Issy Freeman: Get into business with a corporate sponsor

Choosing a suitable company to partner with is important for a charity but the hard work doesn't stop there, writes the trustee of Kidscan

Some of the most useful help a charity can get comes from companies and, with careful planning, charities can work with successful businesses offering far more than financial support.

Thankfully, many businesses are keen to boost their CSR profile, but choosing a suitable company is essential. Partnering a health organisation with a tobacco company, for example, is not advisable. Charities should look for companies that echo their values and offer exposure to relevant audiences. Kidscan, primarily a research organisation, is often appealing to entrepreneurial businesspeople.

When approaching corporate companies, don’t be shy in pointing out what you bring to the table: good PR, a workforce energised by fundraising, improved CSR, and the potential to reach new audiences. Also explain how the charity publicises its work – a charity with an active voice is attractive to potential partners who will also benefit from publicity. Remember: there’s nothing wrong with the company benefitting too.

To pitch successfully, a charity always has to know its audience. Charity partners are often chosen by a staff vote, so start by appealing to employees. Offer perks such as events and opportunities that benefit both parties. Capitalise on connections within the business, using skills in areas such as HR, finance, and marketing to supplement the charity’s team.

Once on board, partners should feel in some way part of the charity. Foster an active partnership by motivating staff with events such as jeans days and cake sales. Partners should be raising money throughout the year, and small events such as these can be great for building relationships.

This year, Kidscan entered its second consecutive partnership with TD Direct Investing. Nominated internally, it was asked to explain what being charity of the year involves. In the first year, Kidscan planned events and volunteering opportunities and offered right of first refusal to places in events such as the Great Manchester Run. Kidscan also promoted TD’s workforce health improvement initiative. In return, TD raised significant funding for Kidscan. In the year ahead, Kidscan will continue to find out what the workforce needs and how the charity can help.

Importantly, charities have to be flexible. Home furnishings store Housing Units, another of Kidscan’s partners, has also chosen to support Kidscan for a second year. With a different audience in mind, a different package of activities was offered, including storybook-reading events for children and the commissioning of a special teddy bear, part of the proceeds of which are donated to Kidscan.

To find a corporate partner, look for companies that regularly donate to charity and, if a company elects a charity of the year, ask whether yours could be considered. The best kind of company depends on the charity. Most of Kidscan’s partners have been smaller companies offering the opportunity to build relationships that grow with the company. It’s often easier to gain access to a smaller company, and much better than filling in an application is to visit a company personally. See whose headquarters are nearby and arrange an appointment.

If you’re struggling for options, try attending networking functions. They offer insight into what’s going on in the local business community and can introduce invaluable contacts. As ever, it’s often who you know that counts.

Issy Freeman is a director of HR and a trustee of the children’s cancer research charity Kidscan

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