What do companies want from charity partners?

If you want to create successful corporate partnerships it’s vital that you’re able to meet the expectations of companies. So let’s explore what they really want from charity partners.

The primary reason that a company chooses a charity is for emotional reasons. Indeed, as human beings our major purchasing decisions are based on how a product or service makes us feel. So if we bought a Ferrari it wouldn’t be because it’s a sound financial investment, it would be because of how it makes us feel when we sit in the driver’s seat and press the accelerator.

Inspiration

So company decision makers want to be inspired by the cause. More specifically they want to see the cause for themselves and hear examples that show that their contribution is making a difference. In their book Made to Stick (Random House, 2007), Chip and Dan Heath emphasise the importance of the emotional connection:

“How do we get people to care about ideas? We make them feel something. How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories.”

Enthusiastic and hungry

The charity’s attitude is very important to companies. They want a partner who will go the extra mile and shows tenacity to deliver results. They also want the charity to be committed to overcoming any obstacles in their partnership.

How hungry you are can be revealed in the smallest gestures. For example, I was with an organisation that was invited to apply for a company’s charity of the year. I encouraged them to respond as quickly as possible to say “thank you and we will definitely be submitting an application.” It’s highly likely that the company will remember the speed of their response and it will count in the favour when it comes to shortlisting the charities invited to pitch.

Also the company wants to know that their contribution matters to the charity. When I was at Action for Children we had a major partnership with MFI, a furniture retailer. They had supported us for over ten years, but we had never told them that they were our largest corporate partner. When we did finally tell them it made a huge difference and played a big part in extending our partnership.

Professionalism

Companies want their charity partners to be professional in their approach. In particular they are concerned that the charity might make a big mistake and make them look bad, or that the charity will be too slow to respond their requests.

They want a partner who understands what they do and sees how the partnership relates to their overall business objectives. They also want the charity to be available when they need them and to keep in touch on a regular basis. Companies also want their charity partners to be dependable, which means doing what they say they are going to do.

Ideally companies also want a charity with a proven track record of delivering corporate partnerships. It reassures them that they understand how to partner with companies and have a range of opportunities and events that work with corporate partners.

Compelling opportunities that fit with their business

Companies want to partner with charities on specific opportunities. This is because they want a discreet project they can call their own and on which they can focus their resources. More specifically, they want to partner on a project which is vital and interesting because that will mean that their contribution is making an important difference.

Also the company wants the opportunity to have a good fit with their business. This will ensure that the project resonates with their different audiences. For example, it makes sense for Gillette to support ‘Movember’, where members of the public grow moustaches to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer. A good fit with a charity partner can also provide opportunities for different parts of their company to unite around a common cause. It also gives the partnership more potential to grow.

Real business benefits

Lastly companies want their charity partners to provide real benefits that meet their objectives. This doesn’t mean that charities have to make huge promises, instead it means that companies want their charity partners to be specific about the benefits they will deliver.

Every charity lists publicity and employee engagement as benefits they can deliver, so it helps to offer a company something different. For example, you could offer a digital photo album of the company’s involvement in your partnership taken by a professional photographer.

Ideally these benefits will be agreed at the beginning of the partnership and it is vital that the charity is able to deliver on its promises. Also the company will want the benefits to be measurable so they can demonstrate that the partnership is delivering a return on their investment.

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