The list of corporate partners the Scout Association can boast is testimony to its status as one of the most sought-after charity brands from a business point of view. Volvo, the National Grid, juice brand Fruit Shoot, the Royal Bank of Scotland and, most recently, Millets and Sainsbury's have all signed partnership deals with the association, which is celebrating its centenary this year.
Besides the inherent reliability of the brand, the Scout Association's attractiveness to some of Britain's largest companies is bolstered by the fact that it offers deals that go markedly beyond traditional 'charity of the year' partnerships. In fact, fundraising takes a back seat.
The association promises "mutually beneficial business partnerships" that swell the bottom line and tick corporate social responsibility boxes. Companies are seduced by the lure of direct advertising to 500,000 scouts and 80,000 scout leaders.
Fruit Shoot, which has a two-year deal with the association, is now the most popular drink with scouts, beating even Coca-Cola. "We will always guarantee that the company gets a good return on its investment," says Lynn Brushwood, commercial partnerships manager at the charity. She insists the association has not become too commercialised. Brands are promoted to scouts, but the association never lends its database to corporate partners.
Part of the reason for the Scout Association's commercially minded approach to partnerships is that its driving need is not for donations, but for volunteers. The association is open about its current volunteer crisis: a lack of scout leaders means there are long waiting lists to join the Scouts. Companies such as Sainsbury's, which can offer access to a pool of 160,000 potential volunteers, get access to a lucrative market in return.
As part of its partnership with the scouts, Sainsbury's is submitting a business plan to v, the Government's youth volunteering programme. The aim is to make a concerted effort to recruit more volunteers aged between 16 and 25 for the Scouts. In the autumn, the retailer will run a scout community week in 400 of its stores to promote scouting, recruit volunteers and raise money.
Sainsbury's will also have a presence at the World Scout Jamboree, which will be held in July and August. About 42,000 people will converge on the site in Hylands Park in Essex, where they will be able to pick up supplies in four temporary Sainsbury's supermarkets.
The partnership with Sainsbury's grew out of the firm's Active Kids programme - a customer voucher scheme for schools to buy exercise equipment. The Scouts joined after the programme was expanded beyond schools. According to Rob Crumbie, manager of the programme, there is an affinity between the two brands. "From a socio-economic point of view, our customers are, broadly, ABC1s, and that fits closely with the Scouts," he says. "Our customers can see us working with a charitable organisation with which they can associate."