them and help you build a relationship that might later lead elsewhere.

Boyle says:

“Think about how your charity can support volunteering in your target corporate. Volunteering (virtual and direct) can help build up awareness of your charity in advance of your formal “pitch” to become a corporate partner.”

Checklist

And finally, a quick checklist for getting started, from Farms for City Children’s Long:

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