The Co-operative, Mencap and Enable Scotland

The Co-operative raised £7.2m for its charity partners in 2011, winning it the short-term partnership Business Charity Award, writes Ian Griggs

In 2011, the Co-Operative Group raised an impressive £7.2m for its charity of the year partners, Mencap and Enable Scotland. The partnership with the two learning disability charities won the Co-operative the short-term partnership category at last year’s Business Charity Awards.

Laura Vickery, community manager at the Co-operative, says the award has been proudly displayed in the entrance of its head office in Manchester, and staff and customers were told about the award through its websites, magazines and in-store radio station.

Money for the partnership was raised through a variety of fundraising activities, including in-store promotions and cause-related marketing activities. Staff also put on events such as dress-up days and bake sales. The senior management team was actively involved in the fundraising efforts – the group’s chief executive, Peter Marks, and a collection of colleagues even released a charity single.

In addition to raising money for Mencap and Enable Scotland, the Co-operative achieved something more subtle but also noteworthy, says Vickery. "We did a research exercise after the partnership and found that eight out of 10 staff had developed an increased awareness of the issues relating to learning disability," she says.

"Staff are really proud of winning the award and being part of a business that can make people’s lives better. The award win highlighted the Co-operative as a leading supporter of charities and local communities."

Vickery says that attending the awards ceremony was also good fun. "It was a great event and a proud moment when the result was announced," she says. "It’s always good to have the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the hard work of many people who were involved."

Since winning its Business Charity Award, the Co-operative has reviewed its internal volunteering policy and plans to allow staff to do two days of volunteering a year, for which they will be paid. The Co-operative employs 100,000 people, so it estimates that staff
will contribute a million hours a year in volunteering, which Vickery believes "stands pretty impressively against other businesses".

It also provides financial support to staff members who want to raise money for charities. "Staff are active in charitable giving and we have a booster fund that the Co-operative uses to support them," she says.

Both Mencap and Enable Scotland are impressed by what the Co-operative achieved in a year. Ellie Gray, director of fundraising at Mencap, says: "Mencap was bowled over by the enthusiasm shown by staff across all areas of the Co-operative Group, and at every level of the organisation – from the chief executive, who released a charity single, to staff in its shops, banks and other businesses who took part in all manner of fundraising activities and events that year."

Hazel McIlwraith, assistant director of fundraising at Enable Scotland, adds: "Right from the word go, Co-operative staff took on the challenge of fundraising with energy, passion and dedication."

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