Business partner: United Response/Advantage Healthcare

The charity and the company are both starting a partnership for the first time.

When 99 per cent of your income comes from the state, a corporate partnership can represent a vital injection of unrestricted income to fund activities that public service contracts simply will not cover. With only 1 per cent of its £50m income derived from non-state sources, United Response, a charity that helps people with learning disabilities live in the community, decided to make a concerted effort to increase its fundraising activities. One result of this push is the charity's first corporate partnership, with Advantage Healthcare, a health recruitment agency.

"Local authorities contract with us to provide direct support," says Diane Lightfoot, head of communications and fundraising at United Response. "But that doesn't fund the extra things, such as specialist equipment or communications staff; it doesn't fund sensory gardens and it doesn't fund awareness-raising projects."

The partnership with Advantage emerged from United Response's relationship with another recruitment agency, Quantica, which Advantage bought this year. Quantica, which supplied social care agency staff to United Response, had sponsored the charity's activities in the past, including its 30th anniversary celebrations five years ago.

Another factor influenced the decision to approach Advantage for a charity-of-the-year partnership. "There is almost an uncanny mirror image between its office structure around the country and ours," says Lightfoot. "And this partnership is partly about matching their staff and offices with ours to build better relationships. We have put our managers in touch with their offices so that we can make links at a local level to encourage fundraising, volunteering and befriending."

It is also the first time that Advantage has partnered with a charity. "We want to expand our business in the learning disability sector, so it made sense from all sorts of angles," says Melissa Gane, marketing manager at Advantage. The fact that both partners are first-timers does not seem to be a problem; it could be an advantage, because neither has preconceived notions about what a charity-corporate partnership should be.

Gane says: "United Response didn't come with a particular set of ideas, so we've been able to make suggestions as well."

Lightfoot adds: "What was good was that Advantage hadn't had a charity of the year either, so we could tailor it to both organisations' needs."

The year-long partnership began in October and will include a Christmas appeal, parachute jumps and a balloon race. United Response has set a fundraising target of £20,000 that will contribute towards its new overall annual fundraising target of £500,000. If this is successful, it is hoped that the relationship will endure.

"We are both clear that, although it's for a year, it could be for longer than that if it works," says Lightfoot.

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