Business partner: Tesco and Marie Curie Cancer Care

Cancer charity and supermarket giant hope to raise £2.5m this year.

Becoming the Tesco Charity of the Year is one of the biggest prizes in corporate partnerships for charities. So when Marie Curie Cancer Care was invited to pitch to the supermarket giant to become the 2008 partner, it brought out the big guns.

"We had our chief executive, our head of corporate partnerships, our head of account management and a Marie Curie nurse," says Arun Sharma, campaign manager for the Tesco partnership. "They could talk about different aspects of the organisation, how the money raised would benefit the organisation and how the account would get delivered on a day-to-day basis, and they could demonstrate what end-of-life care actually involves."

Unlike many of its supermarket competitors, Tesco does not leave the choice of its charity partner to a staff vote. Instead, it bases the final decision on a set of rigorous criteria, including being well known and having a corporate fundraising department that is supported by regional offices. Charities must work with children, the elderly, people with disabilities or on major health concerns. The previous two incumbents have been the Red Cross and children's charity Whizz Kidz.

Marie Curie Cancer Care's mission was a big factor in the decision. "We need to keep it fresh and rotate it so that staff are motivated from one year to the next," says Charlotte Hill, corporate responsibility manager at Tesco. But the charity's presence in local communities is also important, she says. "Staff tell us they want to fundraise for something that is local to them. Marie Curie is very local. It is raising money for additional nursing hours, and the money is raised where it will be spent."

The partnership target is to raise £2.5m - £50 0,000 more than the partnership with the Red Cross. Most of that total will be raised through staff fundraising, and the remainder will come from cause-related marketing promotions and challenge events. All staff fundraising will benefit from a 20 per cent top-up from the Tesco Charity Trust.

The partnership will also cement a more coordinated approach to staff fundraising. "In the past, everybody has done their own fundraising, and we've relied on that," says Hill. "Now we have regular slots through the year where we are giving stores time to fundraise." The company will set aside periods of up to two weeks six times a year for staff to hold fundraising events based on ideas developed by Tesco and the charity.

For Marie Curie Cancer Care, the partnership - by far its biggest-ever with a company - is an opportunity to raise not only money but also awareness of its work. Store openings and refurbishments will be used to spread information about Marie Curie nurses in local areas, and the charity hopes to reach Tesco customers with information about end-of-life care.

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