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#askXFACTOR    #strongertogether     logo reset2020 white

Rebound or rollercoaster? The next stage for corporate partnerships

Australians have reasons to be cautiously optimistic that the COVID-19 lockdown is working, and I’ve heard talk about the economic recovery once restrictions are gradually lifted. Will it be a V-shape, a U-shape or L-shape?

For corporate partnerships it’s clear that things won’t just ‘snap back’ to normal as the corporate landscape is going to look very different. If we’re not prepared, we could see more of a rollercoaster than rebound, so every corporate partnership manager will need to strap themselves in for an adrenaline ride.

What are the emerging themes that we’re seeing for the corporate partnerships’ recovery?

1. More competition for corporate support
Every NFP has been impacted in some way by the COVID-19 crisis and will be looking to restart or refocus its fundraising and partnerships efforts. Similarly, corporates will be restarting operations and reshaping their community support; some won’t survive at all. Virgin Australia has been a generous supporter of community groups, performing arts and sport, so they’ll be rethinking their options if they emerge from voluntary administration. There will be more competition for corporate support, and corporate budgets will be smaller, just like in the 2008 GFC.

2. Strategically aligned, values driven partnerships
The smarter corporates are working hard to demonstrate their social purpose credentials and the Edelman Trust research demonstrated the high expectations of the community for action and support during this crisis. Future corporate partnerships are going to be more thoughtful, strategically aligned relationships that are driven by complementary values between the partners. Strong relationships are going be critical to getting the right alignment that delivers on the needs of both partners and creates meaningful social impact, not brand washing.

3. Less philanthropy and sponsorship
Traditional corporate philanthropy is not quite dead, but like Monty Python’s parrot, is resting and pining for the fjords. There will be a role in the future landscape for sponsorship, especially in the sporting sector, but there will be a lot less money available, especially for smaller community events. The corporate partnerships that emerge will be more sophisticated as a result, with multiple points of engagement and a better integration with the corporate’s core purpose rather than once-off, annual events that give a goodwill sugar hit.

4. The temptation to chase a cheap dollar
We understand that charities are struggling to close the gaps in budget and the increased need from their constituents. However, we’d caution against the temptation to say yes to every offer of support. A strong risk management framework and clear understanding of the charity’s values and mission will mitigate against the likelihood of succumbing to an offer that you’ll regret later. It’s much harder to undo the brand damage of choosing the wrong partner (remember Heart Foundation and McDonald’s?) so choose carefully and ensure your corporate partnerships are aligned to your core values.

Whatever the shape of the economic recovery, it’s unlikely to be an immediate rebound into the previous status quo. Charities will have to work hard to smooth out the curve for the corporate partnerships recovery and avoid the rollercoaster that would be disastrous for relationships and value. . That means charities and corporate partnership managers will need to get smarter, competitive and more strategic about building new partnerships. It’s an opportunity to take corporate partnerships into a whole new, more sophisticated landscape, but you’ll need to be ready.

Linda Garnett and Sharon Dann are Specialists in corporate partnerships consulting, coaching and training and foundation members of The Xfactor Collective.

Need help in your organisation? We run the sector’s first Specialist triage support service (our CONCIERGE) where we can help you find support from a range of services and solutions.

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