"For companies, autism is not a sexy cause," says Emma Bolton, head of corporate partnerships at the National Autistic Society. So rather than fruitlessly competing for donations, the charity has concentrated on exploring how commercial products can help its beneficiaries.
In the past, it has forged partnerships with Lego and the owners of the Thomas the Tank Engine brand. Its latest commercial link-up is a one-year deal with Bic Kids, a division of the French company that makes the iconic and ubiquitous Biro.
Bic Kids makes felt pens, colouring pencils and crayons for children. Anecdotal evidence has suggested colouring can help autistic children express their emotions.
Bic has made a £15,000 donation to the NAS's education support service, which helps teachers in mainstream schools who work with autistic pupils.
The society has also produced a free guide for nursery and primary school teachers, which is being marketed through a Bic website for teachers. The guide helps them to explain autism to their pupils and shows how they should interact with children with autism.
Bic is holding a free monthly draw, offering £150 worth of Bic Kids products as a way of encouraging teachers to visit the site.
In a recent NAS survey, 72 per cent of schools said they were dissatisfied with their teachers' training in autism.
"Teachers are crying out for resources," says Bolton.
Yolande de Trogoff, trade marketing manager for Bic UK and Ireland, said the company was looking for a charity that would appeal to teachers. "I'm happy that we are not only giving money, which anyone can do, but also working with the NAS by providing a resource pack, which is going to add value to a teacher's class," she says.