Courier company DHL is rallying its 40,000 UK employees to take part in a second year of fundraising for Childline. The 2002 programme kicks off in May with "lock up your boss", a fundraising initiative where employees pay for the pleasure of having their manager imprisoned for a night.
It's the latest phase of a monogamous relationship that DHL struck up with Childline in early 2001 after years of conducting short-lived affairs with countless charities. The delivery company was proud of the philanthropic activities of its staff but noted in 2000 that employees no longer seemed so keen to shave their heads or bathe in baked beans for a good cause. It asked corporate responsibility consultant Erica Hauver to discover why.
"Employees felt that DHL was trying to be all things to all people,
explains Hauver, who has also advised Walt Disney Europe and Coca-Cola on how corporate giving can suit their business needs. "There was no sense of why the company was supporting a charity and the decision to do so was very reactive, depending largely on which charities contacted DHL. Fundraising usually consisted of one-off campaigns so staff had no chance to get attached to a cause and little idea how their money was spent."
Aside from scrapping this "revolving-door policy
of supporting three disparate causes a year, DHL also wanted to see a business return on its donations.
Instead of using its links with a single charity to gain external public relations, DHL's prime business goal was an internal one. It wanted to reinforce a sense of teamwork among its employees - something crucial to a company that relies on staff working that extra bit harder to hit tight deadlines.
Employees said they wanted to support a children's charity while the board felt a national charity would give DHL's 40 distribution centres, from Exeter to Inverness, a common cause.
Hauver replaced DHL's well-meaning but powerless charity board with a committee of senior staff from a range of departments, such as PR, internal communications and IT.
She then invited 10 charities to pitch for the chance to be DHL's favoured organisation, ditching those that merely submitted a pile of blank fundraising packs.
"We looked at what the charity was willing to bring to the table and what level of partnership it could offer,
says Hauver. For example, its chosen charity Childline ended up designing posters and staff fundraising packs with DHL to promote an intensive two-week staff fundraising drive.
The charity also attended committee meetings, sourced celebrities for the event and gained local PR.
Although no exact timeframe was discussed, it was agreed that the DHL/Childline relationship would be long lasting.
Some in the voluntary sector find the idea that companies should demand anything in return for their cash distasteful. After all, just the term "corporate responsibility
implies that it is a company's duty to donate without question.
But Hauver thinks charities that still have an "entitlement mindset
are "naive". "A lot of charities think they are owed a company's money just because they are doing good work, but DHL gets approached by hundreds of charities every week and needs some criteria to distinguish between them,
Luke FitzHerbert, researcher at the Directory of Social Change, says: "It's still reasonable for companies to make philanthropic donations and not expect anything back but it's not an alternative to mutually-beneficial deals, and charities need both. The only problem with deals, such as sponsored events or credit card affiliations, is that the company tends to give its business to the charity that will give the most in return and we are finding that the benefits for charities are diminishing.
"We think the most promising route is the third one taken by DHL,
adds FitzHerbert. "This is forging partnerships with a company's staff. Employees become supporters of the charity and the company benefits because staff feel good, so everyone wins."
The partnership does appear to have paid off for DHL and Childline. Both parties estimated that the February 2001 fundraising initiative, which included activities such as DHL's IT director Mike Campbell shaving off his beard, and business development manager Chris John being sponsored to paint the faces of 101 school children as Dalmatians, would raise £20,000.
DHL UK's managing director David Coles jetted around distribution centres to collect pledges and ended up with £51,500, which DHL matched to reach an impressive £103,000. The most the company had raised previously for a charity - Comic Relief - was £8,000.
"It costs £32 to counsel a child, so 3,300 children were helped through DHL's support,
says Childline's corporate partnerships executive Gary Oldfield. "We also increased awareness of our work among staff, which we hope will be disseminated to family and friends, and maybe lead to more people volunteering."
Fundraising activity continued throughout last summer with events such as barbecues and ended in 2001 with a Christmas party where all the money raised went to Childline.
DHL still pledges to match any sum raised for local charities, but by choosing a single national charity to work closely with it, the company has doubled the amount it raised when staff were campaigning for a number of causes.
"DHL is like our client and I'm the account handler working on the campaign,
states Oldfield on the partnership. "My relationship with John Hicks, DHL's corporate affairs manager, is like that of two work colleagues; I can pick up the phone and speak to him straight away, which you can't do unless you have an ongoing relationship."
DHL's human resources director Maggie Bellis, meanwhile, says that, the management was "unanimous
in its belief that the initiative had had a "positive effect on team building and morale".
Bellis concludes: "The initiative has helped us retain and recruit staff, as potential employees quite rightly want to know what our corporate-responsibility policies are. It is important to our people that they work for a company that they can boast about to their friends - one that cares about more than the bottom line."
THE PERFECT MATCH: FINDING YOUR IDEAL CORPORATE PARTNER
Cast your mind back to the last time you met with a corporate prospect. What were you really thinking as you made your presentation? Was that little voice inside your head saying, "They should be falling all over themselves to support us because we do amazing work.
Or possibly, "God, we really need the money. I'm not sure we're going to make payroll next month.
Or maybe even, "It's been a long time since I landed any corporate funding. Please let this one come through. Please. Please.
What you are really thinking is the best indicator of how successful your pitch will be. When was the last time you wrote, called, or met with a company representative thinking, "I've done my homework. I know what this company needs and we can offer a great solution. They can't afford to say no."
The approaches you can take for landing "the big one
are, in descending order of effectiveness:
- The strong business case
- The passionate social case
- The pathetic financial case
- The desperate save-my-arse case
Here are a few thoughts on how to make the business case. The most common process charities use for identifying corporate prospects begins with a list of companies that have, or give, big money. Try turning this approach on its head. Look at your own resources. By that I mean identify your charity's assets before you consider which companies to go after. What's your brand? What are the demographics of your supporters? What level of public awareness do you have? Do you offer volunteer opportunities? What's your "business"? Where do you offer services? Are you media-friendly/savvy?
The answers to these and other questions can be turned into "assets
of great value to a corporate prospect. They help a company see where they can plug in, depending upon their needs. They can also help you narrow your prospects to those that offer the best potential "fit".
Do some research on your prospects before you talk to them. Not just who they give to, but what their business is, who are their customers and what challenges they are facing.
Have a conversation, not a presentation. Give them a picture of who you are and what you can offer, and then just talk.
Be passionate, not entitled. Companies may allocate a pot of funding for charity because they feel a social "responsibility
to do so. But they choose which charities they support based on sound business principles, not a notion of responsibility toward any specific one.
Know the larger social context for what your charity does. Don't just give facts and figures about what you do.
If you don't already offer volunteer opportunities that employees can participate in, find a way to do so. This only takes a little creativity and if you can connect with the employees, you will have a corporate supporter for a long, long time.
Don't limit yourself to approaching a company's community relations/charity or foundation staff. If you can offer value to the marketing, public relations or human resources department, you are likely to find more resources available.
Companies must weed through thousands of deserving requests every year.
Competition for support is fierce. If you differentiate your charity by taking an approach based on mutual understanding and mutual benefit, your hit rate will improve dramatically.
- Erica Hauver specialised in international corporate fundraising for 10 years. She is now a consultant. firstname.lastname@example.org.