Business Charity Awards: Charity Partnership: Short-term - Winner: Simplyhealth and VoiceAbility

Awarded to the best partnership between a business and a charity that has lasted up to a year and a half

Simplyhealth and VoiceAbility
Simplyhealth and VoiceAbility

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Simplyhealth and VoiceAbility

The partnership between the health insurance company Simplyheath and the merged disability charity VoiceAbility lasted only six months. But in that time the charity gained its new identity and the company found a new way to work with the third sector. It was a partnership of brief duration with substantial and abiding effects.

In early 2010, the two charities Advocacy Partners and Speaking Up merged. Both provided advocacy for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems. The merged charity ran temporarily under combined names, but needed a different name, brand and identity. A rebrand would have cost between £30,000 and £50,000, a sum the charity could not justify.

Simplyheath, a medical insurance company, had been through its own merger and rebrand: in September 2009, it was created from the merger of five firms.

It was felt that working with a charity would help the company's corporate affairs and human resources teams, which had been made into one department. So began the challenge of rebranding Advocacy Partners Speaking Up in six months.

The first step was a series of four ideas workshops, facilitated by Simplyhealth employees and attended by 240 of the charity's employees, trustees and volunteers.

Simplyhealth then called on its advertising agency to deliver a three-hour masterclass on branding to the charity's executives and trustees. At this point the name VoiceAbility was suggested by a Simplyhealth employee.

Simplyhealth's in-house design team created a new logo and strapline, and ideas for the brand were presented to the charity's board in September 2010. It approved the name and the strapline: "Strengthening voice, championing rights, changing lives." Both were launched on 12 November last year. "At our workshops in July there was still a divide between the two charities," said Gemma Lamb, head of fundraising at VoiceAbility. "By the launch, that divide had gone. Everyone felt part of VoiceAbility."

Not only did the charity gain a new identity and a way of making integration a reality, but the company also enjoyed benefits. A disparate team was strengthened, hidden talents revealed and different ways of working discovered. "I've got to know my colleagues better and learned about the challenges faced by a charity," said Sarah Hoare, competence and quality analyst at Simplyhealth.

One of the judges, Amanda McLean, said the partnership stood out because Simplyhealth "identified something it had been through - merger and rebranding - that it could pass on. They did so, very effectively, and it made a real difference to the way the charity worked."

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