There is an element of serendipity to the way the IT company Fujitsu and the housing charity Shelter came together to embark on a two-year partnership. Shelter received more than half of the votes in a poll of Fujitsu's employees to choose a charity partner. Meanwhile, the charity was looking for a technology company to work with.
The reason, says Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb, is that in an era of straitened public funding Shelter is having "to do more with less". So it enlisted Fujitsu, which has worked with retailers such as Marks & Spencer, to modernise the tills and technology infrastructure in its chain of charity shops. The charity has plans to increase the number of its shops from 110 to 220 over the next two years.
Five teams of graduates who joined Fujitsu a year ago are working on business plans to increase sales in five Shelter shops in London, Manchester and Wellington in Shropshire. Each team ran a shop for a day in September to put their plans into action.
The partnership also has a fundraising element: in an initiative dubbed Chocolate for Change, Fujitsu has distributed 9,000 tubes of Smarties to its staff. The plan is for the tubes to be filled with money once the contents have been eaten. Duncan Tait, chief executive of Fujitsu UK & Ireland, says: "Our employees are passionate about this partnership. This and our retail technology expertise puts us in a strong position to help Shelter."
In addition to its work with charity shops, Fujitsu will revamp Shelter's website and introduce a webchat facility as way of improving the online advice it gives to beneficiaries.