The good news if you become financial services firm Deloitte's charity partner is that you are guaranteed a sizeable return. The bad news is that you have to share it. Unusually for a major company, Deloitte always works with two charities at a time. The partners between 2005 and 2008, the British Heart Foundation and Leukaemia Research, split slightly more than £2m between them. From this year, it is the turn of Cancer Research UK and the NSPCC.
The three-way arrangement means that Deloitte's charity partners quickly have to get used to working with each other, rather than in competition.
"Very rarely in this sector do you get the chance to work closely with another charity," says Douglas Rouse, head of corporate partnerships at the British Heart Foundation. "Normally you are trying to outdo each other."
Richard Stone, director of community investment at Deloitte, says: "We found it gave choice to our employees, but also worked really well with the charities. They've found it extremely useful - not only to work with us, but also with another charity."
The collaboration between the charities involves much more than sharing out the proceeds at the end of the year: part of the deal is that they must work together to draw up a programme of fundraising events that will capitalise on the respective advantages of each organisation. "Leukaemia Research has great access to celebrities, whereas we have higher-profile events, such as our annual Valentine's Appeal," explains Rouse.
But both charities had an enviable resource to draw on even before they began devising fundraising events. About 3,000 staff - 25 per cent of Deloitte's workforce - are signed up to the firm's payroll-giving scheme, a feat that has earned the company a Gold Award for payroll giving from the Institute of Fundraising. Seventy per cent of those signed up chose to support Deloitte's current national charity partners. Leukaemia Research and the BHF received a total of £300,000 from payroll giving alone during 2007.
In an area where most companies struggle, Deloitte's success in payroll giving is due in part to the fact that the scheme has been promoted regularly to its employees. Since 2004, the company has run a monthly draw for all participants, with the prize of two free return flights to 15 destinations around the world.
Rouse describes Deloitte as a market leader in corporate social responsibility and working with charities. But he says the company does not rest on its laurels.
"Once you know you've won the adoption, Deloitte puts together a meeting with the previous two charities and asks them to talk through all the good and bad things, and things that could have worked better," says Rouse.
"It's quite refreshing - they are not ashamed to talk about the things that didn't work well."