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Top 3 Things a Business Wants in a Charity Partnership

What does a business really want from me? That’s the million-dollar question for most charities – right up there with ‘is there free food in the kitchen?’ and ‘who stole all the forks?’

Fortunately, we get a big hint from the Giving Australia 2016 report, where Australian businesses were transparent about wanting their giving to generate a social as well as a business benefit.

In businesses of all sizes, giving was woven into their business strategy. No longer is CSR the wallflower on the sidelines, but now it’s on the centre of the dancefloor with the cool kids.

So, what are the three main things that a business wants from a charity partner?

1. GET TO KNOW MY PRIORITIES AND CORE BUSINESS

Firstly, it’s important for your charity to be clear on its own strategy, priorities and direction. If you can’t articulate where you’re going, how can you get a business to go on the journey with you- or understand how a business partner fits? Equally important is investing time to understand your corporate prospect’s business model, how it works and what’s important to them. Hold a discovery meeting and ask lots of questions: you are trying to find alignment with your cause and their aspirations and core business. For SMEs you will also need to consider the personal motivations and interests of the owner manager, as they will be the key decision maker.

Plan International wanted to find a partner for a new program in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, helping educate men on non-violent relationships with women and girls. It wasn’t glamorous and there were no media snippets or big brand names operating nearby. The biggest cost to run the program was printing of the training materials for its community workers, as they had no internet connection in remote areas. We found an ideal corporate partner whose entire business was about printing and who was passionate about how print can transform lives. The program gave them the opportunity to showcase the impact of print and make a lasting difference to vulnerable women and girls.

2. THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE MEANINGFUL SOCIAL IMPACT

There is a clear trend away from small scale corporate philanthropy to investment in long term impact. The most important, and often neglected, thing for your charity is measurement. Can you

demonstrate, with data, the impact that your work is having? Don’t just capture activity measures, think about the long term. If you run education programs for disadvantaged teenagers, don’t tell a business how many workshops you’ve run, tell them instead about the uplift in school attendance, the number of kids now in meaningful employment and the economic impact of getting them to finish school. London Benchmarking Group (LBG) have a great measurement framework for businesses to measure the impact of CSR. They have recently extended this model to charities to help them measure and communicate their own impact.

You may have the best photos and emotional case studies, but if you can’t measure and communicate the impact of your work, then you’re missing a big plank of your story.

3. THE OPPORTUNITY TO ALIGN TO YOUR CORE MISSION, NOT JUST GIVE DONATIONS 

We know that every charity loves untied cash. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll rarely knock back a cheque- but the opportunity with a business partnership could be so much greater if you think about how it helps you deliver on your core mission. Then it unlocks so many more possibilities, makes it harder for a business to flip you for another charity next year and increases the likelihood of a longer term, more valuable partnership.

Bakers Delight and BCNA have been partners for over 15 years. Over 5 million pink buns have been baked, with Bakers Delight providing more than $15,000,000 and countless pro-bono services to BCNA during this partnership. BCNA has sent out over 100,000 My Journey kits for women with breast cancer and the partnership has funded many essential services.

This partnership has been transformational for BCNA and Bakers Delight. Bakers Delight and BCNA started with shared office space. But over the course of the partnership they have shared a lot more: staff volunteering and fundraising, pro bono services, joint marketing and even board representation. As Roger Gillespie, CEO of Bakers Delight said, “it’s part of our culture, it’s part of who we are”.

So, back to that million-dollar question- what does a business want from a charity? We’ve moved on from the focus on cheap PR and brand goodwill to a more sophisticated approach to creating meaningful social impact through a partnership. Your charity doesn’t have to be a big brand or even a popular cause to win a significant business partnership. But you do need to get the right alignment with their core business, be able to demonstrate with measurement the social impact that your partnership can achieve and find multiple points of integration that take a partnership from social goodwill to transformational social change. 

The Xfactor Collective is a community of pre-vetted specialist consultants who help social change makers achieve their social mission. We have a diverse range of specialists across 300+ areas of specialisation, and this article was written by our Specialist Consultants Linda Garnett and Sharon Dann. To find out more about working with Linda or Sharon, or how the Collective can help you, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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