group of RNLI people and animal costumes on beach

Many businesses are looking for a charity partnership. In my last blog, I touched upon the benefits – culture, credibility and communications. I also added a few words of warning, which I’ve been asked to expand upon here.

It’s not a ‘tick box’ exercise

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard the dreaded phrase “we can tick the CSR box”, I’d chuck the whole bag of coins at the next person to say it. Expunge that sentence from your vocabulary now.

You don’t get brownie points just for turning up. If your support is not active, if you don’t really mean it, don’t bother. Purpose is not a marketing exercise. The best charity partnership has at root a genuine desire to make a difference, to improve the lives of the beneficiaries of that charity and to get stuck in.

And on that point, long-term is better than short-term. One cheque presentation may get you a picture in local media on a dull news day, but it’s not going to make much difference either to you or the charity. The best charity tie-ins, like the best wines, take time to mature. For example,  Haven has worked with the RNLI for over two years now, raised over £300,000 and reached over 10,000 children on their holiday parks with a water safety initiative.

Ensure the project aligns with your corporate values and business strategy

Raising money for charity is great. But sometimes, it can look a bit random. Why does this business want to work with that charity?

For some, it will be because of a personal link – maybe an employee or family member has been helped by the charity. For others, the business’s strategy is in line with the aims of the charity. The Shwopping partnership between M&S and Oxfam was a good example of where the company’s Plan A environmental platform fitted perfectly with boosting the supply of high quality pre-loved clothing to raise funds for the charity.

If values are not seen to align, then results can backfire spectacularly. So, if you’re selling fast fashion without a properly audited supply chain, simply holding a FairTrade coffee morning is not going to shift the needle in your favour.

Charities know their reputation has value too. They will not simply accept any business as a partner. If you offer your services to a charity and they reply, “No thanks, we’re not interested‘, that can bring the worst kind of publicity.

Don’t assume you know best

You’ve found an appropriate partner, you have a good reason to choose them and all your employees are fired with enthusiasm. Great. But don’t assume that charities are just waiting for whatever you want to offer.

Pretty much every charity needs volunteers. But they also need skilled people. You would not take on a new employee without giving them a comprehensive induction process. Charities are the same. They have processes, responsibilities and risk management needs of their own. Suddenly dealing with 20 fresh faces who will be here today and back to the day job tomorrow is not a good use of their resources.

That’s why I always recommend businesses approach a charity slowly, without too much of an agenda in terms of how they want to proceed. That way, both parties can develop a mutually-beneficial project which is going to help the charity and meet the business goals of the partner.

If you would like advice and help to create the right charity partnership for your company, get in touch and make use of the 360 integrated PR approach to charity tie-ins.

(With thanks to RNLI for the picture).