Partnership guidance published

A cancer charity found at the last minute that a confectionery company which wanted to make a large donation was owned by a US cigarette manufacturer. And a children's charity found that one of its corporate partners, a clothing manufacturer, had most of its clothes made by children in the developing world.

These true stories appear in the Institute of Fundraising's new code of practice on working with business. The code was launched at the National Fundraisers' Convention in Birmingham last week, alongside the Charity Commission's own "regulatory report", Charities and Commercial Partners.

While acknowledging the benefits of commercial partnerships, the Commission's report emphasises that a charity risks its reputation by entering into a partnership with a business whose activities conflict with the charity's ethical standards.

Speaking at the convention, chief Charity Commissioner John Stoker said: "With the current trends of fundraising innovation and of corporate social responsibility, it is not surprising that our research has identified plenty of successful commercial partnerships. But trustees must take great care to ensure that the risks are minimised and the benefits maximised. An unsuccessful partnership where people perceive the charity to have sold out can damage both its income and profile and have an impact on public trust."

The Institute of Fundraising's code advises charities to undertake detailed research on companies they are considering partnering with. They need to investigate whether the company is commercially sound, if it has a parent company, what its motives are for wanting to work together and whether its values and those of the charity might be in conflict.

The code advises charities to develop a policy on business partnerships that is agreed by the trustees. A group representing the key parts of the organisation, such as communications, fundraising, finance and service delivery should be set up to use such a policy as a guide.

The obligations and rights of the relationship must also be established at the outset. These include the use of the charity's logo and brand, how the relationship is to be presented to the outside world, copyright issues, and when and how money will be transferred.

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