Sourcing tailored support from the business community is one of the trickiest ongoing challenges that any non-profit faces. With the help of sector expert Tiia Sammallahti, CEO of charity-business matchmaking service whatimpact, we share five tips for securing the help that best fits your objectives.
1. Find corporate partners who share your values
Philanthropic projects based around short-term initiatives and superficial partnerships often lack the long-term impact to bring about tangible, lasting change. It’s far more effective for private- and third-sector partners to unite around a shared vision of the future, underpinned by mutual values.
Don’t rush into partnerships, but ask: what do you both want to see happen in society that could solve a deep-rooted problem? The theory of change is a useful tool here. Too often in private/third-sector endeavours, results fail to encapsulate your initial intentions. Creating a theory of change, which outlines the exact methods you’ll use to address a problem and how you’ll measure results, helps to ensure outcomes match ambitions.
“There are so many approaches to resolve problems,” says Tiia Sammallahti. “Methods of solving homelessness, for example, can vary – so it’s important for both parties to share a view on how the problem is best addressed.”
2. Think about the resources you need to make an impact
Non-profits often stumble into the unenviable position of shaking a collection tin at businesses that never fills up, while providing desk space for unskilled volunteers from firms using charity placements to tick their CSR boxes.
Every charity needs funding, of course, but think too about other ways corporates could support you, and be clear about what sort of help you need. Some businesses may not have ready cash to donate, but could offer services, goods or skills of great practical value.
For example, skilled corporate volunteers with the right tech, training or leadership experience could help upskill or mentor your own people. Research by WhatCharity found that while 40% of charities receive skills-based volunteering, total demand is as high as 70%.
As Sammallahti notes: “Not all companies have grant programmes, or can afford to donate money. But service- or product-based donations can open the way to bigger collaborations in the future.”
3. Create a systematic approach for obtaining support
Any change venture must be underpinned by a framework of logical progression, divided into specific phases and targets. Just as NASA knows which booster rockets to fire at different stages of a satellite’s launch, a non-profit must understand which resources it will need from donor(s) at each point of a project’s delivery cycle.
You may need to harness legal input while setting up the project, for example, then product- and skills-based assistance as the effort crystallises – with various step-changes in financial support occurring along the way.
Charities that are able to map out their requirements systematically are more likely to secure the help they need. “Think about your timeframe for resource collecting,” urges Sammallahti. “Communicating even a rough timeline makes it easier for supporters to commit to the project.”
4. Approach prospective partners strategically
Which private-sector organisations could really help your non-profit make a lasting impact within its field? Not all of them will be high-profile brands with readily discoverable CSR objectives detailed in hefty annual reports. They might be SMEs or family businesses with strong reputations for backing social causes in their local areas – or trailblazing startups whose business models are crafted in response to particular societal and environmental challenges.
Research and list potential partners, and approach them strategically. Consider platforms like whatimpact’s, which allows non-profits to proactively seek support by creating an online profile that can be matched by AI to suitable partners.
And don’t underestimate the influence of netting one buzz-worthy partner. “When you have one big name in your donor list,” says Sammallahti, “mentioning that to other prospective partners will give your project credibility and open fresh doors.”
5. Communicate your impacts throughout the process
Building a culture of understanding around your projects is vital for maximising contributions from existing donors and seizing the attention of new partners. Sammallahti advocates total transparency: “It’s easier for supporters to join a project when they know what kind of impact it is going to make.”
Evaluate and quantify your project’s impact before approaching partners. What are your goals? What will success look like? How do you intend to measure progress? If possible, communicate the impact of previous projects. Openness on all those points will enhance your credibility, and lay the foundations of successful long-term collaboration.
For more insights on this topic, download whatimpact’s recent white paper Enabling Impact Creation: Rethinking private and third sector interaction.