Business partner: Help the Hospices and Argos

The two organisations are nearing the end of a lucrative two-year collaboration.

Charities put a lot of thought into pitching for corporate partners, but according to Help the Hospices, which is about to conclude a two-year target-smashing relationship with retailer Argos, it is equally important to think about how to say goodbye.

In particular, claims Anne Seymour, Help the Hospices' corporate fundraiser, charities must squeeze every last drop of value out of partnerships and keep up the fundraising momentum right to the end. "People might write the last months off and say 'it's time to say thanks and goodbye'," she says. "But a lot can still be done."

The partnership with Argos finishes at the end of this month, but the identity of the retailer's next charity partner - Leukaemia Research - was announced in January, so Seymour has had to work hard to make sure Argos's 32,000 employees still have their minds set on fundraising for the incumbent charity.

One useful coincidence is that Help the Hospices is close to reaching the milestone of doubling its original fundraising target of £600,000. Hitting that target has helped to keep staff motivated.

Seymour has also been careful to keep a few less demanding initiatives up her sleeve for the months in which the partnership is winding down - for example, a request for staff to nominate who worked the hardest to raise funds for the charity.

Lorna Liggett, community affairs manager with the Home Retail Group, Argos's parent company, agrees that the departing partner faces a challenging time. "The staff are already aware who the new partner is because they chose it," she says.

"All of a sudden, they are thinking about the new partner. But the key for the departing charity is communication and celebrating as many milestones as it can in the last six months."

In fact, Help the Hospices seems to be enjoying something of an Indian summer as the partnership comes to a close. Between May and mid-June it raised £46,000, which compares well with fundraising levels when the partnership was in full swing. "The level of giving is still substantial, although there has been a little drop," says Seymour.

One reason for the continued good performance is that Argos now has a member of staff - Liggett - responsible for promoting the partnership within the company. Responsibility for that was previously shared in the press office.

Help the Hospices has also been willing to help Leukaemia Research prepare for its two-year fundraising opportunity. "The account manager with Leukaemia Research came in for a blitz of anything he wanted to know about how the partnership worked," says Seymour. "We were perfectly happy to do it. The partnership has been really collaborative all the way through, so it was natural to help the transition at the end."

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