Pink mission and merger background colour

Do we need more impactful corporate-charity partnerships?

By Angela Kail 28 March 2018 3 minute read

In a world wracked by societal change, many companies are thinking carefully about their social purpose—how they can be more inclusive and appeal to a different market.

Charities, by and large, have a good reputation for social responsibility and often need financial support to help them with rising demand and decreasing government funding

From this perspective corporate-charity partnerships can seem a match made in heaven. NPC’s research Charities taking charge revealed that over the next three years, 41% of charities surveyed expect to be partnering more with private sector organisations.

Unfortunately, one thing is clear to observers of current corporate-charity partnerships: they are not always driven by impact.

Today we release Building impactful corporate charity partnerships, our guide to how the relationship between the two can be made to work better for both.

NPC feels that there is no point in having more corporate-charity partnerships unless the nature of these partnerships improves to really drive effectiveness. Otherwise we will continue to see poor use of volunteers, projects being developed for funders then discontinued and unsatisfactory measurement.

Fundamental to making these partnerships work is improving the relationship between the parties. Our research, conducted over several months talking to charities and corporates, revealed that it is often very unequal.

Charities feel they are asked to do things that they cannot, and corporates said to us that charities don’t always deliver what they were hoping. Both sides talked about not being able to be honest. These aren’t partnerships that are really working for everyone involved.

The research shows that businesses are not like other funders of charities. Unlike philanthropists, or trusts and foundations, they do not give out of pure altruism. 91% cite brand or reputation as their primary motivation.  Unlike other funders of the charity sector, they are often not specialist in the charitable areas they are giving to—they don’t necessarily know what is a reasonable request. These differences cannot be ignored.

That said, businesses often have a lot more to give than just money, if charities can access the support. Corporates are teams of people with a variety of skills, and can give their time, resources and skills—as well as their cash.

One way to improve the relationship suggested by interviewees was inductions—which go into each parties motivations, what they could bring to the relationship and what they can get out of it—could be useful in establishing a more equal partnership.

National Grid, for instance, knows that it is very difficult for its charity partners to really understand what it does, and so it holds an induction day to tell their charity partners how the business operates, giving them a better idea of how the relationship will work.

Others talked of the need to have an in-depth conversation about what each side was looking to get out of a partnership. One interviewee said this conversation then became the basis for a conversation about measurement—meaning that the measurement was more balanced on both sides. Lots of our charity interviewees talked about the need to be braver in their relationships.

There are a lot of inspiring partnerships out there. The insurance company, L&G, has been working with charity partners to get more insights on what is happening in key areas and how it can improve its offering. This started as a simple fundraising relationship with Whizz Kidz, but then turned into consultancy as Whizz Kidz was able to provide advice on how accessible L&G’s commercial property was to people with disabilities.

This relationship is a win-win for both parties, but it started with both parties getting to know each other better. More communication of this sort is needed if future corporate-charity partnerships are going to deliver for everyone.

Read the full report here